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Newsflow Buzz Around Biobased Chemicals

SpecialChem / Jean-Pierre Molitor – Dec 6, 2011

Under the current economic perspectives and the armies of black painters (offering, like Winston Churchill in 1940, "nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat"), it is a stimulating exercise to read the chemical news flow because we now have a continuity in deal announcements around bio-based and (increasingly) biotechnology based raw materials and intermediates. While "sustainability" evolved to a buzzword which hardly enables to differentiate from peers the announced deals of companies like LANXESS or BASF to invest in biotechnology based routes instantly place them as frontrunners. Compared to the size of LANXESS, a 10 Mn investment in Gevo, a start-up, represents about 1% of the company's 2010 EBITDA and thus does not constitute a financial adventure. However, for the development of a start-up the investment ticket of renowned players is a sign board to attract financial investors or the stock market and thus facilitate and accelerate the market entry. While the search for the right microorganism (nowadays quite improperly called "biocatalysts") that allows synthesizing large amounts of the desired product is already a challenge, the need of the chemical industry for low product impurities constitute a second hurdle in order to obtain competitive cost levels.

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