November 30, 2009

(Belated) Happy Birthday Green Blog!

I guess with so many news and happenings this November, I forgot that this is the month (November 8 to be exact) that the Green Chemicals blog was born two years ago.

As of the end of October, the blog's unique readers more than tripled to 6,782 compared to 2,064 in Oct. 2008! The number of hits the blog had this year jumped from 2,769 total visits in January to 7,734 in October, and this month also had a record-high page views of around 12,629 compared to 4,557 in January.

Hmmm, maybe I should start doing advertising now?? = )

According to ICIS online editor Simon Robinson (who handles all ICIS blogs), a lot of the green blog's hits seem to be on archives. One search standing out is about fly ash. I'm not sure why...

In my tweeter feed data, there are also lots of interests on Walmart, Ford's green plastic projects, and green chemistry investments.

Here are the blog's stats for the year. Let me know what else we can do to make the blog more interactive, informative and exciting for the followers!

November 23, 2009

Portable fuel cell for Christmas?

I am not sure if fuel cell generated electric bikes will be available in time for the holidays this year (although I want one in a folding bike - Dear Santa...), but SiGNa Chemistry said that it was able to successfully design, assemble, and initial test its H300 Hydrogen Generation System for portable fuel cells.

Using SiGNa's proprietary sodium silicide (NaSi) powder, the H300 generates hydrogen on demand in swappable cartridges via two hydrogen canisters that generate more than 800 liters of hydrogen at a combined flow-rate of up to 4 slpm (continuous) and 10 slpm (peak).

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Flight of the green jet fuel

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operated today its first ever passenger flight powered by sustainable biokerosene.

According to the company, it has been involved in bio-kerosene research since 2007. Honeywell's UOP, whose process technology was used to produced the green fuel, said that one engine of the Boeing 747 used by KLM was powered by a fuel mixture consisting of a 50/50 mix of the green jet fuel and traditional petroleum-derived jet fuel.

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Interview: Rivertop Renewables

The Green blog's interview with Rivertop Renewables founder Donald Kiely, and director of marketing Jason Kiely (also Don's son) revealed the potential power of glucaric acid as a renewable-based alternative chemical.

The company hopes to launch sample product applications of its low-cost glucaric acid next year, first as corrosion inhibitors as well as an alternative to phosphate in detergent cleaning products.

So what's the story behind Rivertop Renewables?

According to Don Kiely, who is a retired professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Montana, he has been focusing on finding practical applications for carbohydrates for more than a decade. Low-cost production of glucaric acid is one of his patented technologies and he hopes to have it commercialized before he fully retires in two years.

Hence, Rivertop Renewables was formed in January 2008 with their first round of funding mostly from the founders themselves, friends/families, and a couple of angel investors.

[Photo of Tyler Smith, R&D director for Rivertop Renewables, working with a rotary evaporator]

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Weekly News Roundup

This week, the Green Blog will have guest blogger (and ICB global editor) Joseph Chang reporting from Sao Paulo, Brazil, about the country's development of renewable chemicals and fuels based on sugarcane feedstock. He was invited by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) to learn more about sugarcane-based flex fuel ethanol facilities and hopefully sugarcane-based plastic production as well. Stay tune for those!

The green blogger was also able to interview the officials of start-up green chemistry company Rivertop Renewables last week, and will post that today.

Before all these good stuff will happen, first here are this week's news roundup:

Fiberglass recycling expands
Owens Corning is increasing the recycled content in its fiberglass insulation and masonry products. The company's residential and commercial insulation products in North America now are made of at least half recycled glass content (minimum 50%).

Gas and algae collaboration
Linde Group and Algenol Biofuels formed a joint development project in order to identify the optimum management of carbon dioxide and oxygen for Algenol's algae and photobioreactor technology.

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November 20, 2009

World largest cellulosic ethanol plant

I received an email from enzyme producer Danisco announcing the start-up of one of the world's first and largest cellulosic ethanol demonstration biorefineries located in Kalundborg, Denmark.

The facility is a joint venture of DONG Energy and Inbicon. Danisco's enzyme business, Genencor, supplies the Accellerase© enzymes, which are used to convert the feedstock straw to ethanol (for E85 fuel use).

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US agencies dole out biomass grants

It's always nice to hear our tax money going to something (hopefully) useful.

This one is a $24m grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) being given to companies that are develop technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products using biomass as feedstock.

The awardees must contribute a minimum of 20% of matching funds for R&D projects and 50% of matching funds for demonstration projects. For biobased products and biofuels development, companies selected include GE Global Research, Gevo, Itaconix, Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation, and Velocys.

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November 19, 2009

Zeachem starts biorefinery construction

I guess this is the week of big green chemistry news. Love it!

