Bio-Based Isobutene

As of today, most industrial bioproduction processes are based on naturally existing metabolic pathways, limiting the scope of industrial biology, and preventing the access to many of the chemistry’s largest markets. The purpose of Global Bioenergies is to develop innovative metabolic pathways for the production of light olefins from renewable resources, by direct fermentation.Light olefins (ethylene, propylene, linear butylene, isobutylene and butadiene) are the core of the petrochemical industry. However, these volatile compounds are not naturally produced by microorganisms and no bioprocess to convert renewable resources to these molecules has been industrialized so far.

Global Bioenergies has developed artificial metabolic pathways including all the necessary enzymatic reactions from feedstock to isobutene. In contrast with most former approaches, the metabolic route leading to isobutene includes non-naturally occurring reactions as key steps, for example the decarboxylation of hydroxyisovaleric acid into isobutene. Global Bioenergies’ current production strain can directly convert glucose, sucrose and second generation feedstocks into Isobutene without any chemical treatment. In 2015, the bio-Isobutene process has reached 70% of target commercial yield.

Importantly, light olefins are gaseous and therefore spontaneously volatilize from the fermentation medium, making the process less energy intensive and cheaper. Commercialization efforts took a step forward with the announcement of the successful production of isobutene at industrial pilot scale in Pomacle (France), where operations started since November 2014. Samples of bio-based isobutene or of isooctane derived exclusively from bio-isobutene where delivered to Arkema and Audi and to CFBP an industry organisation representing several gas supply distribution companies. Furthermore, a Demo Plant is currently being built in Leuna (Germany).

Finally, while isobutene production moves towards industrial scale, Global Bioenergies is also developing new artificial pathways enabling direct bio-production of Butadiene and Propylene.