September 30, 2011

Big Biofuel News

For those following my tweets, you probably know already about my recent interview with DSM about their bio-adipic acid strategies now published on ICIS News (subscription required). I am also planning to do a more comprehensive article about the interview as well as about bio-adipic acid developments for ICIS Chemical Business with publication date on October 10. For those who are not subscribers, maybe it's time to subscribe now =P.

But for the blog readers, I will tell a bit about the DSM news next week. In the meantime, here are some big news on the biofuels front. I will have a separate post about Renmatix next week.

Codexis, Raizen improves 1st gen ethanol
Codexis and Brazil-based Raizen Energia have signed a development deal to improved first generation ethanol process such as yeast performance. The companies will use Codexis' CodeEvolver™ directed evolution technology platform to improve Raizen's current process for producing ethanol made from sugar. Raizen produced 600 million gallons of ethanol in 2010.

Zeachem bags $40m USDA grant
Zeachem has been awarded part of a $40 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the commercialization of advanced “drop-in” biofuels as part of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance consortium. ZeaChem will lead R&D and demonstration trials for production of bio-based jet and diesel fuels and bio-based gasoline at its 250,000 gal/year integrated demo biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon. The first volumes of bio-based jet and diesel fuels will be produced in test quantities in 2013 and bio-based gasoline will follow in 2015.

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September 29, 2011

Weekly News Roundup

The blog apologizes for the lack of weekly news roundup in the past two weeks. Unfortunately, the blog is at the second-bottom of the chain between my day job at the magazine and night work at school. My friends and family will tell you my personal life is at the very bottom (violin starts playing now...)

I just finished my article on Japanese chemical companies and their renewable chemical strategies (this was really a tough one but thanks to Lux Research and Jim Lunt for providing some input, and Mitsubishi Chemical, Mitsui and Teijin for participating). The article is going to be published on October 24.

In the meantime, there were a lot (and I mean a lot!) of press announcements that came out this week. We will post a separate one on biofuels as well as about this new company called Renmatix, which had a press meeting and live webcast held in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

For now, here are our latest news roundup:

Plaxica bags £5m financing
UK-based bioplastic producer Plaxica has raised £5m ($7.8m) in equity funding from Imperial Innovations, Invesco Perpetual and NESTA Investments. Plaxica is said to be developing next generation polylactic acid (PLA) polymers and platform chemicals.

Siluria raises $20m financing
Siluria raised $20m for its series B financing led by UK-based Wellcome Trust and joining Siluria investors Alloy Ventures, ARCH Venture Parners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Altitude Life Science Ventures, Lux Capital and Presidio Ventures. Siluria uses waste methane gas as feedstock to produce fuels and chemicals.

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September 28, 2011

Amyris and Michelin in bio-isoprene

Okay, let's start with this one after numerous "green chemical-related" press releases (and webcasts) came out and still coming out this week - at a critical time when I'm chained to deadlines for ICIS Chemical Business (ICB)...such is life.  

Amyris is on fire as usual with various collaboration announcement but this one to me is a big news in the industrial commodity chemicals sector especially if a well-known rubber tire manufacturer such as Europe-based Michelin is involved.

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September 22, 2011

Elevance files for $100m IPO

A busy IPO (initial public offering) season this year as Illinois, US-based Elevance Renewable Sciences joined the ranks of Myriant, Genomatica, Gevo, Amyris, Solazyme, Codexis and Metabolix.

The company submitted its S-1 form to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) late Sept. 20 noting its intention to raise $100m on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol ERSI. The company incurred a deficit of $188.8m as of June 30 as it continues to invest in R&D, expand manufacturing capacity and build product lines.

A little bit of a background about Elevance, the company was formed in 2007 with $45m funding from US agribusiness Cargill and catalyst technology company Materia. Cargill is currently Elevance's major feedstock supplier (mainly plant-based oils such as palm, soybean and rapeseed oil). Materia supplies its ruthenium catalyst -- which can only be obtained from a limited number of producers in a limited number of geographic sites, according to the filing.