Aside from the Rivertop Renewables and Elevance news, here's another one from Zeachem, who announced yesterday about their new semi works scale cellulosic biorefinery being constructed in Colorado. The facility will have capacity to produce 250,000 gallons of biofuel per year using the company's naturally occurring bacteria, called an acetogen.

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Elevance mulls Iowa biorefinery

Thanks to the Green Underworld Reporter for sending this information about Elevance Renewable Sciences in a proposed joint venture with biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group (REG) to build a 2.6m gallon/year demo-scale integrated biorefinery in Newton, Iowa.

In an application filed by Elevance late last month to the Iowa Dept. of Economic Development (IDED) for funding assistance, the company said the proposed biorefinery will convert renewable raw materials primarily sourced from Iowa such as soybean oil, ethanol DDG corn oil, animal fats, algae oil and other emerging oils, into olefins, fuels and specialty chemicals.

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November 18, 2009

Introducing: Glucaric acid

Here's another green chemistry company start-up to add to my list.

I received an email about Missoula, Montana-based Rivertop Renewables who is developing glucaric acid, a sugar-based acid created by oxidizing glucose which can be used as a building block chemical.

According to the company, the US Department of Energy recognized glucaric acid as one of the top "twelve building block chemicals" that can be subsequently converted to a number of high-value bio-based chemicals or materials.

The markets for glucaric acid derivatives such as glucarates and lactones are said to be undeveloped as they are expensive and the supply has been limited, with most being use for research or as a health supplement ingredient.

More on this post...

November 17, 2009

BPA overload

My colleague Simon Robinson noted the increasing hits on ICB's bisphenol-A (BPA) chemical profile online, which was published last year in October. Last week, it generated over 1300 hits. Barbara Ortner, another colleague and author of the Chemicals Confidential blog, dubbed BPA as the current most hated chemical as it is constantly splashed through the news from various studies indicating it's health/environmental risks (or lack thereof from counter studies).

Here are some of the recent ones that came out on the news as well as comments from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) on these findings:
  • Consumer Reports Study Detected BPA in Some Canned Foods (see ACC comment)
  • An investigation from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), American Nurses Association (ANA) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) revealed that the chemicals BPA, phthalates, PBDEs and PFCs are found in the bodies of health care professionals who participated in the study (see ACC comment)
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November 16, 2009

Weekly News Roundup

For those who thought the blog forgot its Weekly News Roundup, I was actually considering not doing it this week as I wasn't able to compile them last week. Fortunately, my Google Reader came to the rescue!

Here are last week's news in no particular order. I will put a separate post about the DOE's biomass grant announced last week.

More money for Metabolix
Bioplastic developer Metabolix has completed its public offering of 3,450,000 shares of its common stock at a price of $9.00 per share for gross proceeds of $31 million. The Company intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for working capital and other general corporate purposes.

Recycled plastic bridges
Axion International Holdings completed its $957,000 contract for the construction of two railroad bridges designed from nearly 100% recycled plastics. The US Army has commissioned each of these bridges to be built at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

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BASF's new green acrylic and plastic

It looks like chemical companies are in full swing promoting numerous green projects and products. We recently posted news from Dow Chemical, Honeywell, Clariant, Eastman, Teijin, Arkema... and now here's from BASF.

The company is formally launching on Wednesday its new zero-emission Acrodur® acrylic thermosets for automotive applications. The new acrylics are thermally cross-linkable, said to be free of formaldehyde and other emissions, and offer new routes to innovative composite materials.

With the product, natural-based fibers such as wood, flax, hemp or sisal can be resinated in different ways for used in the production of shaped panels for automobile interiors. Kettering University, which released the news, said that the green acrylic can provide a great variety of other natural and man-made fibers of the nonwoven industry or even granulated materials, which can be bonded with the new binder system.

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Eastman promotes BPA-free baby bottles

Here's a video from Eastman Chemical promoting its Tritan copolyester for BPA-free baby bottles under the Weil Brand. Eastman said the bottles are also designed as anti-colic because of its unique venting system.

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Coke's PlantBottle in stores

Coca-Cola announced today that its 500mL and 2L size Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Light and Coca-Cola Zero are now available in the PlantBottle packaging throughout Denmark. Western Canada will receive their green-bottled Cokes as well as Dasani water, Sprite and Fresca beginning December, while the Western side of the US including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, will have their turn in January.

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Question on a Monday Morning

Here's a question: How can chemical companies prove that they are keen on being green (I mean sustainable - I forgot that they hate the word green...) when there's always the cloud of cynicism hanging over their heads coming from consumers?

