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Brazil and Belgium firms to build world’s first biomass-based butanol plant

GranBio and Rhodia co-sign agreement to develop world first plant in BRIC country as part of renewable chemicals partnership deal

The first-of-its-kind plant will produce renewable chemicals from biomass in Brazil

Firms in Brazil and Belgium are working together to build a world first biomass plant to produce renewable chemicals. GranBio, a Brazilian biotechnology company, and Rhodia, which is part of the Solvay Group, a Brussels-based chemical company, have co-signed an agreement to develop the world’s first biomass-based bio n-butanol plant in the BRIC country.

The agreement is part of a partnership deal in renewable chemicals to produce bio n-butanol. Bio n-butanol is produced by fermentation of biomass, such as sugar cane straw and bagasse, the same raw materials that are used to produce biofuel. Butanol is also widely used as a renewable chemical in the paint and solvent industries, in which Solvay is the market leader in South America, according to reports,

The news from GranBio follows the company announcing it will be the first to build a commercial second-generation ethanol plant in the Southern Hemisphere.

The company said this project is an important step for both GranBio and Rhodia in manufacturing chemicals made from renewable sources. Renewable chemicals are an emerging sector of the bioenergy industry, which is starting to play an important role in Brazil.

Bernardo Gradin, CEO of GranBio, said: "The partnership with Rhodia is fully aligned with our business partnership model and our strategy to develop solutions that can replace fossil fuels and chemicals with renewable products."

Vincent Kamel, CEO of Coatis, a Solvay Group business unit based in Brazil, added: "This innovative project reflects our focus on technologies based on renewable resources, and the partnership with Brazil's GranBio demonstrates our confidence in the country's great potential in this field."

The plant will start operating in 2015. Investment in the biomass-based n-butanol plant still requires the approval of the companies' boards. Before finalising the deal, the structure of the agreement is to be submitted for clearance by Brazil's antitrust agency, Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Economica.