An important step towards sustainable development is to replace fossil fuel raw materials with renewable ones. With the help of state research funds, Perstorp is now undertaking two long-term research partnerships aimed at developing strategically important biochemical processes.
Two projects have been awarded state research funds from VINNOVA, valued at around SEK 35 million. The five-year project will be carried out in partnership with Lund University and other industrial partners.
“This is very exciting. We can help develop Sweden’s currently underdeveloped biotechnology industry,” says project coordinator Neil Cruise.
Both projects aim at developing processes for manufacturing strategically important platform chemicals from renewable raw materials, platform chemicals that are then used for manufacturing other chemicals.
“All developments in this area are important, and these long-term investments show that Perstorp is seriously committed to sustainable development,” says Stefan Lundmark, Perstorp’s Innovation Director.
Acids from organic raw materials
The first project is for the production of propionic acid and 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) from organic raw materials. These in turn can be used for the production of acrylic acid, met acrylic acid and 1,3-propandiol used to a great extent in coatings, laminates and composite materials, but also in the production of textiles and fibers. These acids are usually produced from petrochemical raw materials, so there are huge eco benefits.
“Representatives from the entire value chain are taking part. Perstorp’s role, in addition to coordinating the project, is to cost-effectively extract propionic acid from the fermenting process and convert it into more valuable chemicals,” says Neil Cruise.
“Within five years the project should be able to present a pilot process and the organic chemicals will then be tested on finished products,” he adds.
Aldehydes from organic raw materials
The aim of the second partnership project is to develop methods of producing immobilized biocatalysts.
“Perstorp’s interest in the project is to design a factory to produce 3-hydroxypropionicaldehydes (3-HPA) in a continual process based on an immobilized biocatalyst,” says Stefan Lundmark, Perstorp’s project representative.
Although biocatalyst experiments have worked well in laboratories, the process technology needs to be developed in order to achieve good results, even on an industrial scale.
“The difficult thing is isolating the aldehyde product while sustaining the biocatalyst’s activity. We will bond the catalyst to a carrier and build a process where the product is separated as soon as it is produced. In this way we hope to be able to increase productivity and also boost the lifespan of the enzyme,” he says.
The project hopes that within three years to be able to demonstrate a pilot process, and industrial production is expected to be up and running within five to ten years.
3-HPA is a strategically important platform chemical for the use in fine chemicals, polymers and foodstuffs. The production of 3-HPA from glucose, glycerin or other biomass provides major eco benefits.