June 24, 2010

Sustainability of corn and apples

I can finally post some interesting tidbits from my Chicago trip a few weeks ago covering BASF's Agriculture Summit.

One that caught my attention is the use of their Eco-Efficiency Analysis tool this time within the agriculture sector. This tool, which was developed by BASF to measure the sustainability of products and production processes and is one of BASF’s main tools for implementing its sustainability strategy, was mostly being used in their chemicals businesses.

BASF announced at the summit that they have just completed their sustainability analysis of corn production, one that uses their fungicide Headline® compared to one without the fungicide. Their result conclude that farmers who uses fungicide (in this case, BASF's) were able to reduce costs, energy use and resources.

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California drafts green chemistry rules

California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) finally put out online its draft for the new safer Consumer Products regulation. Comments are due by July 15, 2010 and may be sent to GCRegs@dtsc.ca.gov.

According to DTSC, the draft regulation creates a systematic, science-based process to evaluate chemicals of concern in products, as well as stimulate innovation in California's product development sector.

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June 23, 2010

Busy Amyris

California-based Amyris has been very busy this week, with its newly formed joint venture with Brazilian ethanol company Cosan and its new partnership (and investor) with French oil company Total.

Amyris announced today that Total has acquired 17% of Amyris' stake and that it will have the right to appoint a member of the Amyris Board of Directors. The press release did not exactly mentioned any specifics other than that both companies' research and development teams will work together to develop new products and build biological pathways to produce and commercialize renewable fuels and chemicals.

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June 22, 2010

Ford Q&A on green cars

One of Ford Motor's strategies is to make their cars more environment-friendly by using plant-based chemicals or recycled materials. According to Ford, its vehicles are already 85% recyclable by weight, but it wants to increase its use of bio-based materials such as its seat cushions and seatbacks, which already use soybean-based polyurethane.

The 2010 Ford Flex also features the automotive industry’s first application of wheat straw-reinforced plastic for the third-row storage bins. Ford said the natural fiber replaces energy-inefficient glass fibers commonly used to reinforce plastic parts.

Here is my recent interview with Deborah Mielewski, polymer technical leader for Ford Motor Company on more of their bio-based materials strategy:

Q: Aside from bio-based polyurethane foams, are there any other bio-based products/chemicals that are currently being used in Ford's automobiles? In what components of the car are they being applied on?

The soy-based foam is currently being used on the seat cushions and backs of 10 Ford/Lincoln models. The soy foam technology has migrated within Ford Motor Company incredibly fast. In addition, we have soy-based foam in the headliner of the 2010 Escape.

Last fall, we became the first automaker to utilize wheat straw (a bi-product of growing wheat) as a filler in the third row plastic bins on the 2010 Ford Flex. This material was developed in conjuction with the Ontario BioCar; a group of Canadian Universities and companies interested in developing sustainable materials for cars. Even though these bins are a small component, they save about 20,000 pounds of petroleum annually, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 pounds each year.

One thing we've learned is that small environmental improvements really add up when you make millions of vehicles each year.

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June 21, 2010

Weekly News Roundup

I am now able to access my computer again after unpacking my stuff at work where we moved (again) from another floor in the same building.

Big news today is the groundbreaking ceremony of Dow Kokam's new lithium battery production facility in Michigan. US Vice President Joe Biden attended the event and more on this in another post...

Next week, I will be attending the annual BIO World Congress on Industrial biotechnology and Processing conference to be held near Washington D.C. Lots of good stuff coming from this event, which will tie up most of my time so posts next week will be scarce. Follow my tweets at @ICISChemicalbiz!

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

Rhodia in plant-based chemistry
French chemical company Rhodia has partnered with the new University of Bordeaux Foundation to support the Chair of "Pine Chemistry and Natural Resources" with the aim of expanding the role of plant-based raw materials in the chemical industry.

Elasco develops soy polyurethane
Deltron, Inc.'s subsidiary Elasco has developed proprietary polyurethane formulations made from soybean oil. The company says they are seeing increased demand for ‘greener’ products from customers, particularly those in the recreational products industry.

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June 18, 2010

Ethanol blend frustration

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) expressed their frustration yesterday on a statement about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) delay to increase percentage of US ethanol blends from 10% to 15%.

The EPA now expects to decide on a higher ethanol blend in the fall. DOE testing on higher blends in cars produced after 2007 will not be completed until September (three months later than originally expected), while approval for vehicles produced in 2001-2007 could be delayed until this winter.

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June 16, 2010

Clark: "Don't rely on Brazil ethanol"

ICIS reporters are covering this year's annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri.

