August 31, 2009

Fragrance chems to be disclosed

The era of fragrance secrecy might soon be over as the fragrance group IFRA (International Fragrance Association) agreed to publish a list of fragrance ingredients used in consumer products on their website by December 31, 2009.

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[Photo from Getty Images]

Pesticides still suspect for bee problems

While viruses and other pathogens were deemed potentially responsible for the ongoing bee colony epidemic called colony collapse disorder (CCD), scientists from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not discard the potential effects of pesticides in this epidemic as well.

A recent report from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that a higher total load of pathogens—viruses, bacteria and fungi—appears to have the strongest link with Colony Collapse Disorder found so far. There was no association between increased pesticide levels and CCD, the study indicated.

Still, the ARS scientists said the study cannot show whether the higher pathogen load was involved in the cause of CCD or was a result of CCD. The epidemic could still be driven by several factors including pesticides, they said.

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August 29, 2009

Weekly News Roundup

Vacation is over and news are piling up. Here are last week's supposed weekly news roundup but was never done in the green blog's eagerness to skip town early this week. The good news: there's another one coming up on Monday! I can't believe summer's almost over!

Sugar in deicers
Midwest Agri Commodities will supply de-sugared sugar beet molasses, for Univar’s deicing and freeze proofing applications under their product line ICE BITE in the United States and Canada.

Lithium source acquisition
WestStar Resources has acquired two lithium brine projects, located within west-central Alberta. The projects encompass known occurrences of Lithium within formation waters.

Seattle bag tax rejected

Voters in a Seattle referendum rejected a city tax on plastic and paper shopping bags which would have required shoppers in the city to pay twenty cents for every bag they accepted at grocery, drug and convenience store checkout counters.

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August 20, 2009

Your view on cap and trade

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) set up a polling website to gauge America's opinion on the pending cap and trade legislation called ACES (American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009).

Through several questions, the ACC explores possible effects of the ACES (or any other climate change) bill and asks whether you agree, disagree (or neutral) with those views.

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DuPont expands solar material capacity

As the solar energy market continues to expand worldwide, chemical companies supplying the necessary materials are enjoying the rising wave of growth. DuPont said it expects overall sales of its photovoltaic materials products to exceed $1bn by 2012 and has announced today that its plan to increase its Tedlar polyvinyl flouride (PVF) production capacity.

The investment represents an increase of more than 50% for the company's monomer and resin capacity used in producing the Tedlar films, said DuPont. The films are used as backsheet component of photovoltaic modules.

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August 19, 2009

Can certification solve E-waste problems?

The Netherlands-based Ewaste Foundation is hoping certification can help defuse E-waste dumping into developing countries such as Africa and China coming from European as well as from the US.

How it works? It's like buying those carbon offset credits but unlike tree planting, your money will be used to to process and dismantle the corresponding amount of e-waste in developing countries (in an ecologically and socially responsible way of course). The foundation said they have close cooperation with their certified local e-waste disassembly projects to do that job.

[Photo from Greenpeace]

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Opportunities are in the air

My attention was caught last weekend by a segment in Maria Bartiromo's Wall Street Journal Report about how investors can cash in on the pollution market.

According to Richard Sandor, CEO of Chicago Climate Exchange, the carbon industry would be huge and would ultimately be the largest commodity in the world. He noted the success of the EPA's Clean Air Act in reducing acid rain as one of the main drivers in the push for carbon trading as alternative to carbon tax.

He said he is both an environmentalist and a capitalist (yes now you can be both!).



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Massachusetts mandate bans algae

This recent mandate from the Massachusetts' state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) on biofuels might be music to the ears of waste fats and oils suppliers but definitely constricts the development of non-food based biofuel feedstock such as algae, switchgrass, camelina, jatropha and other non-food oils sources.

According to a report from Biofuels Digest, DOER's biofuels mandate would ban all biofuels not made using waste feedstocks from qualifying under the state’s Clean Energy Biofuels Act of 2008. Meaning biofuels made from plants (or organisms) that are harvested are not considered as a waste feedstock and that includes algae.

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BASF enters green city

I've posted information last year about the $15bn Masdar city - which aims to be the world's first zero-carbon and waste free city - and I wondered if investment and construction would slow down for this project because of the global financial crisis.