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September 21, 2011

First bio-EPDM rubber by Lanxess

I have been working on this week's news roundup when I came across Lanxess' news today about its planned bio-based EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene) monomer production in Brazil using sugarcane as feedstock for the ethylene component.

Braskem will supply the bio-ethylene via pipeline to Lanxess' EPDM plant in Triunfo, Brazil. Lanxess said this will be the first form of biobased EPDM rubber in the world. According to ICIS, EPDM is the third most-used synthetic rubber after styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and butadiene rubber.

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September 15, 2011

Is bio-based BDO for real?

This is an article from ICIS Chemical Business published on May 16 and written by ICIS colleague Brian Balboa. Brian handles the ICIS pricing report on US butanediol (BDO) and he was able to talk to his contacts in the industry about bio-BDO and what they think about its developments.


The debate over bio-BDO is likely to continue for some time yet
 Rex Features
One of the biggest questions coming out of the NPRA International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) in March this year was from the butanediol (BDO) market, regarding the emerging bio-BDO sector: "Is bio-BDO for real?" asked a BDO consumer on the sidelines of the IPC.

Although the development of a commercial-scale bio-BDO plant is still in the works, trade participants are still skeptical, and remain interested in how this may impact the market. "Would consumers be willing to pay a premium for bio-BDO?" one major BDO producer asked. A consumer reckoned no-one, "unless there was a directive to go green."

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PTTMCC picks BioAmber for exclusive succinic supply

Just like my recent interview with Japanese firm Mitsubishi Chemical (see ICB article for subscribers), I am hoping to get to know more about Thailand-based PTT Chemical (PTTCH) someday soon given their strategies within the renewable chemicals and bioplastic market.

The other day, Reuters put out a news article about PTTCH looking to buy a US-based polylactic acid (PLA) firm, possibly NatureWorks (who else in the US could it be??).

We will analyze more about this news in another post but first, yesterday, PTTCH's (Update 9/28: This should be PTT Group, which is a separate company from PTTCH. Darn it, I keep forgetting... ) PTT Group's joint venture with Mitsubishi Chemical PTTMCC Biochem Company announced that it has chosen BioAmber to exclusively supply PTTMCC with biosuccinic acid for its new 20,000 tonne/year polybutylene succinate (PBS) plant that will be built in Map Ta Phut (Rayong) starting next year.

The biodegradable plastic PBS is made from succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol (BDO). Mitsubishi Chemical currently produces PBS made from petroleum-based succinic acid and BDO in its 3,000 tonne/year pilot plant in Japan. Major applications for PBS are mulch films, packaging films and flushable hygiene products.

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September 13, 2011

Gevo update: Isobutanol lawsuit Round 2

Or is it round 3 now? It's hard to keep track of Butamax's and Gevo's back and forth bio-isobutanol lawsuit these days.

Gevo announced today that the the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) granted the company two patents on bio-isobutanol production. Gevo also filed a lawsuit against Butamax and its parent company DuPont of allegedly infringing Gevo's newly-issued patents.

Gevo said the lawsuit is based on Butamax's own publications describing their use of the technology that Gevo claimed to have invented first and now received the patents.

Gevo's patent 8,017,375, “Yeast Organism Producing Isobutanol at a High Yield” (PDC patent) focuses on the modification of yeast to produce isobutanol instead of ethanol. Patent 8,017,376, “Methods of Increasing Dihydroxy Acid Dehydratase Activity to Improve Production of Fuels, Chemicals, and Amino Acids” (“AFT Patent”) covers enzymatic steps on isobutanol production from yeast.

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September 9, 2011

Biofuel News Roundup

A follow-up to my Weekly News Roundup:

  • Neste Oil has launched a joint algae research program with the Marine Research Center at Finnish Environment Institute. The program is part of Neste Oil's efforts aimed at using algae oil as a raw material for producing NExBTL renewable diesel in the future.
  • Gevo and Mansfield Oil Company signed a commercial off-take deal where Mansfield will distribute isobutanol based fuel into the petroleum market. A 5-year contract will allow Mansfield to blend Gevo's isobutanol for its own use and be a distributor for Gevo's isobutanol. A 3-year contract covers a Mansfield subsidiary proving supply chain services that includes logistics management, customer service support, invoicing and billing services.
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Weekly News Roundup

It was a busy week, given the Labor Day holiday, school, Gevo's investor day meeting and preparing for my upcoming Japanese renewable chemicals article and cellulosic ethanol article for ICIS Chemical Business.

