Elevance and Versalis pioneers a second-generation biorefinery technology via Ethenolysis: a break-through

In collaboration with several partners, including the special contribution of Versalis (Italy) under a strategic partnership started in 2014, Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. (USA) has successfully completed the scale-up of a second-generation bio-refinery technology of the company’s olefin metathesis technology using ethylene and natural feedstock.

Elevance is a high-growth company that creates novel specialty chemicals from natural oils.

Versalis manufactures intermediates, polyethylene, styrenics and elastomers, and has entered the green chemicals and polymers industry though partnerships with biotech companies worldide.

The ethenolysis process advancement represents an important milestone for the development of a second-generation metathesis technology—the first of its kind, according to Elevance—enabling an enhanced product portfolio from natural-oil metathesis.

Catalysts produced by Switzerland-based XiMo AG (Lucerne), a company focused on the development and application of proprietary metathesis catalysts for use in the specialty chemical, agro chemical, renewables, polymers and advanced materials sectors, were used at Soneas’ manufacturing facility in Budapest, Hungary. Soneas is a chemical service provider offering a comprehensive range of chemistry services. The run represented a scale-up of 40,000 times what had been previously demonstrated in the laboratory and the largest ever usage of “Schrock” (molybdenum/tungsten) catalysts for metathesis with ethylene and a renewable oil.

“This significant accomplishment advances the interests of several of our partners and demonstrates the advantages of working together,” said Mel Luetkens, Elevance’s COO. “Elevance is pleased to be at the center of this collaboration and to be advancing these important developments for our partners and us. It is another validation of Elevance’s technology and the value that we bring to our partner relationships.”

The project was partially funded by and supports a wider strategic partnership between Versalis, the chemical subsidiary of Eni (Italy), and Elevance that includes the joint development of Elevance’s ethenolysis technology. It takes advantage of Versalis’ extensive skills in catalysis process development and engineering design and of Elevance’s proprietary know-how regarding metathesis and associated engineering in the use of vegetable oils to produce specialty chemicals for premium applications. Meanwhile, Versalis and Elevance also have been collaborating in the implementation of a biorefinery at Porto Marghera (Italy), based on Elevance’s proprietary technology of natural-oil metathesis with 1-butene.

“We strongly believe in the potential of metathesis technology, since it is a mild reaction that does not destroy the molecular complexity of vegetable feedstock,” said Sergio Lombardini, Director of Research and Innovation Technology at Versalis. “This is why even in the engineering phase for a butane-1 metathesis plant, we are looking at ethylene as an alternative co-feedstock aiming to target an even higher value of product portfolios.”

The ethenolysis tolling run was also partially funded by a grant from the United States Soybean Board given to Elevance for metathesis of soybean oil products, which were used as feedstock for this project, Elevance reported.

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