December 29, 2010

Dwinding mercury cell chlor-alkali

I might have mentioned before that my day job is actually writing a weekly column for ICIS Chemical Business magazine, and one of my market coverages involves chlor-alkali (the production of chlorine and caustic soda).

US chlor-alkali producer Olin announced in early December that it is exiting the use of mercury cell technology by the end of 2012 by closing its 100,000 ton/year Augusta, Georgia chlor-alkali production facility as well as converting its 260,000 ton/year Charleston, Tennessee, production from mercury cell to using membrane cell technology.

Olin said the Charleston plant will employ the most modern membrane technology which would result in lower operating costs and higher quality products produced.

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World's largest bio-succinic acid plant

Myriant announced yesterday about getting the green signal of building what they claimed as the world's largest biobased succinic acid plant at the Port of Lake Providence, Louisiana.

As announced before, the 392,000 sq. ft. plant will have a capacity of up to 30m lbs/year (13,612 tonnes/year) of succinic acid using feedstock sorghum and carbon dioxide.

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December 28, 2010

Celanese interview: Sustainability of coal

In a previous post about Celanese's new coal-to-ethanol project in China, the blog questioned the "greenness" of ethanol production using coal as feedstock. I was able to talk to Steven Sterin, senior VP and CFO of Celanese a day earlier from their conference call on December 16.

First of all, Sterin did agree that there is a stigma especially in the United States about the use of coal as energy feedstock. In China, however, the use of coal makes perfect sense given that 1) It is plentiful as feedstock for both chemicals and fuel production, 2) China does not have enough land available for food much less use it to plant crops for industrial purposes, 3) China is short on gasoline and petroleum oil supply, and therefore using coal as energy source and be less dependent on foreign sources makes sense for its government.

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Weekly News Roundup

I was able to plow myself out from New York City's 2-feet of snow and got to the office without any mishap. It's amazing to see abandoned cars on the middle of the street! No wonder city snow plows are having a hard time getting their work done. Hopefully, tomorrow will see a much cleaner street and a warmer weather!

Enough of my snow ramblings, here are this week's news roundup. There were definitely plenty of company announcements before Christmas!

ExxonMobil expands carbon capture plant
ExxonMobil has completed expansion of the world’s largest carbon dioxide capture plant located near LaBarge, Wyoming. The $86 million expansion includes the installation of compressors to capture 50 percent more carbon dioxide for potential use in enhanced oil recovery and other industrial uses.

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December 27, 2010

Dow's new green plasticizer - Video

While the green blogger is still in the midst of an after-Christmas haze, here is an interesting new video from Dow Chemical about their new Ecolibrium bio-based plasticizers, which are said to be phthalate-free, for wire insulation and jacketing.

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December 22, 2010

'Tis the season of investing

I guess investors are pretty much in a giving mood this Christmas week as three companies - Elevance, LS9 and Cereplast - announced influx of funding yesterday and today.

France oil firm Total is steadily expanding its renewable chemicals investment, first with Amyris and now its venture firm Total Energy Ventures has acquired stakes in US-based Elevance.

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December 21, 2010

DSM enters algae-based chems

I received news today about DSM's acquisition of Martek Biosciences for $1.09bn and the words algae and industrial biotechnology mentioned in the press release definitely rang several bells in one section of my brain (where all things green and chemistry info are located).

There is also one time a few months ago that I received a phone call from a Martek official inquiring about algae developments in the chemical sector. With this acquisition news, it now all make sense to me and I'm thinking Solazyme might soon face a big competitor in the algae-based chems field especially specialty applications.

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Amyris enters bio-base oil market

I tried to contact Amyris for one of my upcoming green chemistry article but unfortunately they seem to have a policy of not talking to media because of being a public company (???) Oh well, at least the green blog has plenty of materials to get from other sources...

Now this recent news from Amyris is pretty interesting since I used to cover a little bit of the base oil industry when I wrote articles for Chemical Market Reporter before on lubricants, greases and waxes. Amyris announced last week its collaboration with sugar ethanol producer Cosan to form a joint venture for the development, production and commercialization of farnesene-derived base oils.

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December 19, 2010

Weekly News Roundup

A lot of activities last week which I was unable to post as I was out playing NYC tour guide for 4 days. Amyris and Cosan announced their green base oil JV; Solvay announced plans to build a glycerin-to-ECH plant in China; Dow plans to build a HPPO-based propylene glycol plant in Thailand; and Olin is exiting the mercury-based chlor-alkali production in the US. All of these news will be in separate posts.

Hopefully, this short week will be a quiet one. The green blog wishes everybody a very Merry Christmas!!

