Green Chemistry Challenge: 2020 Greener Synthetic Pathways Award
Biobased Butylene Glycol
Genomatica is being recognized for creating Brontide™ a new brand of 1,3-butylene glycol, commonly used in cosmetics for moisture retention and as a carrier for plant extracts. Butylene glycol is traditionally produced from fossil fuels. However, Brontide™ is produced by fermentation of renewable sugars using engineered E. coli in a one-step production process. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and avoids the use of hazardous chemicals in the production process.
Summary of Technology:
1,3-Butylene glycol is a common ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products, used for moisture retention and as a carrier for plant extracts. Butylene glycol is conventionally produced from fossil fuels using acetaldehyde, which is derived from petroleum and is a probable carcinogen. Conventional synthetic methods also use environmentally hazardous heavy metal catalysts and require multiple reaction steps, increasing waste from the process.
Genomatica has developed a method to produce butylene glycol from fermentation by E. coli using renewable sugars in a one-step production process. This production method eliminates the need for heavy metals and petroleum feedstocks such as acetaldehyde used in conventional butylene glycol synthesis. Brontide™ has received 100 percent biobased certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program, and a life cycle analysis determined that the global warming potential for Brontide™ was 51 percent lower than the global warming potential for conventional butylene glycol. Brontide™ is also of a higher purity than conventional butylene glycol, and the Brontide™ fermentation process produces exclusively the R-enantiomer of butylene glycol, compared to the traditional process that produces a mix of the R- and S-enantiomers. The “all-R” butylene glycol may have new applications for human physical and cognitive performance enhancement, which require pure R-butylene glycol.
Genomatica has already begun producing butylene glycol at a commercial scale, producing more than 1,500 tons through 2019. Genomatica expects that Brontide™ butylene glycol will replace a significant share of worldwide butylene glycol demand over the next several years. The company estimates that if all butylene glycol were made with its process, nearly 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 50,000 to 60,000 tons of acetaldehyde use would be avoided every year. Brontide™ butylene glycol may be able to replace certain other fossil fuel-derived glycols in some applications, further expanding its market share and creating the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use for those other applications.