Genencor, Goodyear to create tires from biomass

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Sept. 19, 2008 at 10:06 a.m. CST

Genencor, a Division of Danisco A/S, and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have announced that they are working together to develop a process to convert biomass into BioIsoprene, a potential ingredient in synthetic rubber and other elastomers. The new product, trademarked as BioIsoprene, is expected to serve as an alternative to isoprene derived from petroleum and reduce the tire company's dependency on crude oil.

Prior to the official announcement on Sept. 16, the companies had been working together on the project for approximately one year to determine whether to move forward, according to Jennifer Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Genencor. The company will invest $50 million over the next three years to develop and scale-up the technology; the company expects the process to be technically ready by 2010. The first large-scale manufacturing plant is expected to be commissioned by 2012.

Genencor conservatively estimates the annual world market value of BioIsoprene will be between $1 billion and $2 billion. Goodyear is one of the world's largest users of isoprene. The companies are continuing to evaluate viable biomass feedstocks for the process, Hutchins said.

Genencor also worked with DuPont to develop a process for producing the polymer propanediol-now sold under the trademark name Sorona-from corn, and is working with DuPont to develop a process for producing cellulosic ethanol.