Biorefinery Starts Up in Indonesia


Elevance Renewable Sciences and Wilmar International Ltd.s biorefinery in Indonesia began shipping commercial products, including chemicals used in lubricants and base stocks.

The joint venture manufacturing facility in Gresik, Indonesia, produces specialty chemicals, including multifunctional esters such as 9-decenoic methyl ester, bio-based alpha and internal olefins such as decene, and a mixture of oleochemicals. The plant has a capacity of 180,000 metric tons per year (about 400 million pounds), with the ability to expand up to 360,000 t/y.

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What allowed us to move over there is that we can move very quickly in that market, Andy Shafer, Elevances executive vice president of sales and market development, told Lube Report. Well be shipping products globally from the Gresik location.

The new plant is within agribusiness group Wilmars manufacturing complex in Gresik. The joint venture biorefinery will initially operate using palm oil, but is capable of running on multiple renewable oil feed stocks, including mustard, soybean, and – when they become commercially available – jatropha or algal oils.

Elevance modifies renewable oils with chemical catalyst technology to make specialty chemicals. The molecules combine the functional attributes of an olefin, typical of petrochemicals, and a monofunctional ester or acid, typical of bio-based oleochemicals, into a single molecule. The companys products will go into consumer and industrial ingredients, surfactants, personal cleaning/care, engineered polymers and coatings, and then synthetic base oils and lubricants, and additives for base oils and fuels.

Elevances target markets include lubricants and additives. The olefin products are known for their use in a variety of lubricant and additive applications, Robin Weitkamp, Elevances senior vice president for lubricants and additives, told Lube Report. Along with that, the esters that we will be producing through a series of development programs with other partners – weve been developing these materials into novel performing lubricant base stocks as well as additives.

Shafer said that in the lubricants space, Elevance hasnt announced any partners publicly yet, aside from a collaboration announced in April 2011 with NL Grease on commercialization of new high-performance grease technology and materials. In the other market areas, weve announced industry partners like Arkema in the engineered polymers area, and Stepan Co. in consumer and industrial surfactants, he added.

While the company hasnt announced specific pricing plans, officials said the plants base stock products will be in the range of API Group III and polyalphaolefin. Well have some products targeting materials like Group III, but well also have materials that would perform as well or better as synthetics and would be priced in that range as well, Weitkamp said.

Shafer noted that decene produced at the Gresk biorefinery is a building block for polyalphaolefin. We will be able to be in the market place supplying decene, or PAO from our decene – which would be the only renewable based material in the market, at economics that are comparable to what decene or PAO is in the marketplace today, he said.

Elevance is conducting engineering on how to convert an acquired, former biodiesel plant in Mississippi into a biorefinery. We do expect to have a plant in North America, and have had conversations about South America and other Asian locations, Shafer said. All of our biorefineries will probably ship products globally.

Woodridge, Ill.-based Elevance has raised more than $300 million in private equity and now has about 150 employees, according to Shafer.

Singapore headquartered Wilmars business activities include oil palm cultivation, oilseeds crushing, edible oils refining, sugar milling and refining, specialty fats, oleochemicals, biodiesel and fertilizer manufacturing and grain processing.

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