December 29, 2011

Cereplast tightens European credit

In the renewable chemicals and bioplastic sectors, Europe has always been seen as the forefront of market commercialization given the region's strict regulatory efforts that opens the way for more carbon emission-reducing chemicals and materials.

However, the growing Eurozone crisis, heightened business uncertainty and inventory trimming in Europe might lessen enthusiasm for any renewable chemical investments and commercialization in the region. In fact, US bioplastic company Cereplast stated on Tuesday that it has already tightened customer credit terms  amid a worsening economic outlook in Europe.

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Beyond Solar: BP exits business

It has been more than a year when the green blog reported about the closing of BP Solar's manufacturing facility in Maryland, US. According to several news reports last week, BP finally admitted that it can't handle the solar market and told its staff of 100 employees worldwide that it will fold its solar business after  being in the market for 40 years.

According to Financial Times, BP Solar CEO Mike Petrucci wrote an internal email to staff last week explaining that it had finally realized it can't many anymore money from solar given the rapidly expanding low-cost solar panel manufacture in China.

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December 28, 2011

Coskata looking at bio-propylene

The blog normally does not cover IPOs (initial public offerings) filed by biofuel companies given that there are so many biofuel companies out there. But the one thing that caught the green blog's attention in their $100m IPO announcement is that the company defined itself as a technology leader in renewable fuels and bio-based chemicals.

Could it be that Coskata is expanding its expertise beyond cellulosic ethanol? Hence, we delve into their S-1 registration filed at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company did say that it is initially focusing on producing cellulosic ethanol and expected to begin construction of its first "Flagship" commercial-scale facility in Boligee, Alabama, next year. Phase 1 capacity of Flagship is 16m gal/year at an unsubsidized cash operating cost of less than $1.5/gal (assuming feedstock cost of $64/bone dry ton of softwood). According to Coskata, market price for ethanol as of December 9 was $2.71/gal.

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Growth jumps for green chemicals

I hope everybody had a great holiday weekend and for those who are still on vacation (like me!!), enjoy the brief rest.

The blog is working on a list of top posts of 2011 but it might take awhile given that the blog had almost 200 posts to look into. In the meantime, let's look at the longer-term future of the industry.

The blog had gathered several consulting reports about the bio-based chemicals sector and it seems all are in agreement that this industry will remain strong and that no bubble bursting are seen on the short-to-mid-term horizon (we hope so!)

According to Lux Research's recent report on bio-based chemicals and materials, this industry is expected to grow to $19.7bn in 2016 as its global capacity jumps 140%. Lux Research said that it has listed down 151 global facilities and their intended operational dates, products and capacities. These capacities are expected to climb to 9.2m tons in the next five years.

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December 22, 2011

More Coca-Cola announcement tidbits

Here are some of  "other" interesting information gathered from the Coca-Cola announcement last week about their plans for a 100% plant-based bottle packaging.

For those who are not familiar with PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, the resin is made from 30% MEG (monoethylene glycol) and 70% PTA  (purified terephthalic acid) by weight. Coca-Cola's PlantBottle packaging is currently made with sugar-based MEG and petroleum-based PTA.

Coca-Cola's VP of Commercial Product Supply Rick Frazier noted that the company had looked at over 30 technology companies in the past two years for renewable-based alternatives to PTA and settled with the three chosen ones -- Gevo, Avantium and Virent.  The three companies will work independently to develop their own bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based PTA but within the "guard rails" of Coca-Cola's sustainable packaging strategies and standards.
"We recognized we could gain speed in identifying the leading biotech companies with the biggest potential commercial solutions to develop 100% plant-based technology and accelerate these through funding versus trying to do it alone." - Frazier

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News Roundup

Finals has made me a grumpy green blogger yesterday but I just found out that I passed the semester course so all is well. In the meantime, I will try to do my best to post as much as I can before the year is out as I am starting my winter school program on the first week of January.

For starters, here are some of our recent news most from last week. I saw that Coskata has also filed an IPO last week so we will look into that in another post. Speaking of financing, watch out for my Renewable Chemicals investments 2012 outlook coming soon in January 2 on ICIS Chemical Business publication.

