Supercritical water technology closer to commercial production

By Matt Soberg | November 09, 2011

Renmatix Inc. expects to break ground this year on an industrial cellulosic conversion plant using its proprietary Plantrose process based on supercritical hydrolysis. Currently in the engineering process, the company has not yet announced its partners and the location of the plant, but says it expects to be in operation by early 2014, according to Tim Brown, Renmatix vice president of corporate strategy.

Used for coffee decaffeination and pharmaceutical applications, supercritical liquid technology using water or other liquids at elevated temperatures and pressures, had never successfully yielded sugar from biomass at significant scale, according to Renmatix. With the high demand for low-cost sugars for biofuels, the Plantrose technology may provide an efficient, sustainable and cost-effective answer. The process uses virtually no consumables and recycles the majority of processing water. Current methods for creating sugars include enzymatic or acid processing, which include expensive enzyme material, can take days to complete and often create toxic wastes.

Providing fast and cost effective cellulosic sugars, Renmatix believes its technology can provide a better market advantage to the biofuels industry. “In the twenty-first century, sugar is replacing petroleum as the raw material for those industries,” said Mike Hamilton, Renmatix CEO.  The company is currently focusing on using woody biomass due to worldwide availability and supply chain certainty.

With its demonstration facility scaled to convert 3 tons of woody biomass to sugars daily, Renmatix has advanced its technology quickly in preparation for its commercial plant. Since 2008, the company has scaled its technology 3,000 times during its planning process.  “The company’s experienced management team, with over 100 years of chemical industry experience, allows Renmatix to quickly advance its proven technology on the right path toward commercial production,” Brown said.

New headquarters near Philadelphia offers the company a strategic location for hiring industrial talent and to support its growth plans. “Our move to Greater Philadelphia area will enable us to attract experienced material science and engineering talent we’ll need to scale rapidly,” Hamilton said.