New partnership to yield biobased succinic acid

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fermentation, Lactic acid

CSM and BASF have joined forces to develop biobased succinic acid and expect to start producing commercial volumes and quality in 2010.

Succinic acid is a base chemical that is usually obtained from petrochemicals. It has a number of industrial uses, including being used as an acidulant and taste enhancer in foods like relishes, beverages and sausages, and to modify the properties of bread dough.

Both CSM and BASF have been working on developing industrial fermentation and downstream processing of succinic acid, but have now decided to combine their competencies. For Purac, the CSM subsidiary working on the project, this will bring a whole new product line to its offering. Purac is known as a major producer of lactic acid and lactides.

Hans van der Pol, marketing manager at Purac, told FoodNavigator.com that the biobased succinic acid is expected to find a major use in bioplastics. But it would certainly be of interest to food manufacturers currently using the petrochemical source, and it fits with the trend towards using more renewable resources and reducing the CO2 footprint.

The companies are using a fermentation process, and the substrate is crop-derived.

Van der Pol said the new succinic acid will be produced at an existing CSM plant in Spain which is already equipped for industrial scale fermentation and downstream purification so the move can happen quite quickly.

Maren Bauer, senior manager at BASF Future Business said the initial production planned for Q2 2010 will be "a one-time production run"​ as a "test".

The companies are not disclosing the volumes their venture will yield, but van der Pol said “the addressable market is very big – hundreds of thousands of tonnes”.

Parallel partnerships

The news on the BASF-CSM partnership is not the first such arrangement for biobased succinic acid to be unveiled.

In March DSM and Roquette announced plans start commercial production of their bio-based succinic acid by the end of 2009, following successful trials.

Using an “innovative enzyme-based fermentation technology”​, they say that pilot-scale production at a Roquette plant in Lestrem (France) has proven that the acid, when produced using biological means, is commercially viable.

Other companies going down the bio-base route include Danisco which said its strategy is to evolve into a "focused, bio-based, market-driven ingredients provider”. ​The company has predicted that in 20 years time, we will be living in a bio-based economy.

Last year Roquette signed a licensing deal with Rice University, Texas, obtaining the right to commercialize technologies by Rice professors Ka-Yiu San and George Bennett, who genetically engineered E. coli bacteria that produce high yields of succinic acid through fermentation.

Meanwhile in 2008 Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and PolyOne, announced a collaboration to produce bio-based plasticizers from corn and oilseeds for polymer formulations, in response to strong market interest in renewable technology.

Editor’s note: BASF and Purac would like to clarify that next year's production run is the first step in their collaboration, and further production runs are anticipated.

Related topics: Ingredients

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