BASF, Cargill and Novozymes: acrylic acid production from renewable feedstock

On August 17, 2012, BASF, Cargill and Novozymes signed an agreement to develop technologies to produce acrylic acid from renewable raw materials. Presently, acrylic acid is produced by the oxidation of propylene derived from the refining of crude oil.

Novozymes and Cargill have collaborated on renewable acrylic acid technology since 2008. Both companies have worked to develop microorganisms that can efficiently convert renewable feedstock into 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), which is one possible chemical precursor to acrylic acid. BASF has now joined the collaboration to develop the process for conversion of 3-HP into acrylic acid. BASF is the world´s largest producer of acrylic acid and initially plans to use the bio-based acrylic acid to manufacture superabsorbent polymers, used for baby diapers.

Acrylic acid is a high-volume chemical which feeds into a broad range of products, like adhesives and coatings. The annual global market volume of acrylic acid is around 4.5 million tons with a value of $11 billion at the end of 2011. The market has been growing at a rate of 4 percent per year.

Novozymes, one of the world leaders in industrial enzymes, partners in this project with global leaders in the chemical and food industries. As Novozymes states, ‘the biotechnology platform is a key component for the nascent biochemicals business. It can help the chemical industry to replace oil with renewable raw materials and take a big step towards a more sustainable biobased economy.‘

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