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Evonik pioneers industrial-scale manufacturing of biosurfactants

* Evonik-pioneers.jpgEvonik, the manufacturer of speciality chemicals, is to begin building the world's first industrial-scale facility for manufacturing sustainable rhamnolipid biosurfactants at its site in Slovakia. The triple-digit million-euro investment will establish Evonik as a pioneer of high-quality, sustainable biosurfactants on a commercial scale.

Construction at the site in Slovenská Ľupča is scheduled for completion by the end of 2023. The new plant will meet the rapidly growing market demand for biobased, biodegradable surfactants, and will leverage the biotechnology platform of Evonik's life sciences division.

Evonik's rhamnolipids are exceptionally high quality and provide Evonik a unique position in the market due to the IP-protected manufacturing process. These biosurfactants are manufactured and sourced sustainably and play an essential role in transitioning the division to become a provider of system solutions.

Furthermore, Evonik and Unilever have entered a strategic partnership for the supply of rhamnolipids for use in hand dish washing liquid and other Home Care applications. The recently signed long-term agreement represents an important step for the commercialisation of this biosurfactant technology and opens opportunities for other companies wishing to offer sustainable solutions to their customers.

"This is a game changer for cleaning and personal care products. ," says Evonik’s Johann-Caspar Gammelin. “With this investment we are pioneering a new market and we believe that this will transform the way the world cleans. We are proud to collaborate with Unilever for a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

The increased production capacity of sustainable biosurfactants and the partnership of Evonik and Unilever demonstrate a major portfolio shift for Evonik's life science division, as it expands its offering of system solutions. Characterised by high growth prospects and above-average margin potential, Nutrition & Care aims to increase the share of system solutions it offers from 20% today, to more than 50% by 2030.

Says Peter Dekkers, executive vice president Middle Europe, Unilever:

"Rhamnolipids are an important part of our Clean Future initiative which has set the goal to exclude fossil carbon in all cleaning products by 2030. We want to make sustainability easy for everyone that uses our products. The partnership with Evonik helps move our brands away from fossil fuels without compromising on performance or affordability."

Evonik and Unilever have partnered since 2019 to market a new hand dishwashing detergent based on Evonik's rhamnolipids. The investment project at the Slovenská Ľupča site in Slovakia, and the latest strategic partnership reflect a culmination of these efforts and is the first step to providing industrial quantities of rhamnolipids to a broad range of customers.

Evonik Fermas GmbH situated in Slovenská Ľupča in Slovakia was established more than 25 years ago as Evonik's scale-up and launch platform. Now a strategic location for Evonik's biotechnology activities, the site is a key biotech hub for growing and developing Evonik's offerings of system solutions. Expansion of the facility will benefit from the highly skilled biotechnology competencies of the local workforce.

Rhamnolipids are a class of biosurfactants which can be sustainably manufactured via a fermentation process using sugar as the main raw material. This use of biogenic carbon requires no petrochemical raw materials or tropical oils. Rhamnolipids are fully biodegradable, and their low-impact lifecycle means they are a sustainable alternative to conventional surfactants. They have exceptional foam-forming properties.


3rd February 2022

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