Symrise has significantly expanded its production of the musk fragrance ingredient Globanone® at its US plant in Bushy Park (South Carolina). The team used the principles of green chemistry to adapt and improve the processes to more efficiently manufacture the product, thereby making it more sustainable.


If you ask a perfumer what fragrance they wouldn’t want to do without, the reply is often the same: musk. It certainly is omnipresent, commonly found in the most popular blends of fine fragrances and in household products. The significance of the fragrance comes from its properties that have been recognized for centuries: “Musk fragrances tend not to dominate the top note but remain in the background, enabling other substances to take effect and the perfume to be smelled on the skin for a long time,” says Dr. Peter Esser. This also applies to its use in detergents, for example. “Musk deposits the fragrances in a towel so that it still smells fresh weeks after being washed,” explains the head of chemical production. He is responsible for the Symrise production operations in Holzminden (Germany), Granada (Spain), Bushy Park, Colonels Island and Jacksonville (all USA) as well as Monterrey (Mexico).

Peter Esser has been working with fragrance molecules for decades. He and his team are always finding new ways to make their production more efficient and more sustainable. And now Symrise has also made great advances with musk fragrances. At the Bushy Park plant in South Carolina, Peter Esser has developed and optimized the production technology of the well-known and biodegradable musk fragrance Globanone® so that almost no waste results from its manufacture. “The process dates back to our work in the late 1990s, and we first produced Globanone® in 2002 in Bushy Park,” recalls Esser. The decisive step is the metathesis reaction, which makes complex synthesis possible in just a few steps and therefore requires fewer resources and gives off fewer byproducts.

“We also always keep an eye on improving processes.”

Dr. Peter Esser,
Vice President Global Chemical Production

“For example, we still use the same catalyst as before, but use far less material.”

Dr. Tom Brunzel,
Plant Manager in Bushy Park

The original system had been designed with expansion in mind. “The demand for Globanone® has steadily increased since then, and so we continued to develop production plans and are now working with three times the capacity,” says Esser. It is important to the chemist, however, that Symrise think beyond emissions when planning expansion. “We always have an eye on optimizing the process as well.”

In the case of Globanone®, this means that Symrise has improved the already extremely effective process based on the twelve principles of green chemistry. But optimizing an established, successful process is not easy. “We are on a constant learning curve that has enabled us over the years to greatly enhance our understanding of how certain technologies function,” says Dr. Tom Brunzel, manager at Bushy Park for the last year. The 32-year-old was involved with Globanone® during his doctorate and enjoys tinkering with processes to make them better. “For example, we still use the same catalyst as before, but use far less material,” he explains, describing one of their successes.

The consumption of solvents has fallen drastically, and the solvents used are now based on renewable raw materials. “We can also recycle both solvents by condensing them from the gas byproducts and keeping them in the cycle,” says Brunzel, explaining another benefit. Other decisive factors for process improvement are efficient energy recovery and a clear reduction in water consumption. Both have been achieved. Symrise uses what is known as vapor recompression to recover evaporation heat. This means that much less external energy is required and far less water is used. “The first stage of our production is free of process wastewater. We are currently working on solutions for the further stages in order to eliminate the very small amounts of wastewater,” says Dr. Tom Brunzel.

All these steps mean that Globanone® can be produced with virtually zero waste. “Globanone® works on both a sensory and a practical level,” says Peter Esser. “Our perfumers have told us that the fragrance molecule gives a warm, velvety and long-lasting musk note. It lifts other fragrances but doesn’t overpower them. It also offers substance, stability and volume.” The investment in Bushy Park has been very worthwhile, says Esser – both for the product and the environment.