July 30, 2009
Let's start with oxo-biodegradables where according to the European Bioplastics group, companies producing these plastics failed to back up their biodegradability or compostability claims as according to internationally accepted standards such as ISO 17088, EN 13432, etc. The group said they also do not want any attempt from the oxo-biodegradable industry to water down the criteria of the EN 13432 such as requesting longer timeframes for materials to decompose.
[Photo from Crooked House Blog]
First, a recap of presentations from BIO coming from Segetis, Avantium, and Metabolix.
Segetis' Olga Selifonova talked about a new chemical platform called L-Ketals formed from the combination of glycerol and levulinic acid. I don't really understand much of its chemistry (I'll leave it to the experts) but according to Segetis, L-Ketals potential applications include plasticizers, surfactants/emulsifiers, polyols, solvents, thermoset/thermoplastic, and adhesives (among others).
-------------------------------------After testing out the H-racer fuel cell toy car sent by BASF (see ICB 5/11/09, p.7) I got the chance to test out a real fuel cell vehicle on July 14 courtesy of General Motor's Chevy Equinox fuel cell demo car powered by Shell's hydrogen.
Shell, in partnership with GM, opened its second hydrogen refilling station in New York for fuel cell car drivers. There aren't any fuel cell cars out there yet for sale but some are testing demo cars such as GM's Chevy Equinox under the company's Project Driveway program.
GM said there are 30 of the model available for testing in New York and 60 in California. The company has overall 115 for testing across the globe. Since the program's inception in January 2008, these cars burned 900,000 miles in total all producing just water as emissions.
The car has an estimated rate of 39 miles per kilogram so if we do the math, it can actually go to more than 160 miles (even 200 miles GM said) before it needs to be filled up again with hydrogen.
At first glance, the car didn't even looked anything like my vision of a greener bat mobile and instead featured a gray SUV/van-type of automobile that any parent with two kids who'd like to have. It did sport a Fuel Cell logo along with trailing green water molecules that look like vines from a distance.
July 29, 2009
I found myself attending a very interesting morning session about biobased chemicals being used by auto parts manufacturers such as Canadian General Tower (CGT), the Woodbridge Group, and Magna International's Decoma business.
CGT talked about replacing petroleum-based phthalate plasticizers with natural oil-based platicizers (e.g. soybean oil and castor oil) in auto seats and liner products. Ontario-based CGT supplies seat major auto manufacturers seat coverings and covering of moldable inserts, door panels and instrument panels.
CGT's Patrick Diebel presented their Vehreo coated fabric product that uses the bio-based plasticizers and a textile fabric made from 55% recycled PET water/soda bottles. Diebel said they are also looking at buying back their scraps, grind them to powder and reintroduce them to the foam layer of the seating products.
As previously mentioned in my last post, there seems to be a lot of anticipation brewing for the commercialization of the chemical building block bio-succinic acid. According to DSM's Will van den Tweel (business manager Bio-Based Chemicals and Fuels for DSM White Biotechnology), the US Dept. of Energy identified succinic acid as one of the best targets to develop through fermentation. DNP Green Technology president Jean-Francois Huc cited a recent Frost & Sullivan consulting report stating that succinic acid, lactic acid, 1,3 propanediol and glycerol as the top 4 platform molecules renewable chemistry.
Let's start with DNP's presentation, which has a joint venture company called Bio amber with French R&D company ARD. Bio amber will start in October its 2,000 tonne/year bio-succinic acid demo plant in Pomacle, France. DNP believes it will be the first to market bio-succinic acid and looking to start building a large-scale commercial plant by 2011.
July 28, 2009
According to Gled Nedwin, Genencor's vice president of technical enzymes, the global textile and garment processing chemicals market in 2007 was estimated at $18bn. Dye chemicals account for $8.7bn while desizing, bleaching/scouring, and finishing account for the rest of the market.
Among these, said, Nedwin, 99% of materials used are chemicals and only 1% are enzymes.
"There is definitely a significant untapped potential for enzymes to replace chemicals in this market," said Nedwin. "Genencor's textile strategy is replace chemical processes with sustainable biotech solutions through our PrimaGreen enzyme portfolio."
The PrimaGreen products, according to Nedwin, can lower processing temperatures, lower water, waste and carbon dioxide emissions, replace harsh chemicals, and decrease water consumption.
Back to bio-succinic acid, three competitors - Myriant, Bio Amber (through the DNP Green Technology and ARD joint venture), and DSM/Roquette, are gearing up on which one would first commercialize the product. Succinic acid, currently produce via petroleum processing route, is an intermediate chemical with applications ranging from deicers, plastics, resins, solvents and fuel additives.
These companies are expecting to construct large-scale commercial manufacturing facility for bio-succinic acid around 2011. As I have tons of info on these three presentations, I am separating them for another post (yes, another teaser I know...).
