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#BIOWC16 Plenary: Overcoming Challenges to Biorefinery Scale Up

April 19, 2016
On Monday, April 18, 2016, BIO held its second Plenary Session at the 2016 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology. Titled "Overcoming Challenges to Biorefinery Scale Up," panelists explored exactly what is needed to ensure the successful scale up of a commercial scale industrial biotechnology process. Moderated by Dan Cummings, Chief Executive Officer of Guidewire Strategies, the panel consisted of  Anthony Bresin, Chief Scientific Officer, ARD; Jeff Lievense, Senior Engineering Fellow, Genomatica; Wayne Wajciechowski, Business Development Manager, Merrick & Company; and Joachim Schulze, Head of Biotechnology, Thyssenkrupp Solutions.

Wayne Wajciechowski opened the panel by discussing how to overcome challenges during a biorefinery scale-up from an engineering perspective. Propp stressed the importance of staying with a good, committed engineering partner from the beginning of the project until commercialization of a product. He noted that feedstock logistics, public opinion, and environmental regulations can all impact the scale up of a biorefinery.

Next, Jeff Lievense remarked that Genomatica's is using its integrated bioengineering platform and over 600 patents and applications to develop processes for additional chemicals, including butadiene and nylon intermediates. Lievense spoke on three guiding principles to overcome and avoid challenges in scaling up a biorefinery:


  1. Begin with the end in mind - make sure you have a detailed outline of the biorefinery plant;

  2. Be diligent in the 1000s of details - overlooking the little details can lead to larger problems in the end;

  3. Prepare for the unexpected - spend and time and effort with your team to conceive all possible risks and outlined mitigation plans.


Anthony Bresin was the third panelist to kick off the session and opened by noting that ARD is into an existing biorefinery complex. Bresin stated that you must consider three points to ensure a successful scale up:


  1. The early stage of the strain design the industrial constraints;

  2. Make a decision between technological excellence and economic performances;

  3. For the  demo scale run - acquired experiences and know-how, refined large-scale mass balance and found technical solutions at real scale were all factors that contributed to a successful scale-up.


He concluded by stating that ARD considers the demo plant to be the most important part of the scale-up process.

The panel concluded with Joachim Schulze of Thyssenkrupp Solutions who spoke on how the interactions within the value chains can impact scale-up. Schulze remarked on the importance of maintaining constant communication among the various players and roles within the value chain. He concluded by arguing that you must also keep the consumer in mind when ensuring a successful scale-up of your biorefinery.