January 30, 2012

Showa Denko picks Myriant for succinic

This news came out last week but I was waiting to tie this with my bio-succinic acid article that was just published today on ICIS Chemical Business.

According to Myriant's press release, the company has been chosen by Japanese chemical firm Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) to be its global supplier of bio-succinic acid. SDK will use biosuccinic acid for the production of high-performance biodegradable polybutylene succinate (PBS), a key polymer used in the production of bioplastics.

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Bioplastic News Roundups

As I've said before this post, too much news clogging my draft box and it's just the first month of the year. By the way, I will start working on a bioplastic article for ICIS Chemical Business' green chemicals issue. I just wondered what particular topic readers would like to read about bioplastics.

Let me know!

Cereplast new hybrid resins
Cereplast launched its next generation Hybrid Resins, an expansion of its Biopropylene PP-based resin product offering through new grades, Hybrid 102D and 105D. The resins replace up to 50% of the petroleum content in traditional plastic products with biobased materials such as starches. The new grades Hybrid 102D and Hybrid 105D are both injection molding grades, a heating and cooling manufacturing process in which the material is molded in different shapes.

DaniMer Scientific gets certification
DaniMer Scientific's ReNew packaging and film resins have been officially certified as compostable by Vincotte International. DaniMer’s OK Compost certified resins are both compostable and biodegradable. Renew Film Resins are specifically designed for the efficient conversion and production of: disposable shopping bags, compostable bags, odor barrier packaging products and agricultural mulch film, among others.

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January 29, 2012

Biofuel News Roundup

Too much news piling my draft box....

US Biodiesel breaks 1bn gal mark
The US biodiesel industry reached a key milestone by producing more than 1bn gallons of fuel in 2011, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last year, 1.1bn gallons were produced exceeding the 800m gallon-target required under the EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard. Previous record production was 690m gallons in 2008.

Fiberight to build waste-based biofuels plant
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has partnered with Fiberight to build a 6m gal/year advanced biofuel plant in Blairstown, Iowa, which will start in the first half of 2013. The USDA will invest $25m and Fiberight $20m for the plant's construction. Fiberight has developed a targeted fuel extraction process to cost-effectively convert municipal solid waste into cellulosic biofuel and energy. Fiberight has partnered with Novozymes for the use of enzyme catalysts for the technology.

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Semi-Monthly News Roundup

The blog will still try to do a weekly news roundup but for now here are some of the news that came out the past two weeks:

Genomatica licenses PROESA
Genomatica has obtained exclusive worldwide rights to the PROESA process from Beta Renewables for butanediol (BDO) production from biomass through any fermentation-based process. The companies plan to produce biomass-based BDO at demonstration-scale in 2012 at Beta Renewable's facility in Rivalta Scrivia, Italy.

Verdezyne secures patent
Verdezyne has been granted a US patent number 8,093,037, titled "Engineered microorganisms with enhanced fermentation activity" for the company's engineering of a yeast which incorporates xylose isomerase, a key enzyme in the fermentation of certain pentose (C5) sugars to ethanol and other products.

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January 27, 2012

Renewables funding going strong

It looks like a good start for 2012 with several companies closing some good funding this month.

New Zealand-based LanzaTech announced this week that it has bagged a total of US $55.8m in its series C round of financing led by the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund. New investors include PETRONAS Technology Ventures Sdn Bhd and Dialog Group. Existing investors such as Khosla Ventures, Qiming Venture Partners and K1W1 -- I like this name =) -- participated in the round as well. LanzaTech said the compay raised a total of more than $85m to date.

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January 26, 2012

In Memoriam: Arthur R. Kavaler

Last week, the staff of ICIS Chemical Business received news of the death of Arthur R. Kavaler, former editor-in-chief and publisher of Chemical Market Reporter (1972-1990). ICB's current editor-in-chief Joseph Chang has written this tribute (below), which will be published next week.

I did not have the privilege of working under Mr. Kavaler when I started at CMR in 2000 but during my stint in covering the fats and oils market, I had the pleasure of communicating with his daughter Andrea Kavaler, who is currently executive vice president of consulting firm LMC International.

