Succinic acid is a chemical intermediate that was identified by the U.S. Department of Energy's biomass program as a top 12 target molecule. Many experts predict that succinic acid has a >$10B market potential in applications that include biodegradable plastics, polyurethanes, and butanediol, just to name a few. However, the current market is very small and limited to niche applications because the petrochemical process is inefficient and costly.
There are nearly a dozen chemical companies developing technology to make succinic acid using bio-based processes. Many hurdles must be overcome in pursuing this approach. These processes can produce significant byproducts that lower yield, often require costly separation, and utilize feedstocks that compete with the food supply. Additionally, the "green" credentials of these processes are often debated because of the significant land and water use needed to grow the feedstock, and energy required during the fermentation and separation processes.
Novomer's process avoids many of the challenges of a fermentation-based approach by using traditional chemical industry infrastructure. The process is unique for the following reasons:
- Ethylene oxide to succinic anhydride is >99% selective with no byproducts
- 30-40% lower cost than the petro-based process (shown above)
- Leverages existing chemical industry infrastructure
- Can be synthesized entirely from renewable feedstocks when the ethylene oxide is sourced from a fermentation process and the CO from the gasification of biomass.