FRANCE: Cristal Union and Global Bioenergies plan 50,000 tonnes isobutene facility by 2020

Published: 02/16/2017, 4:18:48 PM

French sugar and ethanol producer Cristal Union and renewable products company Global Bioenergies plan to build a 50,000 metric tonne isobutene plant in the Champagne region of France by 2020, according to Argus.

The IBN-One joint venture will use sugar beet as feedstock. Engineering companies Technip and IPSB have been employed for preliminary front-end engineering and design (pre-FEED) studies.

Global Bioenergies is developing gasoline blendstock ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) produced from fully renewable sources, and has said it will scale up volumes in line with those of its isobutene production.

Around 90,000 t/yr of renewable ETBE would be produced should the entirety of IBN-One's 50,000 tonne of commercial isobutene production be blended with ethanol for that purpose. Production volumes at the plant will depend on arbitrage between iso-octane, ETBE and high-purity isobutene for plastics and rubbers.

Fully renewable ETBE would have the same blend limits as traditional ETBE, therefore increasing the renewable fuels content in gasoline to a maximum of 22%, in line with EU specifications.

The first batch of fully renewable ETBE was produced at the Fraunhofer Centre for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP at Leuna, Germany, where Global Bioenergies' 100 t/yr isobutene demonstration plant started operations in December 2016. The demonstration plant produces first-generation isobutene from glucose feedstock derived from corn and from sugar beet sucrose. Isobutene and fully renewable ETBE will in the future also be produced using second-generation isobutene - from feedstocks including wheat straw, corn stover, sugar cane bagasse and wood chips - and from bio-sourced ethanol. Global Bioenergies opened another pilot isobutene plant at the Bazancourt-Pomacle biorefinery in 2014, close to Reims, France.

Renewable ETBE would use existing storage and distribution infrastructure and will first be aimed at the French market.

"We are targeting the French market as a priority because the regulatory incentives are higher here than in most European countries, and also to limit transportation costs from IBN-One. We still do not exclude international shipments, and will thus expect to have the product certified both in France and in other European countries," Global Bioenergies chief executive Marc Delcourt told Argus.

"At present fully renewable ETBE production for fuel use, as all other biofuels, would not be [financially] competitive with oil products but would rely on EU fuels legislation with view to meeting renewables targets," Delcourt said.