July 27, 2009
Last week, ExxonMobil announced its $600m commitment in developing algae for biofuel feedstock with its partnership with Synthetic Genomics (SGI). The companies said it will It would take 5-10 years before any small-scale plants are up and running.
Last year, Chevron partnered with algae-fuel startup Solazyme in California while former executives from BP (according to ICIS news) started Sapphire Energy, another California-based biofuels company working with algae.
At the recent BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing event in Montreal, Canada, a session on algae revealed how close (or far) algae's potentials are as feedstock for fuels and chemicals.
Dow Chemical's Steve Gluck noted a bigger opportunity in the chemical industry for algae compared to biofuels. While most of the research on algae are focusing on biofuel application, Gluck said the economic and scale barriers for chemical feedstock maybe less of a challenge than those for providing a fuel.
Last year the talk centered on biofuel challenges at BIO's World Congress Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing conference but this year a lot of the buzz (at least in my perspective) was centered on renewable-based chemicals and synthetic biology.
First interesting updates I gathered was about bio-based propylene glycol and a little bit of isosorbide from agribusiness major Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The company announced that it will start on the fourth quarter of this year its first 100,000 tonne/year glycerine-based propylene glycol facility in Decatur, Illinois, where a 140,000 mt/year refined glycerine facility is already in production since March this year.
ADM said the PG facility also has the ability to use corn-based sorbitol as feedstock. The company is also about to produce 50,000 tonne/year PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) bioplastic with its partner Metabolix in Clinton, Iowa, in the fourth quarter. Other renewable chemicals the company are looking into are glycerine-based epichlorohydrin and acrylic acid as well as sorbitol-based isosorbide.
"We see a big opportunity in the chemical space," said Todd Werpy, vice president of ADM’s advanced biofuels and chemicals business." If you look at global consumption of oil, only 3.5%-4% is being used by the chemical industry but the value proposition is about $375bn. Oil and transportation made up 70% of petroleum consumption and create a value proposition of $385bn."Werpy said they are looking to develop both in the bioadvantaged molecules space such as soy adhesives, isosorbide, soy polyols where the technology don't have a market space as of yet but; and direct replacement space such as propylene glycol, where the biobased chemicals have to compete with petroleum-based materials.
ADM noted that it already has pilot plant working for bio-based isosorbide and looking for partnership for new applications.
Before attending the lunch plenary session (no rest even during lunch!), I was able to get information about updates on the algae industry as a potential feedstock for biofuels and biochemicals. I will write a separate post for that so stay tune!
During lunch, meanwhile, a consultant from McKinsey & Company reported a not-so-cheerful update about the industrial biotechnology sector mostly due to the current economic recession.
Before I start the massive undertaking of BIO coverage, let's start this week's news roundup first:
Natural oil chems acquired
Vertellus Performance Materials bought certain assets of Degen Oil & Chemical Company, effective July 1, 2009. Degen, located in Jersey City, New Jersey, is a producer of blown vegetable oils and fish oils, derivatives and specialty alkyds for the coatings and inks industries for over fifty years.
Biogas from Wisconsin cows
GE Energy’s Jenbacher biogas engines have been installed in several dairy farms in Wisconsin to generate renewable electricity from cow-based biomethane gas for onsite power and the local grid. At the Crave Brothers Farm, LLC in Waterloo, GE’s biogas engine technology is generating 633 kilowatts in renewable energy.
July 24, 2009
The company said these product assessments are publicly available, written in non-technical language (about darn time!) and covering topics such as basic hazards, risk and risk management, so consumers will have access to general information about chemical products or product families.
July 20, 2009
For now, here are this week's news roundup:
Biofibers on Toyota Prius
Toyota's Prius model now offers optional floor mats (deluxe type) using an advanced Ingeo fiber system. Ingeo reportedly reduces fossil fuel use by 65% and cuts by 90% the CO2 emission when compared to the petroleum-derived nylon resin used in traditional floor mats.
Waste to fuel facility in 2010
Novo Energies’s subsidiary WTL (Waste to Liquid) Renewable Energy has developed and designed a novel process to transform plastic and tire waste products into liquid fuels such as diesel, gasoline and fuel additives. Novo will start operation of its first plant during the first quarter of 2010.
July 17, 2009
The goal of the index is to set standards and metrics on the sustainability of each product Walmart sells, from how they're made, how they're distributed to how they're disposed, so Wal-Mart in the long run can calculate and post an eco-rating for each item.
Wanna know how much greenhouse gas emissions your computer (that you bought from Walmart) emitted during its manufacture? You'll probably know in the next few years.