I am sure Mr. Kavaler will be missed by so many people in the chemicals community.

For those who remembered Arthur Kavaler, a memorial book online is accessible in this link until February 19. You can also directly contact Andrea at this email address: akavaler@lmc-ny.com.

A tribute to former CMR publisher Kavaler

Arthur R. Kavaler, who served for 46 years as reporter, editor and eventually publisher and editor-in-chief of Chemical Market Reporter - one of the three predecessor publications incorporated into ICIS Chemical Business - died at the age of 91 on January 18, 2012.

Kavaler was a large personality and wonderful raconteur with a zest for life, notes his daughter Andrea Kavaler, who works as a consultant for
global agribusiness and bio-based chemicals consultancy LMC International. A probing reporter and an editor with unwavering convictions, he made a major impact on chemical industry journalism.

In 1947, Kavaler joined Schnell Publishing as market editor of the Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter (OPD). He was appointed news editor in 1949, managing editor in 1952 and editor-in-chief in 1969. In 1972, he became president of Schnell and publisher and CEO of OPD, which was renamed Chemical Marketing Reporter (then again later renamed Chemical Market Reporter). He remained editor-in-chief until his retirement in 1990.

The Kavaler Award was given to leading chemical CEOs from 1990-1999, including Jon Huntsman, Sr., founder, chairman and CEO of Huntsman, and Frank Popoff, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical.

Kavaler's reputation preceded him - and it also followed him well after he left the company. While I never had the privilege of meeting Kavaler, having joined Chemical Market Reporter in 1997, countless people I met at industry events asked about the former editor, and this continued on for years.

Today we celebrate his achievements in advancing chemical journalism and leading a great industry publication - one whose impact on the chemical markets certainly lives on in ICIS Chemical Business.

Joseph S. Chang
Global Editor
ICIS Chemical Business

Bio-polyamide developments on the rise

The nylon market will soon see more biobased polyamides developments with this recent partnership announcement between France-based Rhodia and the Netherlands-based Avantium.

Rhodia, like its polyamide competitor France-based Arkema, has been developing biopolyamides for as long as the blog can remember. Rhodia is also now a newly acquired business of Belgium-based Solvay and if readers remember, Avantium had started developing bio-based engineering plastics with Solvay last year. 

January 25, 2012

DSM partners with POET on ethanol

Is it just the blog's imagination or are there seem to be more and more chemical companies venturing into advanced ethanol production, the recent one being DSM?

Let's see our list here:
  • DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol - No need to introduce DuPont in this case. The company's cellulosic ethanol business is planning to build a 27.5m gal/year cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, which is expected to start in late 2013. 
  • INEOS Bio - the advanced biofuel technology business of Switzerland-based petrochemical company INEOS. Through its joint-venture project INEOS New Planet BioEnergy (INPB), the company plans to start commercial production of cellulosic ethanol this year in a 24,000 tonne/year biorefinery in Vero Beach, Florida.
  • Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G) - this Italy-based polymer company formed a joint venture called Beta Renewables with TPG Capital. Beta Renewables is building a 13m gal/year cellulosic ethanol in Crescentino, Italy which is expected to start this year. Novozymes is supplying the enzymes for this project.
  • Celanese - planning for possibly 3 greenfield coal-to-ethanol production units in Nanjing, China with a capacity of 600,000 tones/year expected by mid-2013. Celanese is also looking into producing coal from natural gas here in the US and is building a technology development unit for ethanol production at its facility in Clear Lake, Texas.
  • Sud-Chemie - a technology business of Switzerland-based Clariant, the company has been building its 1,000 tonne/year cellulosic ethanol in Straubing, Germany, which is supposed to have already started by the end of 2011.
  • Dow Chemical - I am not sure if Dow and its partner Mitsui will sell sugarcane-based ethanol itself as the companies plan to use if for plastic feedstock but the partnership is currently constructing ethanol mill in Brazil, which will deliver 240m liters/year of ethanol by the second quarter of 2013.
And now...we have DSM forming a joint venture with US ethanol producer POET called POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels. It is actually not surprising that DSM will venture into this path given the company's enzymes business. Major enzymes producer in the biofuel field today includes DSM, DuPont (via the newly acquired Danisco/Genencor), Novozymes,Verenium, Codexis, Syngenta...who else did I miss?

