The new Bio-BDO era: Novamont opens first commercial-scale facility for bio-based BDO

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From Italy word has arrived that Novamont have opened the world’s first commercial-scale facility for the bio-based production of bio-based 1,4-butanediol, in Bottrighe (Adria), North East Italy. Having licensed Genomatica’s technology, the Novamont Mater-Biotech plant will produce 30,000 tons of BDO per year from renewable sugars.

First off, let’s note that the capacity is 70% up from the original target of 18,000 tons. The plant’s capacity was expanded due to higher anticipated demand for renewables, continually-improving process performance, and competitive economics.

Second, let’s note that the project is complete but the plant is being optimized now — the expectation is that it will reach full production rate in 2017.

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Third, the product focus is Novamont’s fourth-generation of Mater-Bi bioplastics — used to make biodegradable, compostable products such as fruit and vegetables bags, mulch film and coffee capsules. The products made with this new BDO will save an estimated 56% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the use of conventional BDO.

The project metrics

Novamont invested €100M (approximately $110M) to build the plant. Up to 300 people were employed during construction and 75 people are employed at the plant, including the re-hiring of people employed at the former plant.

A next-gen industrial symbiosis

We’ve covered these significant projects before — which aim to integrate feedstock supplies and product manufacturing in the region. In the classic symbiosis, such as seen in Denmark’s Kalundborg industrial region, multiple companies co-locate in a cluster, and the waste streams of the one are used as an input for the other.

novamont-logoNovoamont’s symbiosis is different — their biorefinery concept as applied to bioplastics and biochemicals, involves six interconnected sites and four new proprietary technologies, and focuses on previously “deindustrialized” sites in Italy and agriculture in marginal soils.

genomatica-logoIn keeping with its focus, this week Novamont hosted an international conference, “Reconnecting Economy and Society through Innovation: A new bio-economy infrastructure for the regeneration of local areas” at the Regional Land Reclamation Museum in Taglio di Po, Rovigo, Italy, followed by a tour of the new plant. The conference discussed the broad topics of moving to a circular economy and the revival of industrial sites, and economic opportunities through innovation.

It’s a landmark for Novamont

Let’s be clear, Novamont is a company of importance in bioplastics but is no BASF for size, and this step forward took quite a bit of vision. Overall, the company had sales of €170 million in 2015 — so this project could add as much as 20% to theri revenue base.