Bio-based chemical developer Cobalt Technologies and specialty chemical expert Rhodia recently signed a memorandum of understanding to lay the grounds for their collaboration on putting up bio n-butanol refineries in different parts of Latin America.
Under the agreement, the two companies will be working hand in hand to deploy the technology of Cobalt which helps convert bagasse from sugar cane into n-butanol which can be used for fuels and chemicals. The initial options of the joint venture is to try the technology in sugar mills. After the initial phase of the project, Cobalt Technologies and partner company Rhodia will build a demonstration plant in Brazil to promote the technology. After the first site, the companies are looking into building several refineries located within sugar mills in Brazil and then move forward to other countries in the Latin America.
Cobalt Technologies sees the collaboration with Rhodia as a big opportunity to display their technology. They also see Rhodia as an ideal partner for this endeavor since Rhodia has a proven track record in operating in countries like Brazil. The latter also has a vast experience operating a power plant using bagasse from sugar cane. The international credibility of Rhodia is also beneficial for Coballt Technologies which aim to promote the technology across different countries in South America.
Rhodia, on the opposite end of the discussion table, sees the partnership as beneficial since the use of n-butanol from bagasse fits their development strategy.
There is an estimated $5 billion market for n-butanol which is widely used chemical found in surface coatings, lacquers, and paints. The market of n-butanol e is about eight times bigger than that for isobutanol.
The technology of Cobalt will give way to a low cost system that will further push n-butanol to the synthetic rubber and plastics market, plus its use for making jet fuel.