Elevance’s manufacturing platform integrates our proprietary technology in novel combinations with established industrial processes (metathesis, transesterification, hydrogenation) to create an integrated biorefinery with the capability of making both advanced biofuels and specialty chemicals.
Biorefinery Locations and Capacities
Elevance is the only specialty chemicals company that will have two world-scale biorefineries using renewable feedstocks to produce novel specialty chemicals in operation by 2016.
Elevance and Wilmar International Limited formed a joint venture that now operates the first world-scale biorefinery in Gresik, Indonesia, based on Elevance’s proprietary metathesis technology. The commercial-scale manufacturing facility has a capacity of 180,000 MT (approximately 400 million pounds) with the ability to expand up to 360,000 MT (approximately 800 million pounds) of products.
Elevance is also in the process of converting an existing biodiesel facility in Natchez, Miss., into the second world-scale biorefinery and derivatives facility in a multi-phase project. The Natchez manufacturing facility will have a capacity of 280,000 MT (approximately 617 million pounds) and begin producing in 2016.
Products and Market Development
The biorefineries produce Inherent™ renewable building blocks, including renewable C10+ alpha and internal olefins and high-value, di-functional specialty chemicals including 9-decenoic acid methyl ester with superior functional attributes that were previously unavailable commercially until now. These molecules combine the functional attributes of an olefin, typical of petrochemicals, and a monofunctional ester or acid, typical of bio-based oleochemicals, into a single molecule. The biorefineries also produce a premium mixture of oleochemicals.
The high-value performance specialty chemicals, olefins and oleochemicals produced at the biorefineries will be used in personal care products, detergents and cleaners, engineered polymers, lubricants and additives, and other specialty chemicals markets.
Elevance’s biorefinery converts the triglycerides and fatty acids found in natural oils (such as plant, vegetable and animal oils) into multiple fuel and chemical streams. The technology that drives the innovative processes is based on the work of Nobel Laureates Dr. Robert H. Grubbs and Dr. Richard Schrock, who pioneered the olefin metathesis catalyst development. This next generation catalyst technology allows carbon atoms in natural oils to “swap” places, thereby enabling new chemical compounds and manufacturing processes once thought to be impossible. The technology is efficient, stable and predictable, and enables relatively simple processing using widely available industrial equipment. The Elevance biorefinery can handle multiple different feedstock oils and prefers those with high degrees of unsaturation, particularly mono-unsaturation. This is because metathesis operates on carbon-carbon double bonds found at points of unsaturation. A schematic of the Elevance biorefinery is below:
Elevance biorefineries are capable of running on multiple renewable oil feedstocks, including palm, mustard, soybean, canola and, when they become commercially available, jatropha or algal oils. Both Elevance biorefineries will produce the same end products and are capable of running on multiple renewable oil feedstocks: the Gresik biorefinery is now operating on palm oil, the Natchez biorefinery will initially operate using canola or soybean oil.
As in a traditional petroleum refinery, manipulating the Elevance biorefinery’s operating conditions and feedstock oil compositions will result in different relative proportions of the end products. This allows the biorefinery to vary, within some limits, the product distribution to maximize the economics of the total product suite.
Sustainability and Capital Efficiency
The Elevance biorefinery produces multiple high-value chemicals and advanced biofuels streams similar to petroleum-based refineries. Elevance’s low-pressure, low-temperature process, however, uses Nobel Prize-winning innovations in metathesis catalysis that consumes significantly less energy and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent compared to petrochemical technologies. A highly efficient, selective catalyst is used to break down natural oils and recombine fragments resulting in a process with lower source pollution, production costs and capital expenditures than petrochemical refineries. Further, each of the feedstocks used can be sourced locally, enabling Elevance and its customers to reduce the carbon footprint across the entire supply chain.
Our manufacturing pathway enables a significant reduction of costs through scale, using relatively capex-light stills/reactors rather than the massive chemical facilities utilized for traditional petrochemical production. Even greater cost efficiency is achieved through retrofitting or repurposing of existing biodiesel plants.
Elevance’s biorefinery product and market focus includes developing chemistries from natural oils such as:
- Longer chain alpha and internal olefins (C6 and higher)
- Di-carboxylic acids (also referred to as diacids) and Di functional monomers (olefin/carboxylic functionality and derivatives) for use in polymers (i.e., polyamides, polyesters and epoxies) and powder coatings
- Performance waxes and as alternatives for paraffin and also for beeswax, carnuba, montan and other natural waxes
- Advanced biofuels including Bio and “green” diesel
- Oligomerized natural oils
- Esters for lubricants, surfactants, personal care and other applications