Bio-based material and chemical technologies have reached an inflection point with companies scaling to commercial production levels and growing revenues, according to Lux Research.
The leading growth category will be intermediate chemicals like adipic acid and lactic acid, with capacity growing from 2.0 million metric tons currently to 4.9 million metric tons in 2017, while the capacity of bio-derived polymers – currently at 1.1 million metric tons – will grow 18 percent per year through 2017, according to Cultivating Capacity for Bio-based Materials and Chemicals through 2017.
Lux Research analysts analyzed 229 sites from 217 companies, and 133 chemicals and classes like succinic acid and polyols in seven main product categories and 22 subcategories. Among their findings:
• Specialty chemicals set for boom: Specialty chemicals like farnesene will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 46 percent between now and 2017; companies set to benefit include players like Solazyme and Segetis.
• North America to emerge as top country:Today, North America ranks fourth in global capacity, but will become a leader by 2017 as American start-ups like Gevo build plants closer to home. Europe’s share of global capacity will drop from 37 percent in 2005 to 14 percent in 2017.
• Cellulosic feedstocks struggle: First-generation sugar/starch feedstocks – such as corn and sugarcane – will remain the dominant bio-based source. Cellulosic feedstocks will grow relatively slowly, and the rise of new sources like bio-oils and waste gas will help lower cellulosics’ share from 67 percent to 27 percent by 2017.
In February, Versalis and Elevance Renewable Sciences signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a partnership to jointly develop and scale a new metathesis technology to produce bio-chemicals from vegetable oils. The partners will assess the design and construction of the first world-scale ethylene metathesis-based production that will utilize renewable oils at the Versalis Porto Marghera site.