The company will introduce the initiative in three phases, beginning with a survey of its more than 100,000 suppliers around the world. Questions in the survey will focus on energy and climate; material efficiency; natural resources, and; people and community.
July 15, 2009
Slovenia, which has the highest density of honeybees among European countries, is asking the European Parliament for immediate and effective action on beekeeping and the health of bees.
The government of Slovenia said that the European Commission should examine the possibility of recognizing the honeybee as an animal species needing special care and protection.
[Logo from Dundee Brewing Company, Rochester New York]
Renewable chemical manufacturer Myriant announced that it has successfully piloted their biobased succinic acid process validating its commercial viability. Their succinic acid is derived from the company's D(-) lactic acid technology and has been in development for four years.
Myriant said its next step is to produce ton-sized samples for its customers to verify product specifications and quality. Succinic acid is used as a building block in the production of chemicals such as plastics, resins, deicers, solvents and fuel additives.
One officially opened yesterday at the JFK International Airport in Queens, which I was fortunate to attend (and ride one of GM's fuel cell car). Shell already opened its first station in White Plains last year in April. Another station will open in the Bronx late July, which will form Shell's first cluster of hydrogen stations in New York.
Shell said the three hydrogen stations in New York are within approximately 30 miles (50 km) of each other. The hydrogen supply at JFK is transported via truck, said Shell's global VP, hydrogen, Duncan Mcleod.
July 14, 2009
The magazine also featured the chemical industry sustainability survey by ICIS/Genomatica which I posted last week in the blog.
More about green chemistry/industrial biotechnology news and updates next week as I cover the BIO event (via tweets and blog) so stay tune!
1. Germany gears up for biotech future - a consultant from Euro Swiss Research reported the recent launch of the Chemical and Biotechnological Process Centre (CBP) in German chemical site Infraleuna, which offers access to non-food-chain renewable feedstocks such as straw, wood, starch, oilseeds and algae and respective transformation processes to existing, on-site refinery and chemical companies, as well as third-party off-site companies, R&D institutions, universities and others.
The CBP offers significant time, investment, and cost savings compared with a stand-alone pilot plant since it is a readily available, subsidized, fully equipped facility.
July 13, 2009
With regards to BPA, the ACC said that a new data from Health Canada confirmed the safety level of the chemical in bottled water, baby food and infant formula, and that they are said to be extremely low.
"These new government data confirm Health Canada's previous conclusion that exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and young children." - ACCThe ACC said an adult would have to drink approximately 1,000 liters (or 264 gallons) of water from polycarbonate water cooler bottles every day to approach the BPA intake limit established in Canada.
According to homo ecos, natural-based products in Latvia have significant tariff reduction compared to conventional materials.
Anyway, last week also brought forth major press conferences from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) about a recent study involving the current and potential benefits of chemicals in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The organizations' goal for the study is for lawmakers to recommend global (and local) policy actions (and inactions) that will not, as much as possible, hinder these benefits.
Let's see what's going to happen this week but I'm hoping it'll be more quiet so I can enjoy more time under the beautiful (about darn time!) New York sun. Here are this week's news roundup!
Rhodia enters biogas
Rhodia made its first investment in biogas technology, by acquiring Econcern Group’s participation in six pilot biogas production projects located in China and Vietnam. Biogas is a mix of methane and CO2 obtained from fermentation of biowastes.
NatureWorks and Avantium formed a development partnership to fully understand the properties and commercial potential of a new generation of bioplastics. Avantium is working to develop monomers and polymers from non food biomass.
July 10, 2009
As you recall, California's Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) created a wiki website inviting anybody and everybody who has interests in the agency's ongoing Green Chemistry rule making process.
Here are some of the comments (follow the links) gathered from major groups and industry organizations:
American Chemistry Council, January 2009: "There is a common misconception that there isn't a lot of information available on chemicals and their effects on people and the environment."
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, May 2009: "We suggest that DTSC remove any reference to the U.S. EPA ChAMP program. This program is seriously flawed and has been widely criticized."
But I guess what the chemical industry wants to point out is that while environmentalists are accusing them of dirtying the planet and making people become mutants (while at the same time everybody is lapping out the luxuries and convenience of modern products and technology based on chemistry), the industry has responded by developing products that can help reverse or at least slow down climate change.
The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) that includes the American Chemistry Council (ACC) initiated a study conducted by independent consulting firms McKinsey & Company of US and Oko Institut of Europe on how the chemical industry can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from processing down to the chemical value chain (e.g. consumer products, building and construction materials, etc...).
The study analyzed the life cycle carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions of over 100 individual chemical products and their applications (uh..how many chemicals do we have right now??). Emission savings were compared with all direct and indirect emissions linked to the chemical industry coming from those products' CO2e life cycle (cLCA) from cradle to grave.
