Local businesses and news are buzzing in Lake Providence, Louisiana, as the city of four thousand welcomes a new biorefinery facility. Myriant, one of the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) integrated biorefinery (IBR) project partners, opened earlier this year and has started commercial-scale production of bio-succinic acid. Even at its young age, the biorefinery is having a visible, positive impact on the surrounding community.

In December 2009, BETO awarded American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to numerous integrated biorefinery projects.  Myriant, one of nineteen IBR projects that received ARRA funds, received $50 million for its plan to produce bio-succinic acid from the renewable feedstock sorghum.

Bio-succinic acid has generated interest as an alternative to its crude oil-derived counterpart since the 1990s, primarily for the production of everything from de-icers to pesticides.  Because of its similar structure, bio-succinic acid has vast potential as a sustainable replacement to maleic anhydride, a high-value compound used in pharmaceutical products, dye intermediates, and key product resins.  Additionally, succinic acid serves as a building block for an abundance of secondary chemicals used to create plastics, clothing fibers, and more.

Succinic acid is normally derived from crude petroleum oil, releasing a substantial quantity of carbon dioxide into the environment during production.  Myriant’s commitment to biochemicals has made the production of succinic acid more environmentally sustainable because the bio-succinic acid production process considerably reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by displacing the amount of crude oil-derived succinic acid needed, filling the market’s demands with a green alternative.  Renewable feedstocks can be less expensive—and ultimately less volatile—than petroleum.

“Thanks to the DOE [Department of Energy], we [Myriant] is creating jobs, positively impacting U.S. manufacturing, and developing green fuels at home.” – Sue Hager, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Government Affairs at Myriant. The facility in Lake Providence is pictured here. (Photo courtesy of Myriant)

Since the facility’s opening, however, it has impacted more than the environment.  The East Carroll Parish local newspaper, the Banner Democrat, for example, released an article in late May stating that the school teachers in the district received their largest bonus checks ever, largely because of the increased tax revenue from the Myriant facility’s construction.

Furthermore, the local restaurant Jehovah Java has increased its business three-fold since the plant opened.   As described in another article from the regional ABC news affiliate in February, other companies are starting to invest in businesses that relate to the refinery, including a distribution company for the ammonium sulfate co-product that the facility produces.  There has also been an impact on hotels and other restaurants in the area as the facility opened.

In the future, Myriant will continue to explore the field of biochemicals, reducing their environmental footprint with no impact on the product’s performance.  Their contribution of producing a viable, renewable alternative to a valuable chemical is an important step in BETO’s path to revolutionizing the bioindustry.