Codexis, Chemtex announce milestone in biochemical deployment

By Codexis Inc. | June 18, 2013

Codexis Inc., a developer of engineered enzymes for pharmaceutical, biofuel and chemical production, and Chemtex, a leader in chemical engineering and renewable processes, have announced the successful scale-up in the production of CodeXol detergent alcohols using cellulosic sugars. The scale-up was achieved at a 1,500 liter (396 gallon) demonstration facility at Chemtex’s research and development complex in Tortona, Italy and is a key milestone in the ongoing effort initiated by the two companies to develop a fully integrated biomass to detergent alcohols technology. A combination of Chemtex’s commercially proven PROESA cellulosic sugar technology and Codexis’ CodeXyme 4X cellulase enzymes was used to produce cellulosic sugars from non-food biomass, while the CodeXol detergent alcohol fermentation process technology – which includes Codexis’ proprietary microorganism strain – converted these cellulosic sugars to detergent alcohols.

Guido Ghisolfi, president of Chemtex, said, “While the PROESA technology is proven at commercial scale for the production of cellulosic ethanol – as evidenced by the successful start-up of our commercial facility in Crescentino, Italy – this achievement is further proof that our platform cellulosic sugar technology is best-in-class for producing a broad range of bio-based chemicals using sustainable, non-food sources of biomass. It also validates our conviction that scaling up these technologies beyond the lab is key to enabling the learning curve towards commercial viability.

John Nicols, president and CEO of Codexis, said, “This scale-up of CodeXol detergent alcohols represents what we believe is the world’s first successful large scale effort to produce commercially relevant detergent alcohols from a cellulosic biomass feedstock. We believe this scale-up demonstrates the robustness and efficacy of our CodeXyme cellulase enzymes and the ability of our CodeXol detergent alcohol technology to produce detergent alcohols at commercial specification with the potential to decrease manufacturing costs below incumbent production costs.”

Detergent alcohols are used to manufacture surfactants, which are key, active cleaning ingredients in consumer products such as shampoos, liquid soaps and laundry detergents. The annual global market for detergent alcohols, which are currently manufactured from natural oils and fats and petrochemicals, is approximately $4 billion and is expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2020. Codexis and Chemtex initiated an effort in 2011 to produce these high-value chemicals from sustainable, low-cost and non-food sources of biomass, which has the potential to offer attractive production economics compared to incumbent production routes.