Linde Group Joint Venture Set to Develop New Plant Construction and Biocatalysis for Eco-Friendly Biofuels

A unique European alliance has been set up between two major companies in plant construction and biocatalysis to develop climate-friendly biofuels, which will not compete with food production.

Süd-Chemie AG, a world-leading producer of catalysts and adsorbent materials, and The Linde Group, a world-leading gases and engineering company, entered into an exclusive cooperation agreement to develop and market plants for the production of second-generation biofuels.

Under this agreement, biotechnology will be used to extract fuels such as ethanol from the parts of plants that contain cellulose, such as wheat and maize straw, grasses and wood. Second-generation biofuels, which are based on these renewable raw materials, have a significantly reduced effect on the climate and energy balance, when compared to the first-generation biofuels being used today, such as biodiesel derived from rapeseed oil. Moreover, they do not compete with the cultivation of crops for food and animal feed.

The partners in this unique European alliance complement each other perfectly. Süd-Chemie will be supplying its know-how in biocatalysts and bioprocessing technology, while Linde through its subsidiary Linde-KCA-Dresden has a high level of expertise in chemical and biotechnological plant engineering. Together they will form a highly effective partnership capable of planning and building second-generation biofuel plants worldwide for potential customers, such as ethanol producers and other companies in the industrial and agricultural sector, and for investors in these plants.

Dr Günter von Au, Chairman of the Managing Board of Süd-Chemie AG, said, "This cooperation agreement with Linde is of great strategic importance to Süd-Chemie. In this highly attractive market of the future, we plan to bundle our activities even more closely together, so that we can develop cost-effective market-ready plants for the production of energy-efficient climate-friendly biofuels."

Dr Aldo Belloni, a member of the Executive Board of The Linde Group commented, "This is an ideal collaboration between two technology companies. By using biocatalysis and biotechnology plant engineering we are seeking to develop large-scale cost-effective techniques for the production of new biofuels. We are confident that by working together we will be able to help solve a number of important issues in the fields of energy, climate protection and mobility."

Given the increasing scarcity and rising price of oil, and the threat posed by climate change, the extraction of biofuels from plant material containing cellulose is a very attractive market of the future. According to management consultants McKinsey & Company, the total global market for biofuels will be worth US 61 billion by 2010. Moreover, new legislation in the United States stipulates that by 2022 around a quarter of the country's current fuel consumption needs be met by biofuels. This target is to be achieved mainly by using bioethanol derived from plant materials containing cellulose.

Second-generation biofuels
First-generation biofuels currently being used are produced solely from parts of plants containing oil, sugar or starch: e.g. biodiesel from rapeseed oil and bioethanol from starch or sugar. In contrast, the production of second-generation biofuels does not use those parts of the plant containing starch or oil - only those parts of the plant that contain cellulose. More fuel is produced using this method, due to higher energy yields. These second-generation biofuels do not compete with the production of food or animal feed, as those parts of the plant that contain starch, such as the maize grains, can continue to be used in food production. Second-generation biofuels are also more climate-friendly than fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, since the plant extracts exactly the same amount of the climate gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when it is growing as it later discharges into the atmosphere as a result of engine combustion.

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