OriginOil forms biorefinery JV
Algae extraction developer, OriginOil, has co-founded a new joint venture (JV), to develop biorefineries serving U.S. and NATO military requirements for alternative fuels. The JV, Future Energy Solutions Unlimited, Inc. (FES), with its wholly owned Australian subsidiary, Alternate Energy Systems Pty Ltd (AES), plans to carry out bankable feasibility studies supporting project development and project delivery for diversified biofuel refining centers in strategic locations around the world. The Energime Group of Companies has given preliminary commitments to provide $1.5m in matching funds to AES and $3m to FES. The investments, to be finalized in early 2012, are intended to fund the planned bankable feasibility studies, leading to a key role for Energime in designing, building, operating and owning these refineries.

DuPont launches Sorona in India
DuPont will launch its renewable-based Sorona fibers for the Indian textile market. The business is organizing seminars in New Delhi and Bangalore to focus on applications developed by Indian mills and textiles companies. Partner mills, featuring Sorona® based products, including Arvind, Raymond UCO, KG Denim, Vardhman, Banswara Syntex, Suditi, Raymond Zambaiti, Precot Meridian and JCT.

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December 17, 2011

Finals week

Lights off for the blog for now as the green blogger prepares for final exams on Tuesday. Postings will be back Wednesday. I can't even shop this weekend. Darn!

December 15, 2011

Coca-Cola picks Gevo, Virent, Avantium

So we finally got an announcement from Coca-Cola this morning about their plans for a fully renewable-based PlantBottle packaging and picked VirentGevoAvantium as its new partners.

If I have superpowers, I could have predicted those three companies based on my June 15 posting on bio-PET update (check my headline very carefully). It's great to hear that these companies and the renewable chemicals industry in general are going to soon benefit on Coca-Cola's bioplastic initiative.

I will post more interesting tidbits about the Coca-Cola announcement but in the meantime, here is my article that I lifted on ICIS News  -- just don't tell my boss I cut and paste it as this is supposed to be under subscription ;-)

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December 14, 2011

Coca-Cola to announce PlantBottle partners

So I got home tonight from school (after an interesting exam) and guess what I found on my email? An invitation for Coca-Cola's announcement on Thursday about a partnership announcement regarding their next-generation PlantBottle packaging.

Of course I am super excited and hoping to get a slot for an interview with somebody from the press conference. There were no details about it but these words on the invitation stand out to me: Next-Generation and partner companies.

So the blog is assuming here that they will talk about not only possible multiple suppliers on the PlantBottle bio-PET supply chain [remember polyethylene terephthalate plastic is made of 30% monoethylene glycol (MEG) and 70% terephthalic acid (TPA) by weight] but Coca-Cola will probably announce which renewable chemical companies will bag the possibility of supplying the TPA component since the current renewable-based component of PlantBottle packaging comes only from sugar-based MEG.

For a background on Coca-Cola's PlantBottle packaging strategy, here's a recent article I wrote on ICIS Chemical Business focusing on my interview with Scott Vitters, general manager for the PlantBottle Packaging platform.

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December 13, 2011

Bio-jet fuel momentum soaring high

It seems like almost every week I've been seeing news about the use of biofuel in commercial airlines and I've even wrote a story about it on ICIS Chemical Business (link for subscribers only) when United Airlines announced its commercial demonstration flight from Texas to Chicago using 40% algae-derived jet fuel developed by Solazyme and refined by Honeywell's UOP.

According to, the first top five renewable jet fuel supply chain companies in terms of economic viability, scalability, and sustainability are as follows:

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December 12, 2011

Weekly News Roundup

Here's the blog's late news roundup (as usual). A couple of biofuel news that came out the past two weeks will be in a separate post.

Arkema buys bio-polyamide producer
French specialty chemical firm Arkema has acquired Chinese companies Hipro Polymers, a producer of biobased polyamide 10,10, and Casda Biomaterials, a producer castor oil-based sebacic acid which is used to manufacture polyamide 10,10. Both companies - which are predominantly owned by a joint venture between privately owned Chinese specialty chemical company Feixiang Chemicals and Bain Capital - report aggregate sales estimated at $230 M for 2011, and employ 750 people on two sites in China.

