Bio-Butanediol Industrial processing, applications - world of chemicals

Bio-Butanediol – from renewable sources

Bio-Butanediol Products


The global 1,4-butanediol (BDO) industry is one of the burgeoning industries. Biological pathways of production of BDO is giving greater hope to the present world chemical industries. At the same time, it is a challenging proposition for the business growth of established companies. Nowadays many companies are showing major interest towards bio-based products. During the period of 2010-2011 BDO saw a demand of 1.4 million metric tonnes and it is expected that its application areas will increase at an annual average rate of 4.8 percent until 2015. The following write up will provide an overview of new project plans for BDO by companies and its applications.


BDO is an important raw material for basic organic chemicals and fine chemicals. One of the major factors for showing interest in bio-BDO by companies is to reduce the use of petroleum-based feedstocks in light of global oil prices. The principal products are Tetrahydrofuran (THF) and Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), which in turn both have solvents applications and further high-value derivatives. THF is used to produce spandex fibers and other performance polymers, resins, solvents and printing inks for plastics. Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) is an engineering-grade thermoplastic that combines excellent mechanical and electrical properties with robust chemical resistance. 


Fig. 1) BDO products & derivatives

There are three phases in the development of BDO and its derivative technology, which was based on acetylene by Dr. Reppe of I G Farben in the 1930s. 

The second phase was BDO production through butadiene acetoxylation process and by esterification of maleic anhydride with ethanol, followed by hydrogenation of the ethyl ester of diethyl succinate, then GBL, BDO with a THF as a co-product.

The third phase consisted of SISAS maleic anhydride based integrated BDO/THF/GBL technology. Following figure 2 shows the companies currently developing BDO process using biotransformation technologies.

Fig. 2) Developers of Bio-BDO

Many of these developments are mainly based on the production of succinic acid from biofeedstocks. 

The demand on the global butanediol market has shown completely positive levels during the past decade. 

The following scenarios/ companies strategies will show the increased focus on bio-based BDO production.

Novamont and Genomatica to Create Joint Venture for First Industrial Plant for BDO from Renewable Feedstocks.

BioAmber has licensed DuPont's hydrogenation catalyst technology to make bio-based 1,4 BDO and THF from bio-succinic acid.

Metabolix announced that it will form a joint development deal for its polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)-based C4 chemicals with Korea-based industrial biotechnology company CJ CheilJedang.

Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd had initiated new projects on Bio-Butanediol manufacturing processes.


BDO is used as a cross-linking agent for thermoplastic urethanes, polyester plasticizers, paints and coatings, copolyester hot melt and solvent-borne adhesives.

It is a versatile chemical intermediate because of its terminal, primary hydroxyl groups and its hydrophobic and chemical resistant nature.

In polyurethane applications, 1,4-BDO is primarily used as a component of polyesters or as a chain extender.

It is used as a chain extender for thermoplastic urethane elastomers.

BDO based polyester plasticizers impart superior compatibility with vinyl polymers while providing non-migrating characteristics.


Biological ways to produce BDO is providing an opportunity for new participants in the chemical industry. Furthermore, government agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging utilization of renewable feedstocks and incorporating principles of green chemistry towards the production of chemicals, which is further boosting the segment. Implementing principles of green chemistry also indicate increased awareness of environmental safety and protection. Considering the technology growth, it is a transformation from regular pathways of production processes towards economically improved, cost-effective processes. Looking ahead, the production of bio-BDO and other bio renewable-based products will bring about remarkable changes in the chemical industries and its related sectors.


[1] © From Nexant, Inc, Website Chemsystems prospectus June 2011, IS BIO-BUTANEDIOL HERE TO STAY? , Available from -

[2] © From LyondellBasell, Website -

Image reference

Fig. 1): Nexant, Inc, Website, BDO products & derivatives, Chemsystems prospectus June 2011, IS BIO-BUTANEDIOL HERE TO STAY?, Available from -

Fig. 2): Nexant, Inc, Website, Developers of Bio-BDO, Chemsystems prospectus June 2011, IS BIO-BUTANEDIOL HERE TO STAY?, Available from -

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