July 9, 2009
The report showed Germany, followed by the UK and France, as performing better than the rest of the rich nations’ group. Italy and Japan are in a lower medium ranked group. Canada, the USA and Russia are lagging behind, said WWF, despite the USA moving up one rank.
The G8 Climate Scorecards 2009 measure countries’ performance and trends in areas such as development of greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, the distance to their Kyoto-targets, their share of renewable energies and the efficiency of their climate policies.
Yesterday, I saw this news about a new legislation proposed by House Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) requiring household products manufacturers to provide a list of all ingredients on the container or packaging of their products that include cleaners, paints and pesticides.
The Household Product Labeling Act of 2009 (H.R. 3057) will minimize the use of toxic chemicals in these everyday-use products, according to the congressman along with spokespersons from the the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition.
July 7, 2009
As mentioned in my previous post, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) mentioned their quest to be more proactive when it comes to relaying the benefits of plastic to consumers and environmental groups.
SPI is launching a long-term public outreach campaign with an annual budget of up to $3m (or is it $10m? Need confirmation on this) in an effort to counter product deselection and increasing regulatory challenges such as bisphenol-A, phthalates, PVC, and single-use plastic bags.
Discussions on marine littering and bioplastics will be covered (among other topics) in a regular web debates as the plastic industry believes these types of discussion will prevent large and unnecessary plastic tax bills for both manufacturers and consumers.
July 6, 2009
As a chemical engineer however, I just wanted to say that if you're husband/wife accidentally(??) ingested toxic chemicals, don't look for a chemical engineer. They're usually assigned to build chemical plants not create antidotes for these chemicals. Try calling 911 instead...
For those who haven't checked it out yet (as I've been tweeting about it the past week or so), the survey found that 57% of chemical industry respondents believe their companies should reduce exposure to the petroleum-based commodity market. The same majority reported their customers were already inquiring about the availability of sustainably produced chemicals.
"It is clear that all of the stakeholders in our industry, including executives, employees, and most importantly the customers, are demanding sustainably produced chemicals to play a major role in the industry going forward," said Christophe Schilling, chief executive officer of Genomatica.
GREAT NEW SMART CAR CHOICES IN THE FUTURE:
We will probably see more discussions about the role of these countries (and other emerging manufacturing powerhouse) in the global fight against climate change. This topic is especially sensitive to energy intensive industries such as petroleum and chemical industries.
For now here are this week's news roundup:
Renewable chemicals in Brazil
Amyris Brasil Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento, Ltda., a wholly owned subsidiary of Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. opened its demonstration facility in Campinas designed to convert Brazilian sugar cane into a range of high value renewable fuels and chemicals using a proprietary synthetic biology technology.
Dow's algae-based biorefinery
Dow Chemical plans to work with Algenol Biofuels, Inc. to build and operate a pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert carbon dioxide into ethanol. The facility is planned to be located at Dow's Freeport, Texas site.
July 3, 2009
Perchlorate is used as an oxidizer in fireworks and missile weaponry. A 2007 EPA report said the perchlorate level in certain lakes spiked as high as 1,000 times its baseline value within hours of fireworks display.
Colbert interviewed New York Times columnist (and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner) Nicholas Kristof who wrote an article on June 27 about growing deformed frogs, intersex fish, and stunted male alligator genitalia being blamed on endocrine disruptor chemicals (such as runoff pesticides, plasticizers, hormone drugs) in US water bodies.
Kristof also noted some scientists connecting the dots between these deformed amphibians and increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly genital deformities among newborn boys.
- Brazilian margarine tubs use bioplastic from Cereplast
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines switched from petroleum-based polystyrene coffee and tea cups to paper ones made with bioresin Ingeo™ coating.
- Cereplast's compostable resins in Dixie cups
- Evlon compostable plastics in tableware products
July 2, 2009
1. Cereplast biofoam resins - Cereplast launched a breakthrough bio-based foamable resin Cereplast Compostable 5001® to compete with Styrofoam® and other foamable petroleum-based resins. The biofoam uses Ingeo™ PLA and various biodegradable and compostable components.
2. PolyOne biopolymer compounds - PolyOne launched a platform of of biopolymer compounds under the brand Resound™. The compounds are formulated with a 30% minimum bio-derived content for use in boosting bioplastic performance such as heat tolerance and impact resistance. PolyOne also introduced VERSAFLEX™ BIO TPEs for injection molding, said to be formulated with up to 70% renewable resources.
July 1, 2009
For a brief background, NatureWorks was established in 1997 and operated as a Teijin-Cargill 50:50 joint venture since October 2007. The company produces its Ingeo biopolymer at a polylactic acid (PLA) manufacturing facility in Nebraska, with an annual capacity of 140,000 tons. NatureWorks is currently looking to build another facility outside the US.