French launch first bio-isobutene plant with l’Oreal

The French public investment program PIA provides €9 million funding to Global Bioenergies and IBN-One for a bio-isobutene plant project involving Cristal Union as partner supplier and L’Oréal as partner customer.

Loreal-isobutene

Global Bioenergies, Cristal Union, their JV IBN-One , and the global cosmetics leader L’Oréal ( all four from France) announced d the launch of a 44-month industrial and commercial project focused on the first commercial scale bio-isobutene plant.

Isobutene is a platform molecule that can be converted into gasoline, rubber, various materials, and which is also used in various applications in chemicals and cosmetics. Worldwide, Fifteen million tons of petro-based isobutene are produced and sold annually.

Global Bioenergies has been developing an enzymatic fermentation process to produce isobutene from renewable resources (residual sugar, agricultural and forestry waste). It initially focused its efforts on the production of isobutene, one of the most important petrochemical building blocks that can be converted into fuels, plastics, organic glass and elastomers. Global Bioenergies continues to improve the performances of its process, operates its industrial pilot in Evry (France) , has begun the construction of its demo plant in Leuna (Germany), and planned the first full-scale plant through a Joint-Venture with Cristal Union, named IBN-One.

The €9 million funding of the latter was approved within the framework of the French PIA (Investissements d’Avenir programme). This funding is made up of repayable advances in the event of success, and will be paid out in several tranches as the project crosses key milestones.
Global Bioenergies, the project coordinator, will mainly be responsible for completing the industrial development of the process, and would receive up to €5.7 million.

Frédéric Pâques, Chief Operations Officer of Global Bioenergies, stated: “We would like to thank the French state, who has supported us ever since the Isobutene program was launched. The process is now entering a new phase of development: step by step, we are leading up to our targeted performance, and we are getting ready to run the process in our demo plant, whose construction in Germany will be completed within the next few months.”

IBN-One would in turn receive €3.3 million, which will mainly be dedicated to life cycle analysis, engineering design work and the market validation of derivatives in bio-fuels (gasoline and kerosene), chemicals and cosmetics.

Bernard Chaud, CEO of IBN-One, pointed out: “Obtaining this funding marks an important step on the road leading us to having the IBN-One plant up and running. We have just concluded the plant’s conceptual design, and will now enter the detailed engineering phase. This plant should become operational in 2019, with an annual capacity of approximately 50,000 tons. Atmospheric emissions of CO2 will be reduced by more than twice the amount of isobutene produced.

Cristal Union is working on the supply of sugar beet substrates and preparing the integration of the future production unit into one of its sites operating a sugar mill and bio-ethanol plant. Cristal Union is the number 4 sugar beet processor in Europe with 14 million tons processed annually and Revenues of €1.8 billion. The agro-industrial cooperative group accounts for approximately 40% of the French beetroot production, operates 15 production sites in France (10 sugar factories, 3 distilleries and 2 other sites) and sell sugar under notorious consumers brands Daddy, Truvia and Erstein. It also produces alcohol , bio-ethanol and bio-based chemicals.

Xavier Astolfi, Deputy CEO of Cristal Union, added the following: “It will be the first commercial plant producing bio-sourced isobutene worldwide. This project is developing in the context of the end of the EU sugar quotas, which forces the European beetroot sugar industry to develop new business opportunities.”

L’Oréal will test batches of compounds derived from bio-sourced isobutene, with a view to becoming an early adopter of IBN-One bio-isobutene once the plant is operational. L’Oréal has devoted itself to beauty for over 105 years. With its unique international portfolio of 32 diverse and complementary brands, the Group generated sales amounting to 25.26 billion euros in 2015 and employs 82,900 people worldwide. Research and innovation, and a dedicated research team of 3,870 people, are at the core of L’Oréal’s strategy, working to meet beauty aspirations all over the world. L’Oréal’s new sustainability commitment for 2020 “Sharing Beauty With All” sets out ambitious sustainable development objectives across the Group’s value chain.

Laurent Gilbert, Sustainable Innovation Director at L’Oréal, underlined: “Isobutene is a molecule whose derivatives are widely used in cosmetics. Accessing sustainable, bio-sourced products is in line with our commitments towards protecting the environment.”

Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies, concluded: “This commercial plant project moves forward in a context where the main energy agencies consider the end of oil overproduction to be approaching rapidly. IBN-One will help to reduce the consumption of fossil resources and will contribute to build a more environmentally friendly world.”

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