Myriant Technologies Bio-Based Succinic Acid Plant, Louisiana, United States of America

Succinic acid

Massachusetts-based Myriant Technologies constructed the world's biggest bio-based succinic acid facility in Lake Providence, Louisiana, in the United States. The new plant produces 30 million pounds of bio-based succinic acid each year. Myriant has already signed multiyear customer contracts for the plant's production.

"Lake Providence was chosen as the location for the plant as it provided a low-cost production environment."

Construction of the plant started in 2011 and commercial operation started in June 2013. An investment of $80m was made in the plant.

Lake Providence was chosen as the location for the plant as it provided a low-cost production environment. The region boasts an efficient and low-cost transportation network, with a combination of rail, highway and barge access.

The incentives offered by the state were also a reason for choosing Lake Providence. The location also provides access to several types of feedstock. The project generated about 200 jobs in the region.

Design and construction of the US plant

The new plant is spread across a 55 acre site and has a built up area of 392,000 square feet.

It includes a dry solids handling facility, a sorghum preparation building, a fermentation facility, product separation and product recovery buildings.

A control room, administrative buildings, by-product storage building and other utilities are also part of the plant.

Process technology used in Myriant's facility

Myriant was established in June 2009 by BioEnergy International to focus on the development of bio-based chemicals. The production process for succinic acid is based on BioEnergy's D(-) Lactic Acid technology. Developed in four years, the technology was successfully implemented for commercial production in June 2008.

"The incentives offered by the state were a reason for choosing Lake Providence. The location provides access to several types of feedstock."

The new plant helps Myriant to replicate the technology and scale up production of bio-based products, including succinic acid. Myriant already tested the technology at a pilot scale plant built with the assistance of Uhde.

The first step in the succinic acid production process includes storage and handling of sorghum grain. This step involves milling of the sorghum grains into grits for processing.

Hydrolysis and saccharification of the grits form the next steps. In these two steps, the sugars present in the grits are broken down into simple sugars. Hydrolysis includes mixing the grits with hot water and sulphuric acid to form slurry.

The slurry is heated to hydrolyse the starches and then neutralised with an acid solution. Saccharification includes treating the hydrolysed starches with enzymes to produce sorghum syrup.

The next step in the process is fermentation in which the syrup is collected in a syrup tank and fermented using modified (non-GM) E. coli strains. When using lignocellulosic sugar hydrolysate as feedstock, it is directly fed into fermentation process.

Following fermentation, the solution is filtered into succinic acid and ammonium sulphate. The products are then pumped into an evaporation / crystallisation unit for product finishing.

Base feedstock for bio-based succinic acid

The base feedstock for the plant is sorghum grain and sorghum grits. Lignocellulosic sugar hydrolysate, derived from corn stover, sugarcane bagasse and wood chips, is also used as feedstock.

Financial support and contractors involved

In January 2010, the US Department of Energy provided funding of $50m for construction of the plant. Myriant received an additional $10m from the Lake Providence Port Commission and the Louisiana Department of Transportation.

In June 2012, Myriant received a $25m private bond placement from the US Department of Agriculture for the construction of the plant. The bond placement was awarded under the Business and Industry Rural Development Loan Guarantee programme.

AECOM carried out the environmental survey for the new plant. CH2MHill built the plant with Uhde as the subcontractor.

Uhde Corporation of America (UCA) and ThyssenKrupp Uhde provided engineering, procurement and technology supervision services for the project.

Market growth for Myriant's succinic acid

Succinic acid is usually manufactured from petroleum-based feedstock. It can be used in a wide range of applications, including polymers, fibres, solvents, pharmaceuticals, surfactants, food and pigments. Global demand for succinic acid is estimated at 40,000t/y-45,000t/y.

Myriant expects succinic acid to replace petroleum-based chemical intermediates. Bio-based succinic acid offers a renewable alternative for petroleum-based succinic acid. It can provide insulation from price volatility affecting petroleum-based chemicals.

The technology used to produce bio-based succinic acid is more environmentally-friendly as it uses less carbon and energy than petroleum-based succinic acid.

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