Canadian Biomass Magazine

Partnership achieves milestone in acrylic acid process

July 3, 2013
By Rock to Road

July 3, 2013 - BASF, Cargill and Novozymes, in their joint development, have successfully demonstrated the production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) in pilot scale. The three companies are working together to produce acrylic acid from renewable raw materials.

3-HP is a renewable-based building block and one possible
chemical precursor to acrylic acid. The companies also have successfully
established several technologies to dehydrate 3-HP to acrylic acid at lab

This step in the process is critical since it is the
foundation for production of acrylic acid. In August 2012, BASF, Cargill and
Novozymes announced their joint agreement to develop a process for the
conversion of renewable raw materials into a 100 per cent bio-based acrylic

"3-HP is a potential key raw material for the production of
bio-based acrylic acid which is a precursor of superabsorbent polymers," said
Teressa Szelest, senior vice-president of Global Hygiene Business at BASF. "We
still have a fair amount of work to do before the process is commercially
ready, but this is a significant milestone and we are confident we can continue
to the next level of scale-up for the entire process in 2014."

Acrylic acid is a high-volume chemical that feeds into a
broad range of products. BASF is the world's largest producer of acrylic acid
and has substantial capabilities in its production and downstream processing.
BASF plans initially to use the bio-based acrylic acid to manufacture
superabsorbent polymers that can soak up large amounts of liquid and are used
mainly in baby diapers and other hygiene products.


Presently, acrylic acid is produced by the oxidation of
propylene derived from the refining of crude oil.

The companies' joint project team combines expertise in
biotechnology, renewable feedstock, industrial scale fermentation, and in
developing new chemical processes.

"We have shown that it is possible to make this key chemical
building block from renewable raw materials in robust industrial conditions.
Now the development work will continue towards commercialization," said Rasmus
von Gottberg, vice-president of Corporate Development and Business Creation at

Superabsorbent polymers derived from bio-based acrylic acid
will be a groundbreaking new offer to the market. Diapers made of such
superabsorbent polymers could meet the demand of a significant and growing
group of consumers in mature markets in particular. They also may allow diaper
producers to meet consumer demands, differentiate their products and contribute
to their sustainability goals.

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