SAN DONATO MILANESE, Italy (Feb. 17, 2016) — Versalis (Eni), the Italian polymer and elastomer giant, has joined with bioengineering company Genomatica Inc. to achieve pilot-scale production of bio-butadiene from fully renewable feedstocks based on various sugars, Versalis announced.
Versalis, a subsidiary of Italy's Eni S.p.A. oil and petrochemicals group, is using the bio-butadiene to produce bio-polybutadiene, the company said in a Feb. 16 press release.
“These accomplishments represent a remarkable milestone for the rubber industry, by enabling an improved technological and sustainability footprint,” Versalis said.
Butadiene is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world, with more than 10 million tons produced annually, according to Versalis. The new technology offers an alternative to the traditional use of hydrocarbon feedstocks to produce butadiene, it said.
Versalis and Genomatica began their technology joint venture to produce butadiene from sugars in early 2013, with Versalis holding the majority stake. Versalis plans to license its complete process to produce bio-butadiene from sugar-based feedstocks, it said.
In creating the new process, Genomatica developed a microorganism that produces 1,3-butanediol in a way that allows cost-efficient, scalable fermentation, recovery and subsequent process operations, according to Versalis.
Versalis leverages its industrial process engineering and catalysis capabilities, as well as its expertise in polymer production, to purify the 1,3-butanediol, dehydrate it and purify the resulting butadiene, the company said.
It has produced several kilograms of butadiene from the new process at its research centers in Novara and Mantova, Italy, and then made polybutadiene from them at its R&D center in Ravenna, Italy, the company said.
Initial testing shows that the bio-butadiene and bio-rubber are highly compatible with industry standards, Versalis said.
The company said it now plans to test the bio-butadiene in the production of styrene-butadiene rubber, styrene-butadiene-styrene rubber and acrylonitrile butadiene-styrene.