TetraVitae's butanol from corn dry mill
TetraVitae Bioscience successfully produced n-butanol in a corn dry-mill pilot plant which demonstrates potential economic production of the chemical from renewable-based source in North America, according to the company. The process also produces acetone and distiller's grains.

Chemicals from wild algae
New Zealand-based Aquaflow Bionomic reported over 100 chemical compounds that the company has isolated from wild algae. The company is targeting development of 20 chemicals that include toluene, ethyl benzene, styrene, xylene, C10-C17 paraffins and olefins, pyrimidine, alkyl pyrazines, NMP, NEP, 2-pyrrolidinone, N-methyl piperidinone, 2-piperidinone, dimethyl-cylopentanone, propanoic acids, palmitic nitrile, butanoic acid, di-anhydro mannitol, di-anhydro sorbitol and alkylphenols.

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December 14, 2010

More chemicals investments in solar energy

Our good friend Neil Burns recently posted on his blog about the impacts of clean technologies in the energy and chemicals sectors, which reminded me of my fast-growing list of recent chemical company activities on clean tech especially from Dow Chemical and DuPont who seemed to be always talking about this billion dollars global market potential.

I just posted today about Dow's recent investments in clean technologies when this news just came out about the company's start-up of its ENLIGHT polyolefin encapsulated films manufacturing facility in Ohio. The encapsulants are use in photovoltaic (PV) solar panel modules. The company said it plans to phase in production capacity around the world as needed to meet growing demand for PV encapsulants. 

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Dow profits from Clean Technologies

We published this week ICB's annual Top 40 Power Players within the global chemical industry and Dow Chemical CEO and president Andrew Liveris was chosen as the top power player for 2010.

This reminds me of my attendance at Dow's annual investor day last month where a lot of the business presentations I saw targets clean technology such as Dow's solar shingle, epoxy resins in wind energy, water treatment, energy storage, technologies in green building trends, green polyethylene....During the event, Liveris said they expect the clean tech energy sector opportunity to be more than $2 trillion by 2020.

.....Finally, I was able to speak to Dow's vice president of sustainability and EHS (Environnmental, Health and Safety) Neil Hawkins at the event. He noted continued strong demand for chemicals and other clean technology materials in the US despite regulatory uncertainty in the implementation of renewable energy policies from the newly-elected US law makers.

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December 13, 2010

Weekly News Roundup

Zeachem bags biorefinery funding
ZeaChem completed two key financial milestones in the construction of its 250,000 gallon-per-year biorefinery in Boardman, Ore., that will start up in 2011. The company obtained a guaranteed maximum price with engineering firm Burns & McDonnell, for construction of the core facility, which will convert sugars into acetic acid and then ethyl acetate; and ZeaChem also secured full construction funding (undisclosed) from investors for the core facility.

Agrivida and Syngenta in sugar collaboration
Agrivida is collaborating with Syngenta Ventures to develop advanced crop technology such as corn, sorghum, switchgrass and miscanthus that will provide low-cost sugars for biofuels and biochemicals applications. Under the terms of the agreement, Syngenta licenses to Agrivida access to crop technology and intellectual property in return for Agrivida equity.

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Biofuel News Roundup

A lot of biofuel news last week so I have separated these from my weekly news roundup. Also. my article about new renewable diesel facilities from Neste Oil and Dynamic Fuels is out this week on ICIS Chemical Business so pls. check it out for those who are subscribers. I'll post some information tidbits about renewable diesel this week for those who are not subscribers.

PS for this biofuel news roundup:
I did not include any recent analysis on US biofuel tax credits issues and the EPA's new Renewable Fuels Standard Requirements for 2011 as that will require further research and a separate posting...

DuPont's biobutanol coming soon
DuPont and BP's biobutanol joint venture Butamax™ Advanced Biofuels announced that it has achieved several milestones in its plan to commercialize biobutanol for the transportation fuel market. Butamax is advancing discussions with key stakeholders in preparation for commercial launch.

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December 9, 2010

European Bioplastic news

My ICIS colleague Franco Capaldo was able to attend the 5th European Bioplastics Conference held in Dusseldorf, Germany, last week. According to the European Bioplastic Association (EBA), more than 170 companies attended the event with 70% of the participants came from Europe, 20% from Asia, and most of the rest are from the Americas.

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December 7, 2010

Food companies strengthen biochems biz

The green blog has been noticing that major food manufacturers seem to be loudly proclaiming their comeback to their historical roots of producing biobased chemicals.

Take for example Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), which announced yesterday the hiring of its former employee Paul Bloom as business director of the company's Industrial Chemicals business. I remembered writing articles about some of ADM's industrial chemicals products such as linseed oil for paints, glycerine, and non-food use for soybean oil and corn (such as biodiesel, ethanol, sorbitol...). These days, ADM's portfolio have now expanded to propylene glycol, isosorbide, and of course its Mirel bioplastic through the joint venture company Telles.