I guess that's not happening as indicated by this news announced today from BASF. The chemical company said it will be the preferred supplier of construction materials and systems solutions for the city's construction.

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August 18, 2009

Where can the US get $1.2 trillion?

To supplement my recently published ICIS Chemical Business article about energy efficiency technologies within the chemical industry, here's a recent report from McKinsey & Company on how the US, by 2020, could potentially save $1.2 trillion in non-transportation energy costs and cut energy consumption by 23%.

Strategies needed to implement energy savings include:
  • Recognize energy efficiency as an important energy resource that can help meet future energy needs while the nation concurrently develops new no- and low-carbon energy sources
  • Formulate and launch at both national and regional levels an integrated portfolio of proven, piloted, and emerging approaches to unlock the full potential of energy efficiency
  • Identify methods to provide the significant upfront funding required by any plan to capture energy efficiency
  • Forge greater alignment between utilities, regulators, government agencies, manufacturers, and energy consumers
  • Foster innovation in the development and deployment of next-generation energy efficiency technologies to ensure ongoing productivity gains.
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August 17, 2009

Industrial Biotech Interview: Verdezyne

This is actually the first time that the Green Blog was able to interview and know more about Verdezyne, an industrial biotechnology company (or a synthetic biology company, whatever fits!) based in Carlsbad, California.

The company, founded in 2005, was formerly known as CODA Genomics, a spin-out from the University of Irvine, California, which originally focused on offering gene assembly tools, gene design and gene optimization. Verdezyne's business model has been converted last year from a tools business to a product focus business and is now offering its biological expertise and proprietary technologies to design and engineer enzymes, metabolic pathways and microorganisms to produce biobased fuels and chemicals.

Daniel Perriman, vice president of business development, talked about the company's strategies going forward, milestones the company hopes to achieve, and his views about the current state of the industrial biotechnology sector.

Q: Can you begin with a short summary and an overview of Verdezyne?

Perriman: Our technology platform includes proprietary metabolic pathway models, algorithms for protein design, a patented method for self-assembling synthetic genes and translational engineering tools that optimize the expression of these genes in recombinant microbes. In 2008, we made the decision to transition to an industrial biotechnology company going beyond a single gene and focusing on a whole series of genes that were responsible for metabolic pathways that can convert sugar to chemical products.

For example in ethanol fermentation, we've been able to achieve high yield rates, increase margin, been able to run the process faster, and reduce the costs. We are also working on a suite of petrochemicals replacements where we are engineering new pathways for a pipeline of chemical targets. We are targeting organic acids although we cannot say more about them until we finished our proof of concept work. One of our goals is to find a way via fermentation of sugar to produce the petrochemical feedstock that the chemical industry uses today. Another is the development of novel chemicals where biology can already produce very well but don't exist within the chemical toolbox.

Overall, our goal is to improve the productivity of existing fermentation, enable cost-advantaged petrochemical replacements, and develop novel chemicals that are previously unattainable.

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Oleochemical conference in Germany

While working on my Q&A post about Verdezyne, let me promote this incoming conference from ICIS (the company I work for) about the fascinating world of fats and oils-based chemicals - oleochemicals.

The ICIS 7th World Oleochemicals Conference is going to be held in Berlin, Germany, on October 20-21, and it has good line-up of speakers covering topics such as glycerine, fatty acid, fatty alcohols and their fats and oils feedstock.

Here are the speakers at the moment and there are more to come!
  • Overview of the North American fatty acid market in a difficult climate: Don Ciancio - Executive Vice President, Vantage Oleochemicals
  • Topic to be confirmed: Rahul Kale - Head of Biofuels & Oleochemicals, WilmarOleo
  • The European fatty acid market: Eddy Feijen - Marketing & Sales Director, Oleon
  • Glycerine market overview and projections: Vincent Bogaart - Marketing Manager Oleochemicals, Croda
  • Oleochemicals – fatty acids and alcohols: capacity, competence and compensation: Norm Ellard - Director, Rohen (former Procter & Gamble Asia director of chemicals)
  • Developments in oleochemicals - cosmetics and personal care applications: Neil A Burns – Managing Director, Neil A. Burns LLC (former CEO of Oxiteno USA)
  • An overview of the vegetable oil industry:Sarah Hickingbottom – Senior Research Economist, LMC International
  • The changing nature of the oleochemical market: Alan Brunskill - Oleochemical Advisor

The potential of China-US clean-tech partnership

As mentioned before, I am currently researching on materials about renewable energy developments in China. This current report from McKinsey & Company about potential clean tech partnership between the US and China might help.

