Since it was created in 2008, the Company has striven continuously to develop its process, first in the laboratory then in a pilot and finally in a demo plant, passing a string of milestones and reaching the threshold of commercial roll-out.
Stage 1 – Proof of concept
To begin with, Global Bioenergies successfully set up a laboratory-scale prototype to provide proof of concept for its technology.
The Company also laid the foundations for its intellectual property, and it now holds exclusive rights to a constantly growing patent portfolio.
Stage 2 – Laboratory development
Secondly, after its IPO on the Alternext market, the Company refined its process on a laboratory scale. To this day, it continues to make performance improvements.
Stage 3 – Industrialization
Stage 3, which began when €23 million in funds were raised in mid-2013, was devoted to industrialization. An industrial pilot with an isobutene production capacity of 10 tonnes p.a. was set up at the Pomacle-Bazancourt agro-industrial site close to Reims. This project was awarded €4 million funding by the French State as part of the Investment for the Future Program.
Fully operational since early 2015, this pilot has enabled:
- The transfer of the process in an industrial environment at a scale ten fold larger than in the laboratory.
- The production of the first renewable isobutene batches to be converted into end products and to be shipped to industrial partners
An industrial-scale demonstrator has then been built at the Leuna refinery in Germany and is operational since early 2017. It prefigures the future commercial plants. Its industrial design is innovative and adapted to the gas fermentation process promoted by the Company. It is indeed the first time that a fermentation process targets a gaseous product which brings major advantages that will translate into reduced operating costs.
It has been financed by a €5.7 million subsidy from the German government and a €4.4 million loan from a consortium of French banks. This demonstrator represents the final stage in industrialization of the isobutene process.
Stage 4 – Commercialization
The value chain developed in recent years by Global Bioenergies now allows the Company to produce cosmetic grade isododecane on a tonne scale. Each tonne is enough for several hundred thousand make-up products. The segment is poised to enter its commercial launch phase, with a potential impact on the retail market amounting to tens of millions of euros. Global Bioenergies wants to extract the maximum value from its innovation by creating its own brand of longwear cosmetics products, scheduled to launch in 2021.
Marketing will coincide with the ramp-up of isododecane production capacity in the months and years to come. In the first place, bio-sourced isododecane will be marketed to other longwear cosmetics makers, offering them the chance to make 90%+ naturally sourced products. The next segment targeted will be makers of skincare and haircare products, a market set to grow strongly as the use of some silicons are phased out in Europe.
Finally, in the longer term, isododecane can be sold for gradual incorporation as an aircraft fuel as soon as it becomes economically competitive with oil-derived kerosene, notably through state-sponsored incentive plans to help counter global warming, and voluntary policies by airlines to cut their environmental footprint.