Segetis plans commercial-scale renewable chemical plant in Minn.

By Erin Voegele | May 23, 2014

Segetis Inc., a Minnesota-based renewable chemicals company, is preparing to break ground on a commercial-scale facility at the Laskin Energy Park in Hoyt Lakes, Minn. In late April, Minnesota’s Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation Board approved $21.1 million in funding to support the project. Segetis was also recently awarded funding by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Segetis is a startup company that has developed an acid hydrolyis process to produce biobased levulinic acid, a value-added chemical building block that can be used to produce plasticizers, surfactants, polymers and a range of other products. According to Andrew Skinner, Segetis’s vice president of operations, the process takes in simple carbohydrates as feedstock. While Segetis has initially developed the process using corn starch, the process could easily be adapted to take in cellulosic sugars once those feedstocks are commercially available.

The company has been operating a pilot facility in Golden Valley, Minn., since October 2013. Skinner estimates the pilot plant has the capacity of approximately 80 tons per year. The company’s pilot operations are expected to expand through a recently awarded grant. On May 19, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced the award of a $325,000 grant to Segetis. The funding will be used for equipment, capital construction and materials for operation of a pilot plant for process development required to commercialize its biobased non-phthalate plasticizer. The plasticizer is one of several products that can be made from levulinic acid produced by Segetis.

The company’s proposed commercial scale plant would produce levulinic acid and convert a portion of that output into plasticizer. According to Skinner, the initial facility is expected to have annual levulinic acid production capacity of 22 million pounds, with approximately 35 million pounds of plasticizer production capacity.

Skinner said construction on the plant could begin as soon as this fall, depending on how long it takes to secure the necessary permits and financing. Once construction commences, he estimates the plant will take approximately 18 months to build. Based on current interest, he said Segetis expects to have its plasticizer capacity sold out by the time the facility begins operations.

A planned second phase of development would expand the production capacity of the plant significantly, to approximately five times the original output. Moving forward, Skinner said Segetis is optimistic that other companies will locate near the plant in the Laskin Energy Park to utilize its levulinic acid to produce other renewable chemicals and products.