McKinsey warns that momentum to curb global warming could stall and neither country will maximize its gains in terms of green jobs, new companies, and energy security unless both the US and China work together to provide the scale, standards, and technology transfer necessary to make a handful of promising but expensive new clean-energy technologies successful.

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Weekly News Roundup

The green blogger is preparing for a nice one week vacation next week so hopefully there will be lots of posts in the coming days ahead to keep the readers happy. This week, ICIS Chemical Business published its chemical sites feature and my contribution is an article about how new technologies and processing are helping chemical companies reduce their energy consumption.

By the way, I am starting to work on an article about renewable energy in China, any companies (or consultant) interested in participating, pls. email me this week at doris.de.guzman@icis.com.

For now here are the blog's news roundup:

Microbial oil for biofuel
Oil giant BP has formed a joint development agreement with Martek Biosciences to work on the production of microbial oils for biofuels applications. The partnership combines a broad technology platform and operational capabilities to advance the development of a step-change technology for the conversion of sugars into biodiesel.

Swedish biorefinery project
Chemrec's pulp mill-integrated BioDME (dimethyl ether) biorefinery demonstration plant project will break ground in September in Piteå, Sweden, with expected biofuel production by mid-2010. The BioDME is produced from residual forestry biomass over the black liquor gasification route.

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August 13, 2009

Solar materials expand in Malaysia

Asia's renewable energy market really seems to be booming as reports indicated (I will write an article soon about China's renewable energy market!).

The usual suspect of course is China but I saw several investment news in India last week and now this one from Japanese chemical company Tokuyama announced this week that it is building a polycrystalline silicon facility in Malaysia.


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Aluminum recycling up 54%

Move over glass and plastic! Aluminum recycling is said to be heating up as recycling rate of aluminum beverage container reached 54.2% last year, the highest ever for any beverage container, according to the Aluminum Association, Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

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New green R&D

A lot of deadlines for me this week but just to let the readers know that I am still thinking of them (awww!), here are several recent R&D news that might be useful to some companies looking to add green products to their portfolio.

1. Lubricants made from sunflower and is said to be just as good as the petrochemical-derived product

2. Iowa State's Biopolymers & Biocomposites Research Team has developed proteins based on corn, soybeans and sorghum that can be converted into plastics.

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[Photo from USDA-ARS]

August 11, 2009

Global green chems worth $45bn

I've been waiting for some figures from consultants about the possible current worth of renewable chemicals and one finally arrived from a Delaware-based firm called Markets and Markets. They estimated the global renewable chemicals market to be worth $45bn this year and is expected to reach $59.1bn by 2014, with an aggregate growth rate of 5.3% from 2009-2014.

The U.S. and Europe is said to account for nearly 30% and 35% of the total revenues respectively. The largest market, Europe, is estimated to reach $21bn by 2014, with growth rate of 5.5% driven by consumer demand for green products and governmental support. The second largest segment, US, will reach $17.5bn by 2014 with growth rate of 5.1%.

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August 10, 2009

Industrial Biotech Interview: Genomatica

This week's industrial biotech interview is California-based Genomatica, a start-up technology company that focuses on producing cost-economic renewable-based chemicals such as 1,4 butanediol (BDO) and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) using the biotechnology route.

As opposed to building and operating their own manufacturing facility, Genomatica CEO and co-founder Christophe Schilling plans to base the company's business model on partnering and licensing their technology. While there are a number of renewable-based chemicals in their pipeline, Genomatica's focus right now, said Schilling, is to prove that their renewable-based BDO manufacturing process could work in a commercial scale.

Q: Can you begin with a short summary and an overview of Genomatica?

Schilling: Genomatica is a privately-held company that is focused on developing new and cost-effective ways to produce sustainable chemicals from renewable feedstock. Our main goal is to deliver deliver cost advantage and sustainable attributes to the processes. We're not looking to become a manufacturer of chemicals, however. We're looking to partner with current producers and companies that are already in the value chain. Our competency is really developing breakthrough processes to produce these chemicals but not necessarily in the construction or operation of a commercial facility or marketing/sales of these chemicals.

