BioAmber says it has secured option on land in Sarnia

Decision has not been finalized, but property could be home to second plant

The company operating a plant that produces bio-succinic acid has taken a first step in securing property for what may be its second plant in Sarnia.

BioAmber has taken out an option on land, also at TransAlta’s Bluewater Energy Plant, the Montreal-based company has said.

Having a second plant to add to the existing $141-million plant, which began producing product last year, was always in the cards for BioAmber, officials have said.

The question of where that plant will be located remains the question, although BioAmber is clearly keeping its options for Sarnia open with the land purchase option.

BioAmber CEO Jean-Francois Huc said on a year-end financial results conference call that it had secured the option on a parcel of land at TransAlta, “in close proximity to the power plant.”

That location would allow BioAmber to access power that is priced lower than that typically charged to companies that draw from the Ontario electricity grid.

BioAmber has said a second plant would be designed to produce about 200,000 metric tons annually of bio-succinic acid, the majority of which would be converted into butanediol and tetrahydrofuran, used to make engineering plastics, polyurethanes, biodegradable polyesters, spandex and other specialty chemicals.

“We’re very much focused on plant one, but we do have our second site location down to just a few sites,” Huc said.

“The one in Canada is on TransAlta property, less than a mile from our current facility in Sarnia.”

BioAmber said it is still eyeing potential sites in the U.S. for the second plant, in Louisiana and Iowa.

It would appear that Sarnia has impressed the company so far, which would presumably bode well for its chances to secure the second plant.

“It typically takes six to 12 months to get a new plant operating smoothly, and it can be longer for a first-of-kind technology,” Huc has said. “We are very pleased with the progress we made in Sarnia during the fourth quarter. The fact that we started to produce and sell product within two months of starting up the plant is a tremendous achievement.”

BioAmber employs 60 people at its Sarnia plant.

In related news, TransAlta’s Bluewater Energy Park is also to be home to a plant built by Comet Biorefining, a London-based company that announced it wants to be operating by 2018. Its plant would convert corn stover—the unwanted stalks and leaves—as well as wheat straw, into dextrose sugar. That could be a feedstock for BioAmber or other buyers.

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