JV to Build Veggie Oil Refinery


Elevance Renewable Sciences and Wilmar International formed a joint venture to build a biochemical refinery in Indonesia. It is expected to come online in 2011 with 180,000 metric tons per year capacity, and ability to expand up to 360,000 t/y.

The facility will be within Singapore-based Wilmars new integrated manufacturing complex under construction in Surabaya, Indonesia. Using Elevances biorefinery technology, it will be able to process multiple renewable oil feed stocks – including palm, mustard, soybean, jatropha or waste oils – to produce chemicals, biofuels and oleochemicals, including lubricant components.

What was really the driving factor behind selecting the location was that Wilmar has an outstanding facility in Surabaya, where were building this plant, Andy Shafer, Elevances executive vice president of sales and market development, told Lube Report. We could take advantage of the footprint they already had in place that would help us accelerate the commercialization of this business.

Elevance is now focusing on lubricants because it sees so much opportunity, Shafer emphasized. In addition to making the expected bio-based materials such as esters, he said, we have building blocks that the petrochemical industry supplies to the lubricants market today that well be able to manufacture through this biorefinery. And we can bring both existing functionality and new functionality to the lubricants market.

Were going to manufacture alpha and internal olefins, so things like 1-decene, which is a building block for PAOs, are a specific part of what well be making in this facility. Were beginning to work with people who want 1-decene and other olefins like it, to qualify our materials into those applications.

The joint ventures plant will be able to manufacture some novel ester products, according to Shafer. Our esters are unique in that they have both olefin and carboxylic, or ester, functionality, he noted. That allows us to make novel derivatives, and we can make some very novel additives for fuels and lubes. Were beginning to work with people that are interested in partnerships where we can develop those kinds of materials for the lubricants market.

Elevance sees a global market for the biochemical refinery products. We believe the markets are large enough – both the existing markets, and the markets for the emerging, novel products areas were developing, Shafer said. Those markets are big enough we expect there will be multiple biorefineries built in the future. So this is the first one, its not going to be the only one.

The joint venture is subject to certain conditions such as relevant government approvals.

Elevance emerged from a collaboration between Pasadena, Calif.-based Materia and Minneapolis-based Cargill that started in 2004 with a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Elevance develops and commercializes products by applying Materias metathesis technology to low-cost renewable oils such as soy, canola and corn oils. Lisle, Ill.-based Elevance also produces commercial-grade waxes sold under the NatureWax name.

Elevances unique technology fits our current business and asset footprint very well and provides an exciting growth opportunity, said Rahul Kale, head of biofuels and oleochemicals at Wilmar.

Agribusiness group Wilmar International was founded in 1991. Its business activities include oil palm cultivation, edible oils refining, oilseeds crushing, consumer pack edible oils processing and merchandising, specialty fats, oleochemicals and biodiesel manufacturing, and grains processing and merchandising.

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