Genting Plantations unwinds biorefinery deal with Elevance

Malaysia’s Genting Plantations Bhd (GENP) is buying back a 25% stake in a planned biorefinery plant from US technology partner Elevance Renewable Sciences, the Star newspaper reported on 12 February.

GENP had planned to convert a 200,000 tonne/year biodiesel facility at Sabah state’s Palm Oil Industrial Cluster in Lahad Datu into a high value palm oil derivatives producer using Elevance's metathesis technology, the Star said.

However, Elevance had informed Genting Plantations that it would not invest further in the 240,000 tonne/year Genting Integrated Biorefinery (GIB) because it was restructuring, GENP said.

“In view of this, it is in GENP’s best interest that Elevance exits as shareholder of GIB but remains in the role of licensor for the metathesis licence.”

GENP would pay Elevance Renewable Sciences Singapore RM64M (US$15.4M) for the 25% stake, after setting off RM8M (US$1.9M) still owed after the initial RM72M (US$17.4M) share sale in 2014.

"Upon completion of the proposed transactions, GIB will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genting Plantations and will continue to hold the metathesis license," GENP said. “This will allow GIB the flexibility to pursue the metathesis plant in future and to collaborate with other strategic partners to venture into higher value added product streams."

The Edge Financial Daily said the original aim of the partnership was to enable GENP to vertically integrate into value-added downstream activities to diversify its income base and reduce its dependency on the cyclical nature of its upstream plantations business.

GENP is involved in plantations, biotechnology and property and owns 247,400ha of land and 11 oil mills in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Elevance was founded in 2007 and uses a selective metathesis catalyst to derive speciality chemicals and olefins from natural oils, which can be used in a wide range of applications including detergents, coatings, personal care, oil field, agricultural chemicals and engineered polymers.

“Central to the Elevance biorefinery process is the cross metathesis of natural oils with light olefins, such as 1-butene, to yield a series of higher-value speciality intermediates,” the company said on its website. “Metathesised triglycerides (mTAGs) are truncated versions of the natural oil feedstock with unique terminal unsaturation content. Following separation of renewable olefin co-products, mTAGs are further converted into novel mid-chain length unsaturated methyl esters using standard oleochemical processes.”
Secondary metathesis could produce additional products such as longer chain C15 and C18 olefins.

Elevance currently operates a 180,000 tonne/year joint venture biorefinery (pictured) with Asian agribusiness group Wilmar International in Gresik, Indonesia. The plant was commissioned in 2013 and uses palm oil and palm olein as feedstocks.