UPM, Renmatix form JDA for biochemical production

By Erin Voegele | June 11, 2013

Finland-based UPM and Pennsylvania-based Renmatix Inc. have announced the formation of a non-exclusive joint development agreement (JDA). Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will optimize Renmatix’s water-based Plantrose process technology to convert hardwood biomass into cellulosic sugars for the production of biochemcials.

Renmatix’s Plantrose process is a supercritical hydrolysis process that employs water at very high temperatures and pressures to break down biomass. In the process conditions, water acts as a powerful solvent and a catalyst, creating rapid reactions.

According to Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton, the two companies will work together under the JDA to refine the Plantrose process to process the type of feedstocks UPM would consider using at a future site to produce biochemicals. We’ll design a specification for the sugar UPM would ferment in downstream processes to produce biobased chemicals, he said.

Much of the optimization work will be performed at Renmatix’s facility in Kennesaw, Ga., which can process up to 3 tons of biomass per day into lignocellulosic sugars. According to Hamilton, the facility will be modified slightly and upgraded to satisfy UPM’s requirements.

“We are very excited about this truly collaborative endeavor. It combines UPM’s core competencies in sustainable sourcing and efficient industrial processing of wood, with Renmatix’s unique conversion technology,” said Michael Duetsch, director of biochemicals, at UPM. “Access to second generation, lignocellulosic, sugars through a process that uses almost no consumables is a crucial factor in Plantrose technology’s attractiveness.”

Hamilton noted that the JDA is expected to span approximately 18 months, through the end of 2014. Assuming appropriate milestones are met, he said that the goal is to move the relationship forward to produce biochemicals at an industrial scale. The specific types of biochemicals UPM is targeting has not been disclosed. “This is just the beginning of what I see as a very long-term, exciting relationship,” Hamilton said.