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U.S. chemical maker plans new Ontario plant

Published by Steve Coleman on August 29, 2011

A U.S.-based biochemical company plans to open a new production facility in Sarnia, Ont. by 2013.

BioAmber Inc., through its Bluewater Biochemicals subsidiary, plans to build a biosuccinic acid plant with an initial capacity of 17,000 tonnes, about half of what the plant will eventually produce.

"Sarnia has tremendous potential as a sustainable chemistry cluster. The unique combination of chemical infrastructure, skilled labour, educational facilities, competitive transportation costs and proximity to some of Canada's richest agricultural land makes Sarnia an excellent choice," said Mike Hartmann, Executive VP of BioAmber in a news release. "These provincial and federal programs have put Ontario and Canada at the forefront of sustainable development and in strong position to compete globally for foreign investment by renewable chemical and material companies. These programs were instrumental in BioAmber's decision to invest in Ontario," he added.

The white, crystallized, non-toxic acid is created by fermenting sugars and can be further modified to create a huge range of products. The company says the list includes, automotive parts, biodegradable coffee cup lids and disposable cutlery, spandex, shoe soles, food ingredients, flavours and fragrances, cosmetics, construction materials, plasticizers, engine coolants, snow melters and plastics.

While the plant will start production in 2013, the company plans to double capacity by the following year with the help of a next-generation yeast being developed with Cargill.

The acid crystals will undergo a further transformation at the site. BioAmber has licensed a process from DuPont to turn succinic acid into 1,4-Butanediol (BDO), a solvent with an existing $4 billion market. The goal for Sarnia is to produce 35,000 MT of biosuccinic acid and 23,000 MT of bio-based BDO.

Government contributions to the project totalled $35 million in grants and loans. Construction of the first phase is expected to create 150 construction jobs and 40 full-time jobs at the plant. More jobs will be added as the refinery expands.

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