IFPEN, Axens to expand involvement with Anellotech

By Anellotech | December 24, 2015

Through the joint development of pioneering Bio-TCat technology, Anellotech, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN), Axens and other industry-leading partners are accelerating the development and future commercialization of biobased paraxylene and other important aromatics chemicals, including benzene, toluene, ortho-xylene and meta-xylene (BTX), from nonfood sources. This alliance is paving the way for the low-cost production of biobased aromatics for use in chemical production and as high octane, non-oxygenated biofuels blendstock. 

Anellotech, IFPEN and Axens recently announced a major step forward in the development of the Bio-TCat process for thermal catalytic conversion of nonfood biomass to aromatics with the completion of construction on the new, fully-integrated development and testing plant (TCat-8), following over one year of joint design collaboration. With TCat-8 construction now complete, Anellotech is ready to commence installation onsite. Operational in 2016, this 82 foot- (25 meter-) high unit will confirm the viability and suitability of the Bio-TCat process for scale-up and generate the data needed to design commercial plants using this proprietary technology. 

As part of a multi-year R&D collaboration with Anellotech, IFPEN will be integral in the commissioning and operation of TCat-8, leading to commercialization and exclusive licensing of Bio-TCat technology by Axens. In addition to extensive activities at its R&D center in Solaize, France, IFPEN will dedicate three, full-time senior engineers and technical experts at Anellotech’s U.S. location for two years to support the efforts, beginning in 2016. Anellotech’s highly collaborative program leverages IFPEN’s extensive and comprehensive process development experience, and its specific expertise in catalytic reactor modeling, catalyst regenerator design and aromatics processing. 

“IFPEN’s engineers and experts will participate directly on the TCat-8 program,” said David Sudolsky, president and CEO of Anellotech. “Their hands-on involvement in ongoing experimental planning, operations and data analysis will be critical to our success. IFPEN has already made significant contributions working alongside Anellotech on TCat-8 design, HAZOP studies, control systems, experimental planning, and chemical analysis method development. This collaboration will continue, while IFPEN also begins conducting advanced modeling and cold-flow hydrodynamic studies to support Bio-TCat reaction engineering and scale-up.” 

IFPEN and Axens: Two Highly-Motivated Partners

IFPEN’s collaboration with Anellotech is consistent with its 2010 name change from Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) to IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN). The new name reflects its increasing focus on “new energy” technologies. In fact, IFPEN’s nascent research programs on renewable energies focus on three major priorities: producing fuels from biomass; using biomass for the production of major chemical intermediates; and developing wind and ocean energies to produce electricity without associated CO2 emissions. 

“IFPEN has an outstanding track record for successfully developing process technology for producing both fossil-based and biobased chemicals and fuels,” Sudolsky added. “They possess strong capabilities from decades of experience developing and improving many different process technologies, including designing and operating pilot plants for scale-up of processes that have proven commercially successful.” 

IFPEN’s interest in green chemicals stems from its commitment to reducing oil dependency as well as combatting global warming due to CO2 emissions. It is building an impressive portfolio of green processes, including Futurol (cellulosic ethanol) and Atol-C2 (Ethanol to Ethylene) for further conversion into bio-MEG), two processes already licensed worldwide by Axens. R&D programs include BioButterfly (bio-butadiene, an on-going joint development with Michelin and Axens) and BioTfuel (lignocellulosic biodiesel, an ongoing joint development with Total, CEA, Thyssen Krupp Industrial Solutions, Avril and Axens), complemented with the development of the Bio-TCat process for bio-aromatics. 

“Collaborating with Anellotech offers us a unique opportunity to participate in the development of an innovative and cost-competitive path to bio-aromatics,” remarked Jean-Pierre Burzynski, director of the Process Business Unit at IFPEN. “It is consistent with our charter to develop cost-competitive renewable chemicals and fuels from nonfood biomass. We share a common vision with Anellotech’s other strategic partners, and a mutual goal to see this technology into fruition.” 

“The development of bio-BTX will rely heavily on IFPEN’s expertise in fluid bed technologies scale-up and will provide the industry the key aromatic basic chemicals that are used in significant plastics, such as polyester (polyethylene terephthalate or “PET”), polystyrene, polyurethane, and nylon, Burzynski added.” 

According to Jean-Luc Nocca, executive vice-president and chief technology officer at Axens, “Development and commercialization of breakthrough Bio-TCat technology will be a significant addition to our broad portfolio of the advanced technologies, catalysts, adsorbents and services for conversion of oil, coal, natural gas and biomass to clean fuels and major petrochemical intermediates that we provide to the global market.” 

IFPEN’s commitment of resources comes on the heels of Anellotech’s November announcement of a new $7 million investment (the first tranche of a total of $10 million) from a major multinational corporate partner, as momentum continues to build on the project.