Amyris Adds U.S. Biofene Plant


Amyris commissioned its first U.S. plant to produce a renewable hydrocarbon, made from sugarcane feedstock, that can be finished to create base oils and lubricants.

Located at a Decatur, Ill. facility owned by Tate & Lyle Ingredients America, the plant will produce Biofene, Amyriss renewable farnesene hydrocarbon.

Amyris now has production agreements to make Biofene in Brazil, Europe and the United States. It has also established finishing capabilities with Glycotech in North Carolina.

Our third commercial facility – our first in the United States – will help us ramp up Biofene production volume to meet the strong worldwide demand we expect for our renewable products, said John Melo, CEO of Emeryville, Calif.-based Amyris.

Jeffrey Brown, Amyris vice president of lubricant products, outlined the companys base oil and lubricant plans at the ICIS Asian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference in Seoul, South Korea, June 14. By 2012, the company expects to produce up to 50 million liters of base oil.

The company expects its base oil to be a Group III product. We plan on using the GTL [gas-to-liquids] case study as a model, he said, adding that base oils produced from farnesene are comparable to API Group III and IV base oils in properties. Amyris expects its renewable base oil to be competitive in the market in terms of pricing. Our goal for justification of the benefits was based on Group III economics, Brown said.

The renewable feedstock can be dropped into typical refining infrastructures, he added.
We use existing oligomerization technology, existing hydrogenation, existing distillation, he explained. So, much like we work with our farnesene fermentation [plants], for base oil manufacture we can go out and look at distressed assets, plants that may not be operating efficiently, and drop our process in to create an alternate revenue stream for those partners.

Brown emphasized base oils made from farnesene have no contaminates, such as sulfur, phosphorus, sulfated ash or metals. Were a pure hydrocarbon – you can control your formulation beautifully with your additives package and formulate it exactly for a specific application, he said.

Our base oil can mix readily with existing petroleum base oils, he said. And most importantly, it can go into existing infrastructure for reuse and recycling of oils out there on the market today.

Brown likened farnesene to an olefin, saying this allows for flexibility. You can chemically react and use this olefin technology with petroleum cuts, allowing you to tailor the degree of renewability you want from a base oil, he said. So we currently make from 15 percent to 100 percent renewable base oils with this. Our first base oil product that were going to bring to the market this year will be a 50 percent renewable product. Biodegradability is tunable as well.

Although Amyris plans to have finished products eventually in six vertical markets – including lubricants, cosmetics, flavors and fragrance, polymers and plastic additives, consumer products and fuels – Brown emphasized that base oil will be the highest volume category for the next three years. Lubricants is in a very nice sweet spot for Amyris right now, Brown said. Were able to commercialize the downstream technology easily, and can turn it into a valued product without much more cost going into it.

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