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Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge: 2012 Small Business Award

Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc.


Using Metathesis Catalysis to Produce High-Performing, Green Specialty Chemicals at Advantageous Costs

Innovation and Benefits: Elevance employs Nobel-prize-winning catalyst technology to break down natural oils and recombine the fragments into novel, high-performance green chemicals. These chemicals combine the benefits of both petrochemicals and biobased chemicals. The technology consumes significantly less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent compared to petrochemical technologies. Elevance is producing specialty chemicals for many uses, such as highly concentrated cold-water detergents that provide better cleaning with reduced energy costs.

Summary of Technology: Elevance produces high-performance, cost-advantaged green chemicals from renewable oils. Its processes use Nobel Prize-winning innovations in metathesis catalysis, consume significantly less energy, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent compared to petrochemical technologies. The processes use a highly efficient, selective catalyst to break down natural oils and recombine fragments. The core technology is based on the work of Nobel Laureate Dr. Robert H. Grubbs. In 2011, Elevance expanded its proprietary technology with a licensing agreement with XiMo AG to use proprietary molybdenum and tungsten metathesis catalysts based on the work of Nobel Laureate Dr. Richard Schrock.

The resulting products are high-value, difunctional chemicals with superior functional attributes previously unavailable commercially. These molecules combine the functional attributes of an olefin, typical of petrochemicals, and a monofunctional ester or acid, typical of biobased oleochemicals, into a single molecule. Conventional producers have to blend petrochemicals and biobased oleochemicals in attempts to achieve these functional attributes simultaneously, which when possible, increase their production costs. Elevance's difunctional building blocks change this paradigm by creating specialty chemical molecules which simultaneously include desired attributes enabled by both chemical families, such as lubricant oils with improved stability or surfactants with improved solvency.

Elevance's low-pressure, low-temperature processes use a diversity of renewable feedstocks that yield products and byproducts with low toxicity. Elevance's processes result in lower source pollution, production costs, and capital expenditures than petrochemical refineries. Currently, Elevance is the only company that can produce these difunctional chemicals. The company's ability to manufacture biochemicals for multiple products reduces reliance on petrochemicals and provides more effective, sustainable products to consumers.

The company makes difunctional molecules as part of its specialty chemical business. Elevance's products enable novel surfactants, lubricants, additives, polymers, and engineered thermoplastics. For instance, Elevance is producing specialty chemicals to enable cold water detergents that have more concentrated formulations and improved solvency for better cleaning, to improve sustainability metrics, and to reduce energy costs for customers and consumers. Other examples include biobased anti-frizz and shine additives for leave-in hair care products to replace petroleum-based petrolatum, alternatives to paraffin for high-performance waxes, novel plastic additives for poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) and unique monomers for biobased polymers and engineered plastics.

Elevance has completed validation in toll manufacturing. It is building world-scale facilities in Gresik, Indonesia, and Natchez, Mississippi, with combined annual production capacity over 1 billion pounds and exploring sites in South America. Elevance has also secured strategic partnerships with value chain global leaders to accelerate rapid deployment and commercialization for these products.

Podcast on the technology:

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