Approximately 10 million tonnes of BD are produced annually with the market value projected to be US$32 billion by 2018 and with a CAGR of 6.5%. The majority of BD is currently produced as a by-product of ethylene production via steam cracking of naphtha. The advent of shale gas exploitation has meant that cheap ethane, an alternative feedstock for ethylene production, is displacing naphtha as the cracker operators look to improve their margins. The yields of BD from ethane are markedly lower than from naphtha however, and so supplies of this important C4 intermediate are currently constrained. Significant price increases and price volatility have been seen in the last decade causing problems for the industry. The chemicals industry is therefore looking for low cost stable routes to BD and, where possible, for these routes to be from renewable sources.
ZuvaSyntha is developing novel bio-routes to BD from cheap and renewable C1 feedstocks that specifically address this industry challenge. Such pathways do not exist in nature and therefore bioinformatics and systems biology approaches are being used in conjunction with synthetic biology and pathway engineering to develop new pathways and modified microbial strains that can convert a variety of C1 feedstocks into BD. ZuvaSyntha has identified a unique biochemical route to BD (and other potential chemicals) that, through early modelling studies, has been shown to be first in class and have the highest carbon and energy efficiency of any published or patented alternatives and therefore the potential for highest yields from syngas.