Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

BioAmber is proud to have achieved a carbon-neutral footprint (neutral carbon intensity) in our process for producing our building block chemical, Bio-based Succinic Acid, in Sarnia, Ontario. Independent life cycle analysis conducted by Riffel Consulting has determined that we produce -0.18 kg CO₂e per kg of bio-based succinic acid of greenhouse gases, which is functionally equivalent to zero, or carbon neutral on a field-to-gate basis.

Bio-based Succinic Acid produced in Sarnia requires 64% less primary energy to produce than Petro-based Succinic Acid, which means that nearly three times as much Bio-based Succinic Acid as Petro-based Succinic Acid can be produced using the same quantity of energy. The purpose of the assessment was to determine BioAmber’s carbon intensity and energy use results to provide to business partners and customers for comparison with fossil fuel-derived products and other biochemicals.

Ontario Life Cycle Analysis Presentation

In an effort to be transparent and disclose key performance metrics, we have made available data from Riffel Consulting's independent life cycle analysis on our Bio-based Succinic Acid to be produced in Sarnia, Ontario. The presentation highlights carbon intensity and energy savings data as compared to petroleum-derived succinic and adipic acids. It further makes efforts to break these numbers into tangible equivalents we all can understand. Please feel free to view the presentation below or download the PDF version.

The tables below summarize key differences between field-to-gate Bio-based Succinic Acid production results and the cradle-to-gate results for petroleum-derived succinic and adipic acids Bio-based Succinic Acid typically displaces.

BioAmber’s forecasted initial production of 30,000 tonnes of Bio-based Succinic Acid in Sarnia can displace an equivalent quantity of petro-succinic acid or more often directly displace petro-adipic acid. According to the U.S. EPA’s emission equivalency calculator, the emission savings associated with displaced petro-succinic acid is equivalent to removing over 45,489 cars from the road or saving over 1,686 acres of forest each year. The emission savings associated with displaced petro-adipic acid is equivalent to removing over 54,864 cars from the road or saving over 2,033 acres of forest each year.

The analysis uses the methodology outlined in the “Guidance for Accounting & Reporting Corporate GHG Emissions in the Chemical Sector Value Chain” developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and ten leading chemical companies to provide a standardized methodology for the environmental evaluation of chemicals.

The economic (price) allocation method was used to allocate results among the different products produced at the corn wet mill, upstream of the BioAmber process, based on the WBCSD guidance document. The co-products produced at the wet mill include corn gluten meal (CGM), corn gluten feed (CGF) and corn oil. In this allocation method, the energy and emission results for corn farming, corn transport and wet milling are allocated among dextrose, CGM, CGF and corn oil based on relative value of each product stream (as measured by price).

The life cycle analysis was conducted in a customized calculation tool developed for BioAmber, which models the production of Bio-based Succinic Acid based on life cycle input parameters and life cycle inventory (LCI) data. The input parameters define the quantity of each input required per unit of output and are derived from feedstock and BioAmber’s chemical production data. LCI data defines the total energy and emissions associated with the production and transport of goods, resources and energy carriers (natural gas, electricity, fertilizer). The tool was parameterized with LCI data extracted from the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model developed at Argonne National Laboratory with funding from the Department of Energy (DOE). GREET is a spreadsheet-based life cycle model that calculates energy and emission results for a wide range of U.S. fuels and electricity mixes.

We use the term “field-to-gate” to describe the life cycle analysis of bio-products, like Bio-based Succinic Acid, since it is made from renewable plant materials grown in an agricultural field. Such analysis includes the direct and upstream consumption of energy and production of emissions associated with all major inputs (diesel fuel, fertilizer, etc.) in the value chain from feedstock production to product transport from the plant gate.

The corresponding terms used for fossil fuel based pathways, such as those used to produce petroleum-derived succinic and adipic acids, are “cradle-to-gate” or “well-to-gate”. These production pathways include all production steps from drilling and extraction, feedstock transport, petrochemical production and delivery to the factory gate. The petro-succinic and adipic baseline energy and emission results used in this assessment are based on the BREW report, prepared under the European Commission’s GROWTH programme by DG Research.

In our process, corn is transported by heavy-duty truck to the wet mill facility, where it is processed into glucose (dextrose) syrup and other valuable co-products. The glucose is then transported to our facility where the glucose is fermented to raw Bio-based Succinic Acid. The raw product is purified to crystalline Bio-based Succinic Acid and shipped from the plant. Producing succinic acid from petroleum-based feedstocks is much more energy-intensive and emits significantly more greenhouse gases. Pathway diagrams for Bio-based Succinic Acid and Petro-based Succinic Acid are presented below.

The Elements Contributing to BioAmber’s Carbon Neutral Process

Engineering Improvements

BioAmber has incorporated several significant engineering improvements in our Sarnia, Ontario, production facility, based on technical analysis of our 350,000 liter commercial facility in Pomacle, France. The engineering improvements result in substantial production efficiency increases, reducing life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian Grid Energy

The Ontario, Canada site utilizes electricity from Ontario’s power grid to meet its electricity needs. Ontario’s grid mix was determined to have a carbon intensity score of 67.7 g CO₂/MJ electricity, equivalent to a 67.7% improvement over the average carbon intensity of U.S. electricity of 209.6 g CO₂e/MJ. The Ontario grid mix carbon intensity was calculated based on the projected generation resource mix for Ontario presented in the Ontario Long Term Energy Plan (Ontario Ministry of Energy, 2010).

In Ontario, 75.3% of the electricity that a company purchases is generated with no CO₂ emissions, including nuclear energy (53.6%) and wind, solar and hydroelectricity (21.6%). We do not consider nuclear energy to be a renewable energy source, but it is considered zero-emissions since nuclear electricity generation does not emit CO₂.

Waste Steam Use

Our Sarnia, Ontario, facility is located near an electricity cogeneration facility that provides waste steam to BioAmber for our own production process needs. The use of waste heat and grid electricity (which includes 75.3% carbon-neutral sources) significantly reduces BioAmber’s primary energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Optimized Organism

The life cycle analysis undertaken for Bio-based Succinic Acid made in Sarnia, Ontario, reflects the use of our yeast in our process that increases our yields relative to our production in France. This means that more Bio-based Succinic Acid can be produced with the same amount of energy. Conversely, the same amount of Bio-based Succinic Acid can be produced with less energy.