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November 13, 2009

Dow: Sustainability = Money

I feel like I wrote this equation before but yesterday's investor presentation from Dow Chemical emphasized their strategy in incorporating sustainability in all aspects of their operations and businesses mostly because it is profitable to do so.

The company has been busy investing and making deals right and left in lithium battery, carbon capture, solar, and other sustainability-infused projects. Here are some of them announced just this month alone:

1. Lithium ion battery developer High Power Lithium (HPL) has transferred all of its collective assets to Dow. HPL has been developing next generation metal phosphate electrode materials and electrolyte system technology.

2. Dow and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) signed a multi-year research collaboration in the development of new, ultra low cost, high efficiency photovoltaic materials. The solar research initiative is one of Dow’s largest externally funded research agreements.

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November 11, 2009

US bioplastics reached $1bn in sales

The U.S. bio-plastics market accounted for approximately $1 billion in sales in 2007 and is expected to reach $10 billion by 2020, according to bioplastic producer Cereplast.

The company notes estimates pointing to bio-plastics capturing up to 30% of the total US plastics market within 10 years. Cereplast said that algae-based bioplastic, of which the company is currently developing, will open up a whole new source of feedstock and result in a broad range of new applications.

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Ford to use wheat straw plastic in 2010

Ford Motor announced today that it will use wheat-straw reinforced plastic in its vehicle Ford Flex in 2010. The company is working with plastic compounder A. Schulman of Akron, Ohio, as well as with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, in the development of wheat straw-based plastics formulation as part of the Ontario BioCar Initiative.

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GE exits US solar panel production

I tried to find this press release on GE's website but was unsuccessful. According to a Dow Jones article, GE will close its only solar panel manufacturing facility in the US as prices for panels become cheaper.

GE's crystalline silicone panels production facility in Delaware will reportedly stop by January and will completely shut down by the end of June next year. The plant employs 80 people and all will be laid off and receive severance and benefits packages.

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Shell abandons Choren

There are so many news to cover this week (and last week!) that I'll start with this one. It was a bit of a surprise that Shell abandoned their biofuel project with Germany-based CHOREN Industries but maybe Shell is cutting down as they're handling to many biofuel projects these days?? (See some of their activities in next generation biofuels in my ICB article published Oct. 5).

Choren announced last week that Shell sold its shares in the company to remaining shareholders that include a group of Hamburg-based entrepreneurs as well as car makers Daimler and Volkswagen.

Choren and Shell agreed not to disclose any information about this transaction so I guess we'll just wonder the reason behind this unless somebody will "anonymously" give a tip ; )

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November 9, 2009

Weekly News Roundup

A chockful of news last week mostly in the biofuels arena. Good thing the blog is not constrained with spaces! (unlike the magazine). Watch out next week for news from South America as my colleague Anna Jagger and other ICIS news editors cover the ongoing Latin American Petrochemical Annual Meeting (APLA). It will be interesting to hear updates about the region's renewable chemicals and biofuels initiatives.

For now here are this week's news roundup:

Myriant's Biosuccinic alliance
Biosuccinic developer Myriant Technologies has joined forces with Uhde for engineering, procurement and construction of Myriant's planned global scale biosuccinic acid plants. The company expects to begin commercialization of biobased succinic acid by second half of 2010.

Honeywell's bio-pyrolysis oil alliance
Italian power company Industria e Innovazione selected Honeywell's Envergent Technologies business for the development of a facility to convert biomass into pyrolysis oil for renewable power generation using Envergent's RTP® rapid thermal processing technology. The facility will convert a mix of pine forest residues and clean demolition wood into pyrolysis oil, a liquid biofuel.

... and China biofuel projects
Honeywell signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) where the two companies will collaborate on a range of biofuels technologies and projects in China.

More on this post...

November 6, 2009

Dow loves algae

Dow Chemical explains how their joint venture development with algae company Algenol will work. The company says the ethanol produced from algae can either be used as biofuel or chemical feedstock.

90% bioplastic substitution possible

A new study from the European Bioplastics and the European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence (EPNOE) estimated that substitution potential of up to 90% of the total consumption of plastics by bio-based polymers are technically possible.

Still, that estimate will not be fulfilled in the near future because of low oil price, high production costs and restricted production capacity of biomass-based polymers, researchers of the study concluded.

2007 global bioplastic capacity (at 360,000 metric tonnes) is said to be only 0.3% of the global plastic production, which is dominated by petrochemical plastics. The bioplastic market, however, experienced a 38% growth rate from 2003 to 2007. European growth rate was said to be as high as 48%.

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November 5, 2009

More venture capital for green chems

Renewable chemical companies seem to be getting better in raising money from venture firms these days.

