Purac, BASF explore biobased succinic acid joint venture

By Bryan Sims | August 04, 2011

Netherlands-based lactic acid producer Purac, a subsidiary of global bakery ingredients supplier CSM, and BASF SE, the world’s leading chemical company, are leaning toward taking their two-year joint development agreement further with the possible formation of a joint venture to produce biobased succinic acid.

Both BASF and Purac believe the complementary strengths in fermentation and downstream processing led to the development of a sustainable and highly efficient manufacturing process based on a proprietary microorganism, Basfia succinicproducens, a natural producer of succinic acid that can process a range of cellulosic and hemicellulosic sugars contained in biomass.

“We are happy to bring our partnership with Purac to the next level,” said Andreas Kreimeyer, member of the board of executive directors and research executive director for BASF. “Until now, our partnership has been very successful and moving towards a joint venture will strengthen our goal to become the leading supplier in the succinic acid market.”

The demand for succinic acid is anticipated to see steady growth in the coming years. Main drivers are expected to be bioplastics, chemical intermediates, solvents, polyurethanes and plasticizers.

“We aim to be the first commercial producer in the market with a 25,000-ton capacity fermentation production plant at the Purac site near Barcelona, Spain, with the intention to start up by 2013 at the latest,” CSM CEO Gerard Hoetmer said. “In addition, we are already planning a world-scale plant with a capacity of 50,000 tons to account for the expected demand growth. This partnership has enormous potential as it leverages the combined competencies of two leading companies in their fields.”

During the existing cooperation, according to BASF, critical steps of the jointly developed production process have been validated in several successful production campaigns. The resulting volumes were used to evaluate the market. The newly developed process would combine high efficiency with the use of biobased feedstocks and the fixation of carbon dioxide during production.

Purac currently has six lactic acid production units operating across the globe, including a facility jointly operated with Cargill Inc. in Blair, Neb. At a capacity of 150 million pounds per year, the plant produces lactic acid through a sugar-based fermentation process. It’s a process that was jointly developed and patented by Purac and Cargill, with Cargill off-taking lactic acid for use in its polylactic acid-based polymers. The Nebraska facility has been a joint venture between Purac and Cargill’s North American Corn Milling Division since 1997.