The Urethane Blog

Bio Succinic Venture

Plans for Chinese bio-succinic acid joint venture with BioAmber / Letter of intent for 36,000 t/y facility
Food, feed and biosciences company CheilJedang (CJ, Seoul / South Korea; has signed a non-binding letter of intent with renewable materials producer BioAmber (Plymouth, Minnesota / USA; in which the two companies lay out their proposed plan to set up a bio-succinic acid joint venture in China. The jv is still subject to certain conditions, but definite agreements are expected to be inked in July 2017. If all goes as planned, production at the 36,000 t/y facility could commence in Q1 2018, with output earmarked for China and the rest of Asia. The companies already said that if demand exceeds the jv’s production capacity, a debottlenecking or further expansion could raise capability.

CJ would own a 65% stake in the joint venture, with BioAmber in control of the remaining 35%. The jv would be located at an existing CJ fermentation facility in China, which the South Korean company would retrofit at its own cost. The location of the plant was not disclosed. The deal calls for the joint venture to pay BioAmber a technology royalty for access to its bio-succinic acid technology, while CJ would be paid a tolling fee for producing the material. The two companies also set out a mutual right-of-first-refusal to retrofit additional CJ fermentation facilities for the technology globally.

Paving the way for the set-up, BioAmber will sell to CJ some of the bio-succinic acid produced at its plant in Sarnia, Ontario / Canada – which began operating at commercial scale in 2015 (see of 28.10.2015). The South Korean company will then proceed with market development in both South Korea and China starting in H1 2017.

Commenting on the letter of intent, BioAmber CEO Jean-Francois Huc said, “This jv is an opportunity for BioAmber to accelerate the deployment of its bio-succinic acid technology on a global scale without capital investment.” The material is a feedstock used for a number of plastics and intermediates, including 1.4 butanediol (BDO), PBS, non-phthalate plasticisers and polyester polyols.

The announcement follows CJ’s recent acquisition of the biopolymers slate of Metabolix (Cambridge, Massachusetts / USA;, its former partner in a 10,000 t/y PHA plant in the US (see of 24.08.2016). It is likely that some of the facilities formerly operated by Metabolix will become part of the proposed jv with BioAmber as well.