Monday, 28 July 2014
Elevance inks deal on third biorefinery
Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. hit another milestone on its long march to becoming one of the first companies to produce commercially viable chemicals from renewable resources, such as plant oils.
The Woodridge-based company is commercializing technology developed more than a decade ago by a Nobel Prize-winning researcher from the California Institute of Technology to make specialty chemicals for cosmetics, detergents and industrial lubricants.
Now it's teaming with a subsidiary of Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group to build another biorefinery using palm oil. Elevance will own 25 percent of the refinery in Malaysia and sell products made there to its customers, which include French chemical giant Arkema Inc. and Northfield-based Stepan Co. Genting also will pay royalties to Elevance on its technology.
Elevance joined with Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd. to start up the world's largest biorefinery last year in Indonesia and is working to convert a former biodiesel refinery in Natchez, Mississippi, which is expected to come online in 2016.
The partnership with Genting to license Elevance's technology could be important to gaining widespread commercial adoption. That has been the goal since Elevance was spun off from Cargill Inc. in 2007 and K'Lynne Johnson, a Chicago-based former executive with Amoco and BP, took the lead.
Refining is an expensive undertaking even without the risk of new technology. Though it has teamed with several large, global corporations, Elevance has raised nearly $300 million. It employs about 150 people, most of them at its Woodridge headquarters.
Chicago has long been a hub for refining and chemical production, with multiple plants, as well as research and development operations for giants such as Honeywell's UOP subsidiary and BP PLC. If Elevance succeeds, it could help ensure that the region remains a leader in the industry long term.