DSM, Roquette plan commercial biosuccinic acid plant in Italy

By Bryan Sims | May 10, 2011

Dutch chemical company Royal DSM N.V. and France-based starch and polyols producer Roquette Freres plan to jointly build a 10,000 metric ton per year commercial-scale biobased succinic acid facility near a Roquette starch manufacturing site in Cassano Spinola, Italy. The proposed production plant, scheduled to come online by second quarter 2012, would be Europe’s largest biobased succinic acid production facility.

The commercial-scale biobased succinic acid facility is an important step in the successful cooperation between DSM and Roquette, which originally began in 2008. In early 2010, DSM and Roquette opened a demonstration biosuccinic acid plant in Lestrem, France, which was built in 2009. The planned commercial biosuccinic acid project is a goal coming to fruition for DSM and Roquette since both companies announced their intention to establish a joint venture under the name Reverdia in 2010.

“We are very encouraged with the development efforts in several new applications and are receiving favorable feedback from customers who have sampled ton quantities from our demonstration plant in Lestrem,” said Jean-Bernard Leleu, deputy CEO and RID director at Roquette. “The new plant in Italy will allow customers in Europe, North America and Asia to make larger volume commitments to their customers.”

The new commercial facility in Italy will employ fermentation-based techniques to produce biosuccinic acid. The proprietary yeast-based fermentation process, which operates at a much lower pH than competing processes, allows succinic acid to be produced with a significantly higher energy efficiency compared to the traditional method. It’s also one of the first biobased processes to sequester carbon dioxide in the production process. The facility is expected to initially process starch-based feedstocks when it comes online, but both firms have aspirations of switching to second-gen feedstocks, such as cellulosic biomass, shortly thereafter.

“The time is right to capitalize on the tremendous progress we have made together with Roquette in the last two years,” said Rob van Leen, chief innovation officer for DSM. “Our proprietary yeast-based fermentation process not only allows cost-effective production, it also eliminates salt waste and other byproducts and thus improves the overall ecofootprint of end-products. This biobased chemical building block is a substitute for various fossil feedstock-derived monomers and proves that the biobased economy is no longer a distant prospect.”

Succinic acid is a chemical building block used in the manufacture of polymers, resins, food and pharmaceuticals, among other products. Biobased succinic acid is a viable alternative to petroleum-derived chemical building blocks such as adipic acid and 1,4-butanediol.