Q: How is the company's current financial standing?

Schilling: The business is doing great considering the current financial environment. We have terrific investors, we've been delivering not only on the technical milestones and corporate development objectives but also on our responsibilities for cash management. We've been able to manage our resources very well. We had a very well thought-out budget and case scenarios for how to handle different situations. We've been able to follow right on track with that plan and so we feel very comfortable about the current environment.

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Carbon black from nuked tires

While working on finalizing my Genomatica interview, here is an interesting story from last week about producing high-grade carbon black from waste tires using a "microwave technology"

According to NJ-based Global Resource, the current global market for high-grade carbon black ranges up to $2,000 per ton. I didn't realize carbon black is so expensive! Around 90% of application is used in rubber the rest in specialty products

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[Photo from American Public Works Association]

Weekly news roundup

A hoi-polloi of green news last week, although nothing standing out except a couple of more algae developments. Coming out from ICIS Chemical Business (the magazine I work for) on August 17 is our Chemical Sites feature and I contributed an article about new technology and developments that help chemical manufacturers reduce energy use. Watch out for that!

For now, here are this week's news roundup:

Hexion biocomposite JV
Hexion Specialty Chemicals has partnered with Tekle Technical Services (TTS), a biocomposites company, to develop “green” building products for the construction industry. Hexion will develop resins, adhesives, catalysts and additives for use in TTS products.

Flower powers hydroplane
A biofuel blend made from the energy crop camelina (85%), jatropha (14%) and algae oil (1%) was used to power Boeing U-787 unlimited hydroplane, which is said to be the world's first hydroplane test to use 100% biofuel.

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August 6, 2009

Are rainy days gone for solar?

While some reports indicate that investments in the solar market is shining again, others claimed continued cloudy days because of capital intensive projects and growing overcapacity in some regions (ok, I'll stop the weather talk).

According to Pike Research's new report, solar demand in the US has been improving although financing is still a roadblock.
“As soon as financing picks up, the demand is there,” says industry analyst George Kotzias.“In addition to the increase in subsidies, module prices have dropped by as much as 50% and installed costs have dropped over 30% over the past year,” he adds.

According to the report, weak federal level tax credits and depreciation incentives are not currently enough to encourage sustainable demand growth. Some states and municipalities instead have taken the lead in providing incentives such as upfront rebates and property tax credits, renewable energy credits and even European-style feed-in tariffs.

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Joule catches sunlight to produce chems

It's 11:20 am EST and twitter is down for more than one hour now --- Jeez, I never realized how this social media tool has become very useful to a blogger/reporter/writer like me. Oh, well, at least I have more time to blog for today.

Let me start by introducing this company which, for me, just came out of the blue and generated a lot of buzz the past few weeks. Founded in 2007 by Flagship Ventures, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Joule Biotechnologies claims that their patent-pending Helioculture™ technology can harness sunlight to convert carbon dioxide directly into biofuel or green chemical.

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August 5, 2009

Government stimulates green investments

With the funding coming from the Obama administration on electric vehicle and other energy research development, this might continue stimulating the investment industry to pour additional green money to the clean technology and industrial biotechnology industries.

According to a recent report from Ernst & Young, US venture capital (VC) investment in cleantech companies in the second quarter of this year reached $572 million, an increase of 73% in terms of capital, with 48 financing rounds, a 100% increase in number of transactions compared to Q1 2009.

Solar deals received the lion’s share of capital within the energy/electricity generation category while smart grid companies seem to be doing well within the energy efficiency category.

[Photo Sustainablechoice.com.au]

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Science research gets...$327m

Wow, the auto (and battery) industry is really getting a lot of stimulus money (see recent post on $2.4bn electric vehicle funding) while science laboratories gets a measly $327m to fund energy research.

Of the $327m in Recovery Act funding, $107.5m is slated to go to universities, nonprofit organizations, and private firms, on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis. The remaining $220 million will go to U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories for a range of research, instrumentation, and infrastructure projects, including $164.7 million for projects already allocated.

[Photo from Argonne National Laboratory]

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$2.4bn money boost for batteries and EVs

Companies developing next generation batteries and electric vehicles will get further funding from the Obama administration through the expected $2.4bn grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

According to the DOE, 48 new projects where selected to accelerate the development of U.S. manufacturing capacity for batteries and electric drive components as well as the deployment of electric drive vehicles.

