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Michelin, IFP Energies Nouvelles and Axens construct bio-butadiene protoype plant

By Mary Page Bailey |

Axens (Rueil-Malmaison, France; www.axens.net), IFP Energies Nouvellas (IFPEN; Rueil-Malmaison, France; www.ifpenergiesnouvelles.com) and Michelin (Clermont-Ferrand, France; www.michelin.com) have announced the construction of the first industrial-scale prototype of a plant producing butadiene from bioethanol in France.

Launched in late 2012, the BioButterfly project aims to produce butadiene from ethanol from biomass (plants) in order to produce innovative synthetic rubbers that are more environmentally friendly.

Construction of this industrial prototype will start in late 2019 and is expected to be completed in late 2020 on Michelin’s site in Bassens, near Bordeaux, where Michelin is already using butadiene from petroleum to manufacture its synthetic rubbers intended, in particular, for the European market. The BioButterfly project represents a total investment of €70 million and will create around twenty jobs on the site.

After several years of laboratory tests (manufacture of a few grams) followed by the development of pilots at IFPEN-Lyon (manufacture of hundreds of grams), the industrial prototype must now validate the complete chain of steps in the manufacturing process to prove its technological and economic viability for mass production (between 20 and 30 metric tons/year). This is the last phase before industrial implementation of the process (100,000 metric tons/year) to be marketed by Axens.

The plant will test the use of ethanol from all kinds of biomass, including 2G ethanol (2nd generation, non-competing with food) made from forest or agricultural residues (straw, woodchips, etc.). It will validate the process developed by IFPEN which will eventually be included in the portfolio of green technologies marketed by Axens. This production pathway will also enable Michelin to better secure its access to butadiene while supporting its goal of sustainable mobility.

This decision gives a new dimension to the BioButterfly project supported by ADEME (French Agency for Environment and Energy Management) under the Investments for the Future Programme. It illustrates the willingness of partners to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint by fostering the development of a bio-sourced synthetic rubber industrial sector and reaffirms their commitment to a new research and innovation sector serving a more sustainable industry.

Florent Menegaux (CEO of Michelin) – ‘Taking the environmental impact of its activities into consideration is part of the Michelin Group’s identity as a forerunner and leader of sustainable mobility. By 2050, 80% of raw material used in our tyres will be sustainable. We expect bio-butadiene to represent approximately 20% of this objective.’

Didier Houssin (Chairman of IFP Energies nouvelles) – ‘IFPEN develops innovative technologies in the field of bio-sourced products and biofuels. With BioButterfly, our research contributes to creating a new energy transition industrial sector.’

Jean Sentenac (Chairman and CEO of Axens) – ‘With this project, Axens, already a worldly recognized provider of technologies for the production of the main petrochemical building blocks, will expand its offer to the market to the bio-sourced chemistry.’

BioButterfly is a project supported by Ademe (French Agency for Environment and Energy Management) under the Investments for the Future Programme.

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