People and Leaders

In memory of Guido Ghisolfi

Guido Ghisolfi, aged 58, VP of Mossi Ghisolfi Group, died tragically on March 3, 2015. I join Mario Bonaccorso, editor of Il Bioeconomista, who wrote in tribute of his memory: “We lose a great person and a great protagonist of the world bioeconomy. He was a gentleman with great vision. He was a true leader as there are only a few in Italy.”

Guido Ghisolfi, whom I had several occasions to talk to, was convinced that “green technologies are some of the driving forces of the modern economy” in his own words. He was also a strong believer of a sustainable economy: “the industrial policy of the future can’t be separated from the concept of environmental sustainability” is one of his statements very often mentioned in his interviews and public speeches.

Guido Ghisolfi, was the Vice President and Managing Director of the Italian family owned group Mossi&Ghisolfi (M&G) headquartered in Tortona, the third producer of Polyethylene Terephtalate (PET) globally and the second Chemicals Group in Italy.

He was also more specifically President and CEO of Biochemtex, a subsidiary of M&G and a leader in chemical engineering and renewable processes. Its Beta Renewables joint venture with the US private equity fund TPG and Danish biotechnology leader Novozymes has invested over $200 million in the development of its PROESA® process for making cost-effective cellulosic sugars for bio-products from non-food energy crops or agricultural waste.The PROESA® process uses enzymatic conversion via Novozymes’ CELLIC ® enzymes

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Beta Renewables is operating the largest plant in the world for the production of 75 million liters per annum of second generation bio-ethanol. The bio-refinery, worth 150 million Euros, was inaugurated in 2013 at its Crescentino facility, in the province of Vercelli (Italy).

Beta Renewables has currently partnered with several renewable chemical companies such as Gevo (bio-butanol), Codexis (fatty alcohols), Genomatica (bio-butanediol), and Amyris (farnesene) for the use of its PROESA®technology.

Guido Ghisolfi and his younger brother Marco were actively pursuing two major projects for the next future:

  • a new R&D Centre in Modugno (Bari, Italy) with laboratories and a demonstration plant to produce chemical intermediates from lignin, a co-product of the production of cellulosic ethanol.
  • the investment of a commercial scale biorefinery with an annual conversion capacity of one million metric tons of biomass in Fuyang , China’ sAnhui province. This biorefinery dedicated to the production of second gen bio-ethanol and bio-glycols from rice straw and husk, is a key milestone of the geographical expansion of M&S in this vast new economy.

The project is supported by a joint-venture with Chinese company Guozhen which will make available one million metric tons of straw biomass and use the lignin resulting as a by-product from the bio-refinery to feed an “on site” 45 MW cogeneration plant .The plant, a reported Capex of approximately half a billion US dollars, is expected to be brought on stream in mid 2015.

“This is the first act of a green revolution that M&G Chemicals is bringing to the polyester chain to provide environmental sustainability to both PET beverage packaging and polyester textile” recently said Marco Ghisolfi, Ceo of M&G Chemicals.

“The timing and scope of our green polyester revolution and our manufacturing entry in China from the green PET raw materials avenue is even more relevant considering the Coca-Cola Company has announced plans to use PlantBottle™ packaging, which is partially made from plants, for all of their PET plastic bottles across the globe by 2020”, Marco Ghisolfi added.

Marco will now have to embody the vision, dedication and courage of his defunct brother. I wish to leave as a conclusion of this article, the last word to Guido Ghisolfi, talking about the future of the Italian and European bioeconomy:

“The National and European industry is ready, and a world leader in a highly specialized and innovative sector. This has been possible thanks to the efforts and investments of important companies, supported by the European Union and by the Member States. Technologies so there are. What we now need is a long-term legislative framework and the introduction of specific objectives to ensure investment and market development of sustainable biofuels generation. The objectives that arise in such investments are long term but the results arrive, if one knows how to wait. Currently we are in a transition phase, and the transition to the green economy. If supported by policies at national and international level, it will result in the creation of new jobs to replace those lost progressively from the traditional economy.”

May his words be heard and followed by action.

from the editor: Bruno Lepitre

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