GlycosBio picks Toyo Engineering
Glycos Biotechnologies has chosen Toyo Engineering & Construction Sdn Bhd to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for its industrial biochemical that will be build in Johor, Malaysia, and scheduled to be completed in second quarter of 2013. GlycosBio's refinery will have initial capacity of up to 30,000 tonnes by 2014 and will subsequently scale up to 90,000 tonnes. Target biochemicals from the plant will include isoprene and ethanol from crude glycerin.

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Introducing P2 Science

Speaking of investing, our good friend Neil Burns and Connecticut, US-based Elm Street Ventures recently invested in newly formed company called P2 Science, which will focus on the development and manufacture of a new class of high performance carbohydrate-based surfactants called C-glycosides (CGs).

According to the company's website, the surfactants are being positioned primarily as co-surfactants and can enhance the performance properties of primary surfactants such as linear alkylbenezene sulfonic acid (LAS), sodium alkyl (ether) sulfates (AS/AES), alcohol ethoxylates (AE) and similar products.

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December 11, 2011

$355m venture firm for green chems

As I am preparing for my incoming article on ICIS Chemical Business about renewable chemicals investment 2012 outlook, I came across this news about Warburg Pincus investing up to $355m in an new private equity firm called First Green Partners based in Minneapolis.

The new firm will be led by Doug Cameron - ex-Cargill official and former chief science officer at Khosla Ventures, and Tom Erickson, co-founder and general partner of venture capital firm BlueStream Ventures. I briefly got introduced to Mr. Cameron early this year during the Infocast biobased chemicals conference that he chaired in San Diego, California. Hopefully, we will soon know more about First Green Partners as I am setting up an interview with Mr. Cameron for my January 2 article.

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December 9, 2011

Sweet and salty Montana deicers

Apologies for the post absence, December is a critical exam season and the magazine is also taking up most of my time these days. Hopefully next week will be a little better in terms of posting.

Let me start with the news this week from Rivertop Renewables about their sugar-based corrosion inhibitors that will be used this winter in liquid deicers by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). According to the press release, MDT has contracted the company for a 110,000 gallons of the bio-based corrosion inhibitors trademarked "Headwaters" to be mixed with MDT's salt brine deicers to prevent corrosion of bridges and vehicles.

December 5, 2011

OPINION: A Gevo Case Study

This insight is by Martin Monroe, a strategist with over 20 years of work experience and a unique, advanced education in both management (PhD, MBA) and technology (MS biotechnology, BS Chem. Engr.).

He has been a strategy consultant to a major petrochemical firm, advised CEOs and Boards of small businesses, and twice been a CEO of small, tech-based start-ups. He previously held increasingly responsible positions in logistics, finance, marketing, and purchasing during 11 years at Exxon Chemical Americas HQ.

During his 7 years at three research universities, Mr. Monroe became a published scholarly author, a presenter at major scholarly conferences, and an invited speaker. Mr. Monroe has also taught 30 sections of undergrads, professionals, and MBA students across a broad range of management subject areas (Strategy, OT, Project Mgmt, Chg. Mgmt, OB, HRM).

This might be the blog's last solicited opinion piece for 2011 so I hope this will be an interesting read for you.

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December 2, 2011

Getting to know Renmatix

This post is a little bit difficult for me to do given my extremely little knowledge about sugar chemistry and its industry. I'm also not familiar with the sugar market compared to my 10-year background in the vegetable oils and animal fats industry.

But with everybody talking about sugar in the renewable chemicals sector, the blog might as well get to know Pennsylvania, US-based cellulosic sugar producer Renmatix a little bit better. According to their website, the 3-year old start-up company, stealthily funded by Kleiner Perkins, was formerly called Sriya Innovations and its current name is now derived from RENewable MATerials to show its commitment to this industry.

Renmatix claimed itself to be the current lowest-cost producer of cellulosic sugar. In September, the company unveiled its technology platform Plantrose process that uses supercritical hydrolysis, which Renmatix claimed can produce cheaper sugars than ever before from non food-derived feedstock (specifically woody biomass) for use in biofuel and chemical applications.

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