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Weekly News Roundup

Sorry for another post delay. The past two weeks was a record in terms of doctor/medical appointments. Not to worry green blog fans, the physical body may be aging but the blogging spirit is still strong!

Last week, I was also able to talk to Neste Oil and Dynamic Fuels about their new renewable diesel facilities in Singapore and the US, respectively, and these information will come out on ICIS Chemical Business' December 13 issue. I also had the chance to interview Anellotech CEO David Sudolsky about their Biomass to Aromatics technology and LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren about their Waste Gas to Chems/Biofuels technology. I'll posts some of these information as soon as I can

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

Ford uses Merquinsa's bio-TPU
Ford Motor is collaborating with Merquinsa in the use of its Pearlthane® ECO thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU). The bio-based TPU will be incorporated in the Lincoln tambour door tambour console, which Merquinsa said will reduce the carbon footprint of the part by as much as 40%.

Dow JV in Kuwait green projects
EQUATE Petrochemical, a joint venture between Dow Chemical and several Kuwait-based petrochemical companies, launched Kuwait's first carbon capture project and the Middle East's first water recycling plant within petrochemical facilities. EQUATE plans to recycle 245m gal/year of water reducing distilled water intake by 20% to 32% annually. The projects are expected to start operating in 2012.

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December 3, 2010

Biofuels on commercial flights in 2011

German airlines Lufthansa announced on Monday that it will start using bio-kerosene on April 2011 for commercial flights on Hamburg-Frankfurt route. The six-month trial with an Airbus A321 will use a 50-50 mix of traditional kerosene and Finland-based Neste Oil's renewable diesel NExBTL made from hydrotreated vegetable oil (I'm assuming feedstock could be rapeseed oil or palm oil).

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Celanese's new ethanol: Is it Green?

I've been thinking about this news on Celanese's technology in producing industrial ethanol in China using coal and wondering if this really falls under anybody's 'green' category as I saw several green-based websites announcing this plans (e.g. BiofuelDigest, Green Car Congress, GreenTechnolog, etc).

Celanese announced early November that it is building as many as two coal-to-ethanol facilities in China each with a capacity of about 400,000 tons/year as well as a smaller 40,000 ton/year natural gas-to-ethanol plant in Texas, US. Industrial ethanol could be produced either by petroleum-based processing or fermentation processing using corn or sugar.

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December 2, 2010

Green products for your holiday list

This year, I am making sure my annual green gifts for the holidays will be a bit early (still in time for Hannukkah!) compared to last year. It seems there are more offerings as well this year so I hope this will be helpful in crossing out some from your holiday list. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

1. BPA-free kitchenware - Eastman Chemical has been very busy this year partnering with several companies that want to incorporate its Tritan copolyester in order to market plastic products that are free of bisphenol-A (BPA). Aside from the usual water bottles, Eastman also featured BPA-free food storage containers made by Reynolds and a multifunctional blender by Cuisinart.

2. Forever green lawn - Do you often hear family complaints on lawn mowing and pruning? Do you want to conserve water and eliminate costs on lawn pesticides as well? DuPont noted its DuPont ForeverLawn Select Synthetic Grass as a green solution to these problems. The artificial turf also uses recycled plastic for its backing. SynLawn's synthetic lawn and turf meanwhile are using soy-based polyols for their backing made and developed by Universal Textile Technologies with the help of the United Soybean Board.

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December 1, 2010

December bioplastic updates

Here are some bioplastics news I received late last month while I'm struggling with my now 3-week old cold. But first, Purac announced today that it has developed a polylactic acid (PLA) compound comparable to the common thermoplastic acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) in terms of heat stability and impact strength.

Purac's new bioplastic combines the company's L-Lactide and D-Lactide monomers technology. The PLA compound can be used in injection molding applications.  The company is currently building a 75,000 tons/year Lactide plant in Thailand which will start in the fourth quarter of 2011.

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Chem companies invest in Brazilian biomass

Biomass is in the air as both Dow Chemical and specialty chemical company Rhodia announced today their investments in this energy feedstock.

Dow is building a biomass co-generation plant at its Aratu manufacturing complex in Brazil, which will use eucalyptus wood biomass to produce steam for the site's chlor-alkali and chlorohydrin production processes.

Chlor-alkali processing (the production of chlorine and caustic soda), by the way, is a large consumer of steam and electricity so this move could potentially lower Dow's operating costs if the biomass feedstock is not that expensive as well as minimize volatility of their electricity costs.

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