General, News

Clariant Throws Open the Doors on Epic 2G Bioethanol Journey

Almost two decades in the making, Clariant said it’s considering strategic options for its 2G bioethanol technology project that converts agricultural waste into biofuel.

All alternatives will be evaluated, the Swiss company said in a statement. It declined to give further details at this time, saying an update on progress will be provided before the end of the year.

From developing the sunliquid® enzyme in a lab in 2006 to getting its first commercial scale plant up and running in Romania, Clariant bore the not insignificant costs alone while navigating the ups and downs of a nascent market challenging the entrenched oil and gas industry. 2G bioethanol already has its casualties, including a US partnership between Royal DSM NV and partner POET. Their plant relied on costly third-party enzymes in a Trump administration that had eased demands for some refineries to blend ethanol.

Being an actual bioethanol producer was never part of Clariant’s plan. It built the 2G plant in Podari as a showpiece and a proof of concept. It wants to be in the business of licensing out its enzyme technology to others.

The origins of the sun liquid® enzymatic process date back to 2006 and a lab operated by Süd Chemie, a catalyst company that Clariant acquired in 2011. A pilot plant was commissioned at the research centre in Munich in 2009, followed by a demonstration plant in Straubing in 2012.

As it works out where to go from here, the Swiss company said the immediate focus is on addressing the challenges around ramping-up production and getting closer to turning a profit. There’s already some sign of improvement, with an expected gain in operational EBITDA of CHF11m from sunliquid in the second quarter.

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