BioAmber Inc., an industrial biotechnology company producing sustainable chemicals building blocks announced it has signed a take-or-pay contract for bio-based 1,4-Butanediol (“BDO”) with Vinmar International. Under the terms of the 15-year agreement, Vinmar has committed to purchase 100% of the BDO produced in a 100,000 ton per year capacity plant that BioAmber plans to build in North America and commission in 2017. Vinmar also plans to invest in the BDO plant alongside BioAmber, taking a minority equity stake of at least 10%. As part of the agreement, Vinmar has a right of first refusal to invest in and secure 100% of the off-take from a second BDO plant that BioAmber would build in the future.
BDO is a building block chemical that is used in a wide range of products, including engineering plastics for the automotive industry, polyurethanes, biodegradable plastics and spandex. The current size of the global BDO market is approximately $4 billion. BioAmber produces BDO by combining its succinic acid technology with a catalyst technology licensed from DuPont and the company believes its bio-based BDO is cost competitive with petroleum derived BDO. To date, BioAmber has validated the high quality of its bio-based BDO with over 20 purchasers of petroleum BDO.
In order to seed the market for its bio-based BDO, BioAmber plans to initially produce approximately 4,000 tons of BDO annually at a toll manufacturing facility that the company expects to commission in 2015. The tolling facility will convert bio-succinic acid produced at the Sarnia, Canada plant that is currently under construction.
“This partnership with Vinmar positions BioAmber to become a producer of BDO, a second platform chemical beyond succinic acid. We believe this take-or-pay contract will help us to secure significant project financing for our first commercial BDO plant. We expect to leverage this project financing, along with co-investment by Vinmar and other equity partners such as Mitsui & Co., to limit the cash BioAmber needs to contribute in order to be the majority owner of the plant,” said Jean-Francois Huc, Chief Executive Officer of BioAmber.
“We believe our partnership with Vinmar will significantly de-risk the construction and operation of the commercial-scale BDO plant we plan to build in North America. Vinmar has a proven track record of selling large volumes of BDO, has global logistics expertise and vast experience executing large chemical projects,” added Fabrice Orecchioni, Chief Operations Officer of BioAmber.
“BioAmber has an attractive new route that we believe will offer customers competitively priced BDO with an improved carbon footprint. This agreement is consistent with Vinmar’s strategy to partner with best-in-class technologies and bring competitively priced chemicals to market,” added Dr. Serge Verma, President of Vinmar Projects.
The Bioamber-Vinmar alliance that combines a financing and commercial agreement is another evidence of a collaborative partnership aiming at reducing the time-to-market of new plant chemistry molecules, de-risking the multi-million investments needed by this capital intensive industry and getting each component of the value chain focus on its specific expertise. Examples in the plant chemistry sector are impressively numerous (Cargill-PHH, DSM-Roquette, Basf-Cobion, LanzaTech-Invista,Evonik Dupont-Tate&Lyle, Mossi&Ghisolfi-Novozymes, Mitsui-Solazyme, etc), the stories of which you can find in this blog. They combine either a chemical company with an agribusiness or a polymer specialist with a biotechnology expert. These alliances are most likely to be faster and more successful than any standalone initiative.
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