At the conference, there was a talk that Brazil may ship ethanol to Iran. My colleague William Lemos was able to interview retired US general Wesley Clark on his opinion about this issue and he said that this potential sale would demonstrate how important it is that US does not become reliant on Brazil for imports of the biofuel. See video below and more about this story on ICIS News (subscription required) ...

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Plastic-recycled World Cup jerseys

My colleague Andy Brice actually send me this Sunday Times article in February about Nike's 2010 World Cup team soccer kits made from plastic bottle recycled polyester.

According to Nike, all of Nike’s national teams are wearing jerseys (and other soccer attire) made entirely from recycled polyester, each one produced from up to eight recycled plastic bottles. Nike's teams include Brasil, The Netherlands, Portugal, USA, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, and Slovenia.

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Arkema Sustainability Additives interview

There have been quite a few interviews and several conferences this year that I was not able to post in the blog due to schedule and deadline constraint. I'm hoping to catch up eventually this summer and I'll start with Arkema's new Sustainability Additives Group.

The Americas business of French chemical company Arkema officially formed its Sustainability Additives group based in Philadelphia in September 2008 under the company's Functional Additives division.

My interview with the group's general manager, Antonis Papadourakis, resulted an interesting overview of the group's strategies and their definition of sustainability, which according to him, is "the use of methods, systems and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycles."
"We will develop additives solutions for our targeted markets, based on our core technologies (radical generation and control, polymer & material modification, and chemical vapor deposition) that will lead to more efficient use of resources and energy, help manage or create less waste, extend life of existing products and help develop/grow new products to harness new/renewable sources of energy and materials."

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June 14, 2010

Green dispersants wanted

I've been monitoring the news on chemical dispersants being used on the Gulf oil spill and my colleague in ICIS, Judith Taylor, wrote an excellent article about surfactants* as one of the active chemicals in dispersants.

Many surfactants these days use natural fats/oils-based raw materials and ICIS Pricing recently reported* a slight tightness in the fatty acid market:

-- US tall oil fatty acid supply tightens on BP oil spill demand

-- Oleic fatty acids, used in dispersants, tighten on BP oil spill

However, the dispersants themselves are causing environmental advocates to cry foul claiming it could do more harm than good because of unknown long-term effects. Nalco's Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 are particularly the two major dispersants that have been used on the spill.

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$1bn Carbon Capture projects

Can the US afford to spend billions of dollars to invest in this risky business of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects?

So far, the US Department of Energy's CCS investment is moving along as 3 companies -- Air Products & Chemicals, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Leucadia Energy -- are now on their phase II activities. DOE announced last week that the three companies will receive up to $612 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - matched by $368 million in private funding.

The projects - located in Texas, Illinois, and Louisiana - were initially selected in October 2009 for phase one research and development grants. The projects are expected to capture and store 6.5 million tons of CO2 per year, and increase domestic production of oil by more than 10 million barrels per year by the end of the demonstration period in September 2015.

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Weekly News Roundup

Apologies for the people whose emails I have not yet responded to. Our office is officially in chaos this week with the move to another floor and I'm currently working on my article about zero energy homes, and at the same time, purging tons of trash that have mysteriously accumulated in my drawers, shelves and beneath my desk.

I promised to get back to you folks before the IT people forcefully shutdown my computer soon...

Here are this week's news roundup!

Virent secures funding
Virent Energy Systems closed a $46.4m third round of funding led by Shell and Cargill. The funding will advance Virent’s efforts to scale its BioForming® process, a patented catalytic biorefinery platform that can produce cellulosic-based gasoline, to commercial production volumes.

Ferro expands solar center
Ferro Corporation is expanding its photovoltaic technology centers in Suzhou, China, and Taipei, Taiwan, as part of a wide-ranging plan to support growth in the Asian marketplace. The new Advanced Technology Center in Taiwan is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

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June 11, 2010

Europe sets up sustainable biofuel rules

Ok, this is a very crazy day as our company is moving to another floor in our building for the 5th time in 5 years. I have not yet gone through all my emails for the past 4 days so for those who are inquiring about the incoming BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference in late June, please bear with me and I will be able to get back to you guys this weekend.

And before I end my blogging hours today, here is an update about Europe's plan to certify imported biofuels.

The European Commission (EC) announced yesterday that it will set up sustainability certification schemes for all types of biofuels that will come into Europe to make sure that these biofuels must deliver substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and should not come from forests, wetlands and nature protection areas.

This is driven of course from recent NGO reports claiming that increase use of biofuel feedstock such as palm oil and soybean oil are destroying forests and wetlands particularly in Indonesia and the Amazon rainforest.

