Upcoming plant signs BioAmber as customer for its product

Comet, which is slated to open in 2018, sees news as key to success

The operator of a plant that will begin turning corn stalks, leaves and wheat straw into dextrose sugar has signed up a customer, one with a familiar name.

BioAmber, which is already producing bio-succinic acid using feedstock from other suppliers, has signed an agreement to take product from Comet Biorefining once it begins operation in 2018.

Comet Biorefining will operate a plant capable of producing up to 60 million pounds of dextrose sugar, which BioAmber will use on a “take up” basis.

Andrew Richard, who founded Comet, said signing BioAmber as a customer is an important step in the development of the company.

“We need to know where our customer base is, and we need to give some assurances to our various different stakeholders that we know we have homes for the product,” he said.

The news also demonstrates confidence in Comet’s technology, he said.

BioAmber made an equity investment in Comet last year and its CEO, Jean-Francois Huc, will be joining Comet’s board of directors.

“We have tested many second generation sugars and Comet offers dextrose that is on par with dextrose from corn, both in terms of quality and price,” Huc said in a press release.

Comet is already operating a demonstration plant in Italy but the Sarnia plant will be its first commercial-scale operation. The Sarnia project has received about $10.9 million in funding from the Canadian government.

The company has also announced a partnership with the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative, a group of Ontario farmers. That group will facilitate feedstock for the Comet plant.

“It’s critical to have partnerships all along the value chain, from feedstock through to us, and end users like BioAmber,” Richard said.

Comet’s technology enables sugar to be produced from farm biomass and its facilities can be built on a smaller scale, providing the flexibility to locate production closer to supplies of the feedstock and lower transportation costs, the company said.

In the meantime, BioAmber is in its own expansive mode as it eyes a site at the TransAlta Energy Park in Sarnia as a possible location for a $500-million US plant. That new plant, which would likely be commissioned in late 2018, would produce bio-succinic acid, butanediol and tetrahydrofuran used to make plastics, polyurethanes, biodegradable polyesters, spandex and other specialty chemicals.

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