US Department of Energy commits US$213m for construction of organic acids facility

Article by Aniqah Majid

The facility is designed to reduce CO2 emissions by 18,000 t/y compared to traditional production methods

THE US Department of Energy (DOE) has made a conditional commitment of US$213.6m to sustainable chemicals manufacturer Solugen and its plan to develop a production facility in Minnesota, US, for organic acids that can be used in big carbon emitting industries like cement and energy.

Bioforge Marshall will be a 500,000 sq ft, scaled up, version of Solugen’s Houston facility, and will manufacture chemical products produced from biomass.

Solugen said the facility is designed to reduce CO2 emissions by 18,000 t/y compared to traditional production methods, the emission equivalent of powering 3,500 homes per year.

The chemicals industry is one of the largest emitters of CO2, producing around 935m t in 2022, with the highest share of emissions coming from ammonia (45%) and methanol (28%) production.

A bio-based approach to chemicals manufacturing

Solugen’s technology, which it developed at its Houston facility, involves a chemienzymatic process where biomass derived from agricultural feedstock, namely dextrose, is fed into an enzyme oxidation reactor and metal catalysts to produce a product similar to the output produced by traditional oil and petrochemical processing.

At the Houston site, Solugen can produce a ton of product for every ton of feedstock.

The plant will also be adjacent to Archer Daniels Midland corn processing complex, where it will source its dextrose. DOE has attributed the facilities CO2 saving capabilities to its local sourcing of biogenic feedstock.

Securing domestic production

DOE expect Solugen’s product’s to “re-shore industrial production capacity” for chemicals that are largely produced in countries like China, who accounted for 15% of global ammonia production in 2021.

The department has calculated that Solugen’s chemicals have a savings potential of up to 40% compared to existing chemicals.

Gaurab Chakrabarti, CEO of Solugen, said: “American manufacturing is at a turning point, and we are proud to have the opportunity to work with the DOE in bringing critical chemical production capabilities onshore to communities like Marshall.

“By scaling cutting-edge technologies, we are meeting domestic demand for innovative solutions and setting global standards for sustainable biomanufacturing.”

Solugen expects production to begin at the site in Q3 2025, with 100 jobs to be created during construction, and 56 permanent positions when it is operational.

In the next decade, the company aims to expand its pipeline chemicals production to include plastics, amines, and glycols.

Article by Aniqah Majid

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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