Sustainable chemical company Genomatica have developed a GREEN BDO in which living bacteria replace fossil fuels in the production of a common industrial chemical Butanediol (BDO). BDO is traditionally synthesized from acetylene (derived from crude oil or natural gas).
Butanediol, or BDO, is a chemical intermediate used in the manufacture of solvents, plastics and fibres. Over $US 3 billion worth of BDO is used each year globally, mainly in the production of consumer products including running shoes and clothing items containing Spandex. Currently, BDO is produced in a similar manner to many other chemicals of the petro-chemical era: in an energy intensive fashion with a range of non-degradable by-products at the end of the process.
Genomatica has developed a Bio-BDO which offers significant environmental and financial benefits over conventional BDO. Bio-BDO offers a 70% reduction in C0₂ emissions, and has no by-products. This is achieved due to the fact that Bio-BDO uses natural, renewable inputs in the production process, sourced from feedstocks such as sucrose and dextrose.
Instead of fossil fuels, Genomatica’s process relies on the natural action of bacteria fed on renewable feedstocks to produce a ‘green’ version of the chemical, leading to the final product which is chemically identical to petroleum-based BDO. The bacteria synthesize the chemical much faster than traditional methods (without any harmful byproducts), so companies benefit from reduced development and production costs. Genomatica’s process is designed to use about 60% less energy than traditional methods. The new process represents a true win-win breakthrough in chemical production, benefiting both industry and the environment.
The financial cost of manufacturing Bio-BDO is also significantly lower than the conventional version of the chemical. Bio-BDO can be manufactured on far smaller production plants, hence less initial capital outlay on plant and equipment. Given the smaller size of the plants, energy costs also fall significantly. The renewable nature of feedstocks could also reduce the extreme price volatility that is often associated with inputs in the chemical industry.
Watch the video below to see Genomatica at work in San Diego.