Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have announced a research collaboration to develop a bio-based process for producing isoprene using renewable raw materials.
Their trademark-protected product, BioIsoprene, is a bio-based alternative for the petroleum-derived chemical compound isoprene and can be used for the production of synthetic rubber – which in turn is an alternative to natural rubber – and other elastomers to make the tyre and rubber industry less dependent on oil-derived products, such as synthetic rubber made from petroleum-derived isoprene monomer.
Danisco estimates the annual global market potential for high-purity isoprene at $1 to $2 billion. BioIsoprene is being targeted at this market as a renewable and cost-competitive alternative to petroleum-derived isoprene currently used in the production of synthetic rubber for tyre applications, adhesives, elastomers and other styrene applications.
Genencor plans to manufacture and supply Goodyear with BioIsoprene through a strategic supply arrangement. Goodyear is one of the world's largest users of isoprene for the production of synthetic rubber and other elastomers. Sales of BioIsoprene by Genencor to third parties are also anticipated for all market applications of high purity isoprene.
Danisco and Goodyear have been investing jointly for more than a year to validate the project, establish the teams and secure intellectual property assets.
Over the next three years, Danisco will invest approximately $50 million to continue technology development, scale-up and deliver manufacturing cost targets.
Additional investments to establish pilot plant operations and manufacturing infrastructure are expected.
The two companies expect to commission of the first large-scale manufacturing plant by 2012.
For Goodyear, a bio-based alternative to synthetic rubber would be an important advancement as the company seeks innovative approaches to addressing raw material needs. The company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, and BioIsoprene produced from renewable materials will help achieve this goal.
"We truly see this as a unique opportunity that is consistent with our culture of innovation and industry leadership," says Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear's chief technology officer. "Since synthetic rubber is a critical component to our products, we are very excited to be working on this renewable alternative with Genencor."
For Danisco and its Genencor division, BioIsoprene is part of its strategic focus to build bio-based systems for biochemical and biofuel production.
The Genencor division is critical to unlocking this potential, because it has a long track record as a pioneer in industrial biotechnology and continues to deliver breakthrough bio-based solutions across industries.
An example is the joint initiative with DuPont that led to the development of an advanced bioprocess to produce 1.3 propanediol, now sold as Sorona produced by DuPont and Tate & Lyle. The project earned the US Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2003.
According to Tom Knutzen, CEO of Danisco "Danisco sees this announcement as a major leap towards a bio-based future driven by renewable resources.Our Genencor division is one of the leading forces in industrial biotechnology and, once again, proves that with this project. Today's announcement joins our recent joint venture with DuPont on cellulosic ethanol as another important milestone in changing the strategic profile of our company by capturing a bigger part of the value chain in these exciting markets."