Plus, my bio-butanediol article will come out on Monday on ICB. Stay tune for that! Meanwhile, here are this week's news roundup which seems to center on clean technologies - probably the after effects of my Solyndra post....

Eastman expands phthalate-free plasticizers
Estman Chemical will expand its phthalate-free Benzoflex plasticizer line at the Kohtla-Jarve, Estonia site by an additional 11,000 tonnes.year, which is expected to be completed by the end of second quarter 2012. This is the facility's second expansion. Eastman also acquired plasticizer manufacturer Scandiflex do Brasil S.A. Industrias Quimicas. Scandiflex brings several complimentary non-phthalate products to Eastman's plasticizer portfolio.

BioSolar enters Asian PV supply
BioSolar entered into a sales rep agreement with ShinHa, a Korean firm representing large Asian photovoltaic panel manufacturers targeting the North American solar market. BioSolar said the US is not likely to be a major manufacturer of PV panels but North America is expected to be the fastest growing PV consumer market with annual growth rate of 31% in installations during 2011-2016.

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September 7, 2011

Solyndra and the debate on gov't funding

Sorry for the post delay this week. Work deadlines and school are bad combination.

This week, most of the green social media talk is on solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and it's bankruptcy filing. Solyndra was one of the biggest recipients of US government funding (around $527m to be exact according to a NY Times article). I remembered in 2008-2009, the company was also a darling of the venture capital world.

The debate these days is whether government funding, loans and subsidies are really that helpful - both for taxpayers and for technology start-ups, especially when US lawmakers are talking about cutting spending.

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September 2, 2011

Biofuel News Roundup

I did not want to make my previous biofuel post too long so I separated this, which are compilation of recent biofuel news from the past two weeks:

  • Honeywell's UOP begun construction of its biomass-based biofuel demonstration unit in Kapolei, Hawaii. The biorefinery is backed by a $25m US Department of Energy award. The plant is scheduled to begin production in 2012 and will be fully operational by 2014.
  • Petrobras and Sao Martinho plan to build a 700m liters/year ethanol plant through a new joint venture company Nova Fronteira Energia for 520.7m reais ($329m). The project will also expand Sao Martinho's crushing capacity at Boa Vista from 2.3m tonnes of sugar to 8m tonnes by 2014-2015 harvest.
  • Zeachem and Chrysler plans to form a strategic partnership to accelerate the development and market adoption of cellulosic ethanol.
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Bright biofuel future

I previously mentioned the US government's plan to invest up to $510m within the next three years as well as to partner with the private sector in producing advanced biofuels for use in military and commercial transportation.The Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Navy will collaborate with private firms to construct or retrofit several drop-in biofuel plants and refineries.

The agencies said the facilities will be located in geographically diverse locations ready for market access. The biofuels should also meet military specifications and that it will not have any significant impact on food-based agricultural commodity supply.

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September 1, 2011

BioAmber picks Ontario for new plant

I finally was able to get some questions answered regarding BioAmber's announcement of its new North American bio-succinic acid (and bio-butanediol) plant that will be located in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

The Sarnia plant will be operated by BioAmber's new subsidiary Bluewater Biochemicals, and will have initial capacity of 17,000 tonnes/year by 2013. This capacity will increase to 35,000 tonnes/year by 2014 and will then use next-generation yeast developed by Cargill.

BioAmber also plans by 2014 to have a 23,000 tonne/year capacity producing bio-BDO (and associated tetrahydrofuran and gamma butyrolactone) in the new facility using bio-succinic acid as feedstock. The company will use DuPont's technology in BDO production. If readers recall early this year, bio-succinic acid producer Myriant also had a partnership agreement with UK engineering firm Davy Process Technology for the use of their bio-succinic acid to produce BDO, THF and GBL.

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