Novvi Base Oil Plant Starts Production


Novvi Base Oil Plant Starts Production
Novvi LLC in August 2020 announced the start-up of its biobased base oil plant in Deer Park, Texas, The plant also produces renewable process oils for polymer, adhesives and personal care industries. Photo courtesy of Novvi LLC.

Chevron and Novvi LLC announced the first production of fully renewable base oil from Novvi’s Deer Park facility in Houston, Texas.

Novvi said it added key processing steps and debottlenecked processes to make the Deer Park facility a standalone site and enable production of 100% renewable and sustainable product lines, the company said in a news release.

Chevron is an equity investor in Novvi, a California-based company that engages in the development, production, marketing and distribution of high-performance base oils made from renewable sources. The agreement with Chevron was announced in late 2016.

“Chevron has a history of introducing new base oil technologies to the world and scaling them up through their Group II history,” Jeff Brown, CEO and co-founder of Novvi LLC, told Lube Report. “Having this history and perspective on how to get a new base oil technology to market has been invaluable. In addition, their knowledge of the business and operational capabilities has allowed us to quickly validate strategies and bring scale and support to the Novvi business.”

The Deer Park plant has nameplate production capacity of 25,000 metric tons per year. Brown said the company cannot disclose what type of feedstock the plant is using. Novvi’s technology had been using sugar from Brazilian company Cosan for earlier production.

Brown noted the companies collaborated on the use of their confidential technologies for the Deer Park plant. “We worked closely through our [joint development agreement] to make sure the Novvi process and Chevron [Isodewaxing] process worked together in a way to hit our product performance goals,” he said.

“Chevron and Novvi have been working together since 2016, collaborating through a joint development agreement to bring together the expertise in both our companies’ technologies and to gain a better understanding of how to best scale the manufacturing,” Luyen Vo, manager of marketing and business development for Chevron base oils, told Lube Report.

Vo noted that Novvi will act as the marketer of the base oils from the Deer Park manufacturing facility. “Some regions of the world are leading in the use of biobased oils more than others – the United States and Europe, for instance – but the base oils would not be limited to just those regions,” she said.

The requirement for high-performance and environmentally friendly products is universal, Brown said, and Novvi has observed this trend in global customer demand. “We sold our first generation of base oil to six continents and expect the same going forward,” Brown said. “Lubricants and base oils are global businesses, and you must be able to deliver value and product around the world.  We do not look at biobased base oils as the market for our product. We are a fundamentally different technology and performance than has been available to the market before, and our customers will be anyone that wants to have the best-performing products.”

Bill Downey, Novvi’s senior vice president for business development, noted that more large companies such as BP and Fuchs are making pledges around becoming carbon-neutral by a certain year. “If you look at both BP and Fuchs, you will see that part of their lower carbon footprint plan means lowering the carbon footprint of their products,” Downey said. “Novvi is going to have an important role to play here, without requiring that customers of these lower carbon footprint products give up cost-effective performance.”

According to Brown, the company has seen a significant uptick in demand for its base oil products throughout the course of 2020. “COVID-19 has forced companies to evaluate their competitive advantage and position their businesses for the future,” he said. “We were seeing a growing interest in sustainable solutions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all that has happened since the pandemic has increased interest in Novvi’s thinking, our approach and our products.”

Vo pointed out that the pandemic resulted in challenges to global supply chains, and many businesses are evaluating how and where they are sourcing their products to remain competitive and sustainable.

“Most base oil plants today are tied to larger manufacturing facilities,” she noted. “Novvi’s plants have potential to change the paradigm of how base oils are manufactured. With a relatively small size and low installation cost, the plants can be built close to existing blend facilities, allowing blenders to greatly increase efficiency and lower the carbon footprint of their supply chain, as well as the carbon intensity of the products they produce.”

She said the company is proactively looking to find ways to cost-effectively lower carbon intensity. “We intend to help our customers do the same,” she added. “Our partnership with Novvi is a positive step toward that goal.”

Novvi said it has actively engaged automotive original equipment manufacturers to address their needs to enable future low-viscosity SAE 0W-12 and SAE 0W-16 automotive lubricants.

“Chevron’s investment in Novvi and renewable base oils is strategically aligned with our growth plans, particularly in the synthetic and renewable lubricants space,” Vo said. “It is also aligned with our corporate initiatives in increasing renewables in support of our business and investing in the future, targeting breakthrough technologies.”

The Novvi joint venture was formed in 2011 by Emeryville, California-based Amyris Inc., a developer of renewable chemicals technology, and Brazilian sugar company Cosan S.A. The purpose of the joint venture was to use Amyris’ technology to turn sugar provided by Cosan into high-performance renewable base stocks.

Novvi says it has developed renewable products through its technology platform that are also applicable in plastics, rubber, personal care, wax and electrical vehicle fluids.