Cargill / Helm: Partnership to build renewable BDO facility in the USA

Cargill and Helm announced that they are entering into a joint venture, Qore, to help leading brands replace fossil-based chemistries with bio-based intermediates. As part of the agreement, both companies are investing a combined USD 300 million to build the first commercial-scale, renewable 1,4-butanediol (BDO) facility in the USA.

According to the two companies, bio-based intermediates give the apparel, automotive, electronics and packaging industries the ability to improve their environmental footprint without sacrificing product performance or altering their existing downstream manufacturing processes.

“With consumers demanding more sustainable products, brands are not only looking for more innovative, environmentally-friendly solutions but also are needing supplier capabilities and resources that can consistently meet those expectations,” said Jill Zullo, Vice President, Biointermediates/Bioindustrial at Cargill. “This new venture combines Cargill’s end-to-end supply chain and long-standing, successful product commercialization in several bio-industrial markets with Helm’s expertise in effectively bringing unique chemical applications and other creative solutions to life and to the market.”

The Qore joint venture will focus on producing Qira, a bio-based 1,4-butanediol (BDO). Made biologically through the fermentation of plant-based sugars, Qira can save up to 93 % of greenhouse gas emissions when replacing today’s widely used chemical intermediates made from traditional fossil sources, said the companies. Qira can be used the same way as its chemical counterpart but with significantly better environmental performance. For example, it can be used for making spandex and other polyester-based chemical fibers as well as biodegradable plastics, polyurethane coatings, sealants and artificial leathers, thereby improving their environmental footprint.

“For Helm Chemicals, this joint venture marks an important milestone in our commitment to providing solutions for a successful transformation to a sustainable planet and society. Through partnership and collaboration with brand owners and their suppliers, we will bring sustainable product options to these consumer-driven industries that will not only help them differentiate their brands but also create a more environmentally responsible future,” said Axel Viering, Member of the Executive Board for Business Line Chemicals at Helm.

The partners plan to build the bio-based intermediate production facility at Cargill’s existing biotechnology campus and corn refining operation in Eddyville, Iowa. The plant is expected to be completed and operating in 2024 to meet the demanding specification of product supply chains. Qore has licensed Genomatica’s BDO process technology and is using Cargill’s global feedstock supply and fermentation manufacturing expertise to initially produce and distribute an expected 65,000 t/y minimally of its first bio-intermediate, Qira. Helm will work with brand owners, original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers to incorporate Qira into their respective products.