A French company has developed the world's first biological production process for propylene, a key building block in the manufacture of plastics.

Global Bioenergies focuses on converting renewable resources, such as forestry and agricultural waste, into hydrocarbons through fermentation. The company announced that it has created a proprietary prototype strain of bacteria able to convert glucose into propylene at laboratory scale.

The production of bio-sourced propylene by direct fermentation avoids the need for chemical processing, Global Bioenergies said.

Every year, more than 80 million metric tons of propylene are produced. The market is worth more than $100 billion, making it the second largest in the petrochemical industry after ethylene.

Propylene is currently only produced from fossil resources and is principally obtained from naphtha cracking.

Thomas Buhl, head of business development at Global Bioenergies, commented: "Because of the decrease in naphtha cracking capacities, there is a need for alternative routes to light olefins, and in particular to propylene. By developing this process to bio-propylene, we are contributing to building a better world, sustainable and environment friendly."

At the moment, the new process is still being developed and further research is needed before it can be rolled out in the petrochemical industry.

Global Bioenergies has previously developed bacteria to produce isobutene and butadiene.