An article from Reuters cited the recent news (which I also posted in my news roundup) about biosuccinic acid producer DNP Green Technology raising $12m from venture firms Sofinnova Partners, Mitsui & Co., Venture Partners, Samsung Ventures Investment Corp., Clifton Group, and AquaRIMCO. All are new investors except for AquaRIMCO.

Reuters also noted other examples such as bioplastic developer Novomer when it raised $14m in August; Draths Corp. with $21.7m in spring; Segetis with a $15m start-up investment from Khosla Ventures in 2007; and recently Rennovia, where I posted in September about their $6m seed funding from 5AM Ventures and Versant Ventures.

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TOFA exempted from REACH?

European manufacturers of tall oil fatty acids (TOFA) - a chemical produced from the byproduct of the pulp and paper manufacture, are hoping to have the product exempted from Europe's chemical regulation REACH (registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemical substances).

The Hydrocarbon Resins, Rosin Resins and Pine Chemicals Producers Association (HARRPA) said that TOFA and certain salts should be exempted based on their interpretation of the REACH text. Manufacturers involved in this petition include Arizona Chemical, DRT, Forchem and Kemira.

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November 4, 2009

Ecopackaging on Sprint accessories

After collaborating with Samsung on its new eco-friendly mobile phone Samsung Reclaim which debuted in the US last August, Sprint now redesigned its wireless accessory packaging line with environment-friendly alternatives.

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EPA to curb pesticide drifts

I guess pesticide is the topic for this week after reporting about carbofuran. This time, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a new pesticide labeling to reduce off-target spray and dust drift. The agency is also requesting comments on a petition to evaluate children's exposure to pesticide drift.

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Clariant expands green cleaning chems

Specialty chemicals company Clariant has been very enthusiastic last month in launching new greener products and formulation concepts.

To start, the company launched its new EcoTain label (promoting Ecological, Economic, Sustainable products) for cosmetics and personal care, detergents, industrial cleaning products, coatings and deicings.

Examples of their EcoTain labeled product offerings include sunflower oil-based emulsifiers; and vegetable-based cationic detergent surfactant that is biodegradable, has low VOC, and is free of alkylphenoethoxylates (APEOS). All of the personal care products with this label are said to be natural-based and free of ethylene oxides as well.

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Green Chemicals from October

Here are last month's launch of new green chemicals in no particular order. This list is definitely a record-breaker compared to previous months. I also noticed more new products this month targeting the cleaning market.

1. ELM's biobased lubricants - Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing (ELM) introduced an array of biobased consumer lubricants and greases, which are said to be the first of their kind as they are packaged in an environmental friendly kit for use in and around the household.

2. Genencor's detergent enzyme - Genencor launched PuraFast™ HS protease, a performance ingredient for laundry detergents to improve cleaning performance in shorter cycle and lower temperature washes.

3. Axion's recycled polymers - Axion Polymers has launched Axfoil® - its first new 100% recycled extruded sheet product that can be used in applications ranging from horticultural pots to in-store POS displays and collation trays that can eventually be recycled again.

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November 3, 2009

FMC challenges EPA carbofuran ban

The green blog has been covering the carbofuran issue ever since the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided in 2008 to cancel the pesticide's registration because of concern for its health safety.

Carbofuran is an N-methyl carbamate insecticide and nematicide that has been registered to control pests in soil and on leaves in a variety of field, fruit, and vegetable crops.

In October 30, the EPA finally decided to implement its final rule to ban the pesticide and said that farmers who use the product should switch to safer alternatives instead. The carbofuran ban will start after December 31, 2009.

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November 2, 2009

Clorox eliminates chlorine transport

Clorox announced today that it will modify its bleach manufacturing process in seven US facilities in order to eliminate the transport of chlorine feedstock to those facilities.

ICIS news* reported that this move was driven by potential US regulations that could restrict chlorine transport or increase associated costs.

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Weekly News Roundup: Grants galore!

I apologize for the delay in the News Roundup. I have some big researching to do regarding an upcoming article about high technology chemicals/materials for space crafts. This is my first time covering this market and so if any companies are interested in participating in the article, let me know! I have until November 20 to get information and this will come out on ICIS Chemical Business' December 14 aerospace issue.

In the meantime, here are this week's roundup. Noticed that most of them are about green funds and grants. Get the money flowing!

$12m funds for bio-succinic
DNP Green Technology (one of the biobased succinic acid developers) raised $12m in equity investments led by Sofinnova Partners and including Mitsui & Co. Venture Partners, Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation, the Cliffton Group and AquaRIMCO.

PlastiPure gets NIEHS grant
PlastiPure received a $1.1m grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety (NIEHS) to continue development and commercialization of plastics that do not leach chemicals with harmful estrogenic activity (EA).

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