The Competitive Edge: Haldor Topsoe : Biofuels Digest

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Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

Haldor Topsoe is the world leader in heterogeneous catalysis and technology licensing. Ten years ago, as the signs from the market pull for renewables appeared, Topsoe decided to go into the area of biochemicals relying on its core competences of chemical catalysis and process development and upscaling believing that they can be equally well applied to bio-based feedstock as they could on fossil ones.

Most of the biomass conversion to chemicals was then and still is today made via biotech processes. Biotech is however particularly suitable for high value small volume chemicals and we have seen a need for a more scalable cost-efficient processing of bio-based feedstock which would also allow for production of high volume chemicals.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Within Topsoe Biochemicals, we have developed a product platform based on a process step called MOSAIK (MOnoSAccharide Industrial cracKer) which can use monossacharides from first or second generation biomass or their mixtures as feedstock. MOSAIK process step is essentially sugar cracking to a glycoladelhyde-rich mixture of C1-C3 oxygenates. That intermediate can then be converted into a number of chemicals ranging from commodities to specialties using heterogeneous catalysis. Hydrogenation of it produces monoethylene glycol (MEG) with monopropylene glycol (MPG) as co-product. Oxidation can lead to glycolic acid while amination yields ethanol amines.

All of those chemicals are bio-based drop in replacements for fossil equivalents. Another reaction type that can be done starting from the MOSAIK intermediate is retro aldol condensation via a Topsoe proprietary calaytst which yields a new monomer called methyl vinyl glycolate (MVG) and racemic methyl lactate as co-product.

Q: What stage of development are you?

Demonstration stage – proven at small, integrated scale, but not yet commercially available

 Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

Three main things we believe our MOSAIK platform provides are scalability, cost-competitiveness and innovation.

We believe that our differentiator is the use of heterogeneous catalysis for production of biochemicals. In comparison to fermentation scalability is proven already by petrochemical industry and we typically operate with higher feed concentrations which brings cost benefits.

Finally, some of the chemistry we were able to do brought to light new molecules which are difficult to make from either fossil feeds or from bio-based sources via biotech processes.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

MOSAIK biochemicals platform covers a range of chemicals, with varying values and market sizes. For all of those, including large volume commodity chemicals, we believe there is a minimum of cost equivalence to the incumbent solution while allowing for switch to renewable feedstock.

For bio-MEG, for example, our technology allows for dedicated production and eliminates the need for a large CAPEX investment needed for gas crackers which only a limited number of very large companies can undertake. Regarding process emissions, preliminary CO2 emissions calculations indicate advantage over fossil based or bio based competing solutions.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. Partnership agreement with Braskem for demonstration and commercialization of our Bioglycols technology and reaching the demonstration stage for the MOSAIK step of the technology.
  2. Growing the MOSAIK platform through joint development set-ups with a number of leading companies.
  3. Finding several applications for the new molecule Methyl Vinyl Glycolate through downstream conversion, predominantly in the polymer industry.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

  1. Completion of demonstration of Bioglycols (MEG, and MPG) and demonstration of other biochemicals (MVG, glycolic acid).
  2. Succeeding in commercializing our MVG as considerably smaller volumes compared to MEG can be used to build the market for certain applications.
  3. Completion of the basic engineering design package for the first industrial plant for Boglycols (MEG and MPG).
  4. Where can I learn more about Haldor Topsoe?

Click here to visit Haldor Topsoe’s website.



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