DOE said this is the single largest investment in advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric-drive vehicles ever made. Aside from the $2.4bn grant, award winners will contribute to the projects another $2.4bn.

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August 4, 2009

Industrial Biotech Interview: Codexis

Codexis, a California-based biotech company, have been active mostly in the pharma and healthcare sector but its focus has now expanded to next generation biofuels (through its partnership with Shell) and very soon, in carbon capture and water treatment.

President and CEO Alan Shaw highlights the company's proprietary biocatalytic chemical processing technology (which uses synthetic enzymes) and how it can make manufacturing cleaner, faster and more efficient. Shaw also talked about the current state of the industrial biotechnology sector, the importance of partnership, and company milestones in the next few years.

Q: Can you begin with a short summary and an overview of Codexis?

Shaw: We are a biotechnology company but the market that we addressed are those that benefit from clean technology. With our technology, we can improve existing markets like pharmaceuticals and at the same time create new markets such as biofuels and carbon capture. We can create synthetic super enzymes that are customized to do just the job that our customers want them to do. Most of the products we sell are biocatalysts - the solutions they provide and the processes they enable. However, our core technology is largely around bioinformatics and basically the use of high throughput screening methods.

Q: How is the company's current financial standing?

Shaw: Codexis is doing extemely well. We're fairly successful in financing and never had any problems raising money. Unlike other biotechnology companies, financing is never an issue for us. We have a strong balance sheet and more than what we need at the moment. The company is moving towards profitability.

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USDA plans bio-products ecolabeling

While transcribing some of my CEO interviews from the BIO conference, let me post this interesting news from the US Department of Agriculture about their voluntary ecolabeling plans for biobased products.

First of all, the USDA defined "biobased products" as products that are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients – renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials. The agency has identified more than 15,000 biobased products commercially available to consumers today.

According to the USDA, the ecolabeling program will allow manufacturers to participate in a voluntary labeling program that distinctively identifies those biobased products on store shelves.

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August 3, 2009

Algae madness

I have no idea why there seems to be so much algae news last week but I guess that's good news for the chemical and biofuel industry who are hoping to gain from its development as potential feedstock. Unfortunately these were too late to post from my recent algae updates that mostly came from attending the BIO event.

Here they are in no particular order

1. Carbonics acquires rights to Algae Bioreactor Technologies

2. Targeted Growth unlocks pathways to dramatically increase algae oil content

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New green chemicals: July

Seems like another record-breaking month in July for the Green Blog's monthly new green chemicals. Most of them are in the bio-resins category. As always the case with these new products, you be the judge if you think they deserved to be under the umbrella of "green."

1. Hexion bio-coatings - Hexion Specialty Chemicals has launched Albecor-Bio™, a family of bio-based, low temperature cure powder coatings suitable for use on a wide variety of materials including metals and heat sensitive substrates.

2. Sabic bio-composites - Sabic has introduced a new line of LNP* Thermocomp* specialty compounds that use curauá fiber and wood flour natural reinforcements. Under the line are new LNP Thermocomp PX07444 specialty compound, a polyamide (PA)-6 nylon that is reinforced with up to 20% curauá fiber; and LNP Thermocomp MX07442 specialty compound, a polypropylene (PP) reinforced with 30% wood flour.

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Weekly News Roundup

Last week's main buzz (and continuing this week) is the survival of the Cash for Clunkers program. From my previous post about this, it seems that the Frost & Sullivan consultant was right regarding his doubts on the program's success because of limited funding available.

The House has already approved another $2bn infusion to the program and the Senate is debating today whether to pass the $2bn extension as well. Right now, confusion reigns especially for auto dealers whether they will still be able to be reimbursed under the program or not. We will see how it goes but for now, here are this week's news roundup:

Green gasoline plant coming soon
Terrabon has produced high-octane "green gasoline" made from non-food biomass using its licensed MixAlco(TM) technology. The company plans to build and operate a 1.3 million gal/year of the green gasoline at Valero Energy Corporation's Texas refinery. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010 with operations to start in the second half of 2011.

New glycerine facility in California
Crimson Renewable Energy has started California's largest biodiesel and glycerin production facility (claimed by the company) with a capacity of 30 million gal/year of biodiesel and 50 million pounds/year crude glycerin.

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