Falling Prices of Oils, on the Other Hand, Increased Demand for Biobased Chemicals
C&EN | July 06, 2020
The world is drowning in oil. Sometimes there’s no place to store even an extra drop. As the cost per barrel struggles to breach $40 and transportation fuels seem to be entering their sunset years, giant oil companies are pushing into chemical manufacturing. For chemical buyers, the outlook is for years of heavy competition and low, low prices.
In this environment, it is perhaps surprising that any company would bet on chemicals and materials made from sugar, rather than petroleum. Biobased chemical makers did briefly flower a decade ago when oil prices soared. High fliers like BioAmber, KiOR, Metabolix, Solazyme, and ZeaChem attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and government-backed loans on the promise that fuels and chemicals made from biobased feedstocks would be cost competitive. But when oil prices went down again, so did those companies, and much of the rest of the nascent industry with them.