The commission said the certification schemes would require independent auditors to check the whole production chain, from the farmer and the mill, via the trader, to the fuel supplier who delivers petrol (gasoline) or diesel to the filling station.

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Green soccer ball

In honor of today's opening of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, here's an interesting tidbit about French chemical company Arkema joining big electronics manufacturer Sony in creating a unique soccer ball that will be distributed by NGOs for African children.

The soccer ball called "Join the Team" is partially made from Arkema's castor oil-based thermoplastic elastomer Pebax® Rnew.

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June 7, 2010

California to ban plastic bag

Okay, now that I've got the excitement of the new IPhone 4 out of my system, back to blogging and this one is about California planning to become the first US state to ban single-use plastic bag.

Last week, the California Assembly approved the bill AB1998 that would ban single use carryout bags and even paper bags on or after January 1, 2012 from groceries, supermarkets and pharmacies. The bill also requires the store to provide to consumers at the point of sale a recycled paper bag at a reasonable cost, but not less than five cents.

By 2013 and every two-years thereafter, producers of reusable bags must submit a certification to California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (DRRR) that each bag meets the requirements of a bag being "reusable" -- meaning it is designed and manufactured for at least 100 uses and is made of a washable material that "does not contain lead or any toxic metal in a toxic amount, as determined by the DRRR.

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Chinese bio-jet fuel coming soon

I'm trying to post as many as I can before I go to Chicago tomorrow. This one is an announcement on May 27 from Honeywell's UOP business and Boeing on their plans to get into China's aviation biofuel market.

The companies, including PetroChina, Air China, AECOM, United Technologies, China's National Energy Administration (NEA) and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USDTA) stated that they will be working to establish a sustainable aviation biofuels industry in China.

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Weekly News Roundup

Good Monday morning/afternoon blog readers! I will be traveling this week to attend BASF's Agriculture Sustainability Summit in Chicago. Follow the hashtag #AgMsBASF or my tweets at @ICISgreenblog/@ICISChemicalBiz.

I'm also starting on an article about Zero Energy homes so any chemical companies interested, send me an email this week. Enjoy this week's roundup and hopefully I'll be able to also post this month's new green chemicals launched.

Funding for bio-butanol
UK-based bio-butanol developer Green Biologics completed its investment round of £4.9m ($7.1m) to roll out its technology and commercialisation plans. The company plans to provide customers with retrofit packages to convert ethanol plants to bio-butanol.

Elevance expands Asian wax partnership
Elevance Renewable Sciences expanded its partnership with Atkins & Pearce's Asia division for the distribution of Elevance's NatureWax® vegetable based waxes. Elevance noted that candle manufacturers are seeking more stable wax supplies as securing paraffin waxes becomes more challenging.

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June 4, 2010

New glycerine developments

Just finished my article this week about traditional chemical companies jumping into industrial biotechnology processing. That will come out on June 21 so stay tune. Meanwhile, I have a few glycerine development updates that I got hold from my Phoenix trip attending the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) meeting -- geez, that seems like a long time ago!

Before getting deep into glycerine, another news cames out from Maryland-based New Generation Biofuels Holding (NGBF) announcing their patent application for producing glycerine-based biofuel. Since crude glycerine is a byproduct of most current biodiesel production these days, it is has been difficult for producers to get rid of their glycerine stock due to oversupply in the market.

Glycerine experts note prices for glycerine is at historical lows these days despite various end market applications for the product. So therefore, there have been increasing research on attempts to impart value to crude glycerine by expanding its usage.

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June 3, 2010

Zeachem to start biorefinery in 2011

I was able to attend Zeachem's conference call yesterday as the company had their groundbreaking ceremony for its new 250,000 gal/year cellulosic ethanol facility in Boardman, Oregon, which is expected to start operating next year. The facility will use poplar, which is plentiful in Boardman, as its feedstock.

Zeachem expects to generate 292 direct and indirect jobs in Oregon from the facility.

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June 2, 2010

Weekly News Roundup

Deadlines! Can't write a lot so here are this week's news roundup.

Bayer R&D in sugarcane ethanol

Bayer CropScience and the CTC – Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, the Center for Sugarcane Technology, São Paulo, Brazil, formed a research and development partnership to develop sugarcane varieties with higher sugar content, aiming to increase the production efficiency of ethanol.

Cereplast bioplastic distribution
Cereplast formed a distribution agreement with Ashland Distribution to supply Cereplast's bioplastic resins to their global distribution business, and with Thailand-based Alphani International to supply bioplastic resins to Thailand.

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