BP joins effort to make paraxylene from biological sources

Article by Adam Duckett

BP has formed a partnership with Virent and Johnson Matthey to commercialise a process that produces paraxylene from biological sources, rather than traditional fossil fuels.

Virent’s BioForming technology, which is being developed with Johnson Matthey, uses aqueous-phase reforming technology and modified catalytic processing to convert aqueous carbohydrate solutions, including sugar sources from corn mills, into mixtures of ‘drop-in’ hydrocarbons. These can be processed in traditional plants to produce fuels and chemicals.   

BP is interested in commercialising the process for producing bio-paraxylene, which would be used as a feedstock for the manufacture of purified terephthalic acid (PTA). This in turn is used to produce polyester fibres and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

BP is contributing technical resources and has exclusive rights to negotiate becoming the sole manufacturer of bio-paraxylene, using Virent’s technology.

Charles Damianides, BP’s Vice-President of Petrochemicals Technology and Licensing, said: “We consider Virent’s technology to be the leading route to commercial quantities of renewable bio-PX”.

The partners have not given a date for when they expect the commercialisation to be complete.

Dave Kettner, President of Virent, said: “We have been working with JM to scale up the BioForming process for production of renewable fuel and are very pleased to enter into this agreement with BP to commercialise the technology for production of bio-PX and bio-PTA.

“This is an indication of the flexibility of the BioForming technology to produce both bio-fuels and bio-aromatic chemicals.”

Eugene McKenna, Business Development and Innovation Director at Johnson Matthey, said the agreement is an important step in increasing the quantity of renewable feedstocks for the production of fibres and packaging.

Article by Adam Duckett

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