Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc. (ERS) has entered into an agreement to form a joint venture with Wilmar International Limited (Wilmar), one of the largest global agribusiness groups, to construct a biorefinery based on Elevance’s core olefin metathesis technology for the production of high-value performance chemicals, advanced biofuels and oleochemicals from renewable oils. (Earlier post.)
This commercial-scale manufacturing facility will begin with an annual capacity of 180,000 metric tons (approximately 397 million pounds) with the ability to expand up to 360,000 metric tons (approximately 794 million pounds) of products. The facility will be located within Wilmar’s new integrated manufacturing complex now under construction in Surabaya, Indonesia, and is expected to come online in 2011.
In December, ERS had received a $2.5 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to fund preliminary engineering design for a demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery based on its the olefin metathesis technology for the production of high value specialty chemicals and biofuels—including advanced biohydrocarbon renewable jet and diesel fuel as well as conventional biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester)—from renewable oils.
The Wilmar JV is distinct from the work with the DOE, said Andy Shafer, Executive Vice President of Sales and Market Development for Elevance. While the DOE-funded project is designed to support the development and optimization of the process for use with multiple feedstocks, the Wilmar JV is intended to deploy a very large biorefinery that uses the predominant feedstocks in place: palm oil and soybean oil.
“You can’t jockey around a 180,000-tonne facility,” Shafer said on the sidelines of the Biobased Product Showcase at the BIO conference in Washington. “You can’t learn [with it] at the same rate as with a smaller facility.”
Olefin metathesis swaps molecular fragments on either side of a carbon-carbon double bond, enabling new chemical compounds and manufacturing processes once thought to be impossible. The technology is efficient, stable and predictable, and enables relatively simple processing using widely available industrial equipment. (Earlier post.)
As in a traditional petroleum refinery, manipulating the ERS biorefinery’s operating conditions and feedstock oil compositions will result in different relative proportions of the end products. This allows the biorefinery to vary, within some limits, the product distribution to maximize the economics of the total product suite. Furthermore, additional processing can be applied to the platform products to make them into additional downstream finished products.
Once operational, the biorefinery will produce green olefins, including a unique distribution of alpha and internal olefins for chemicals and hydrocarbon fuels; novel multifunctional esters and acids, including 9-decenoic acid, as well as a premium mixture of oleochemicals and advanced biofuels (e.g., a biodiesel with enhanced cold flow properties).
Elevance’s primary market interest at this point is in the higher-value chemicals.
As a leader in producing, refining, and marketing renewable feedstocks, Wilmar represents an ideal partner for the first commercial-scale biorefinery that Elevance will be investing in. Wilmar’s extensive capabilities and existing operations in Asia will allow us to quickly build and begin operating an integrated facility, accelerating the delivery of cost-effective, high-performing, renewable-based specialty chemicals to the market. This joint venture represents the next step in growing Elevance internationally.
—K’Lynne Johnson, CEO of Elevance
Wilmar International Limited, founded in 1991, is Asia’s leading agribusiness group; it ranks amongst the largest listed companies by market capitalization on the Singapore Exchange.
Its business activities include oil palm cultivation, edible oils refining, oilseeds crushing, consumer pack edible oils processing and merchandising, specialty fats, oleochemicals and biodiesel manufacturing, and grains processing and merchandising.