The levulinic acid product tree: a versatile opportunity in the bio-based economy – What does it take to establish such transition?


*Corresponding author
InnoSyn B.V., Geleen, The Netherlands


Renewable feedstock offers magnificent business development opportunities in chemicals and materials. We describe the emerging Levulinic Acid (LA) product tree, with woody biomass as a raw material. First products from LA will find tens of million Euro markets, and further downstream products a billion Euro market. The value creation outperforms most other bio-refineries, thanks to high carbon and energy efficiency. Cost prices, excluding carbon tax and subsidies, appear at par with fossil derived equivalents at an oil price of 30 $/brl. All this requires development time, capital and assets. Open innovation offers an excellent environment to make this happen, with partners representing entire value chains, technology experts, NGO’s and governments. With this constellation and full throttle, the first LA-products could be on the market by 2022, heading towards a full-grown LA-market by 2030


The transition towards renewable feedstock in the frame of circular economy gets increased traction, offering magnificent business development space in chemicals and materials (1-3). In this article, we describe the emerging Levulinic Acid (LA) product tree (Figure 1). Multiple players are active in this product tree (4-6). A versatile and abundant raw material is woody biomass, processed into chips or pellets for constant quality, continuous supply and attractive price. Technology is under development to convert such biomass in a pressurized reactor to levulinic acid, formic acid (FA) and char (7, 8). Hydrogenation of LA to 1,4-pentanediol, gamma-valerolactone (GVL) or methyl tetrahydrofuran (mTHF) occurs at excellent selectivity. GVL suits as a pure industrial solvent or as constituent in cleaning applications, serving typically tens of kiloton / million euro markets. Converting GVL to products down-stream the LA-tree gears the bio-based economy further up, serving markets in the million ton / billion euro range. 


In creating such a value chain, it is key to explore all potential value-adding ...