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January 20, 2012

Bio-butanol merger

It does seems like more and more M&A's and buyouts are emerging in the renewable chemicals sector. Eastman bought bio-butanol developer TetraVitae Bioscience, Amyris bought Draths, PTT Global Chemical bought 50% of NatureWorks, and now bio-butanol developers Green Biologics (based in the UK) and butylfuel (based in the US) decided to merge their companies which will operate under the Green Biologics name headquartered in Abingdon, UK.

The blog is not really that familiar with butylfuel™ LLC but it described itself as a biorefining and industrial biotechnology company focused on producing high value C4 chemicals, fuels and energy from renewable carbon resources.

GBL's UK pilot plant

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Genomatica, Novamont 1st BDO plant

So many news coming out today! We'll start with this plant announcement from US bio-butanediol (BDO) developer Genomatica and Italian bioplastic company Novamont (although this news has already leaked out a couple of days ago).

The companies announced last year its joint venture plans for commercially producing bio-BDO in Europe using Genomatica's technology but today, they have disclosed more information about the JV. Novamont will have a majority of the equity in the JV and will finance the JV's first commercial plant operation.

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January 19, 2012

Glycerin glimpse in REG's IPO

Do you know why the blog is interested in this $100m initial public offering (IPO) by America's largest biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group (REG)?

Because aside from biodiesel, REG is also a major producer of crude glycerin, the chemical by-product of biodiesel manufacturing (10:1 ratio meaning a 10 lb biodiesel will yield 1 pound crude glycerin). Crude glycerine is usually used in the animal feed market or can be refined or purified for higher-value applications such as in pharmaceuticals, soaps, cosmetics, food and beverages. In fact there are probably over 1,500 different uses of glycerol, according to industry players.Glycerol is structurally analogous to sugars.

January 18, 2012

Bio-methionine developments

France-based METabolic EXplorer (METEX) and Roquette announced last week that the companies are now initiating an industrial engineering study on the production of a 100% bio-based L-Methionine, which the companies have been developing for several years.

Methionine is an essential amino acid mainly used in animal feeds. According to METEX, the amino acid is currently made from propylene via a synthetic chemical process. The global methionine market for animal feed is around $2.85bn for 850,000 tonnes last year, METEX reported.

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Penford, Novomer in starch PP

This news has been out for days now but Penford and Novomer just released its formal announcement today on their partnership to develop and commercialize packaging materials made from the combination of starch and poplypropylene carbonate thermoplastic polymer (which is composed of nearly 50% by weight waste carbon dioxide developed by Novomer.

The companies said the starch-PPC composites will yield "low cost, environmentally sustainable packaging polymers" suitable for the global packaging materials market.

January 13, 2012

Metabolix, ADM cut bioplastic ties

I guess when US agribusiness major Archer Daniels Midland wants to cut costs, they really mean cutting costs and that include 1000 job layoffs (3% of the company's workforce) and dissolving its bioplastic joint venture Telles LLC with Metabolix as the JV's capital costs were more than anticipated, commercialization of Telles' bioplastic product took longer than expected, and projected financial returns are "too uncertain," according to ADM.

Telles, which was created in July 2006, is on the verge of a 1m pound commercialization milestone for its polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastic, Mirel, expected in March. Customers are currently testing Mirel, which were being produced by ADM Polymer, the subsidiary of ADM, at the newly constructed 110m lb/year (50KT/Y) Clinton, Iowa, plant.

According to Metabolix, Telles has ongoing sales activities primarily in the US and Europe working approximately with 100 customers and prospects -- 57 active and 26 repeat buyers.

Unfortunately for Metabolix (and the company said this is an unexpected news), ADM has now decided to evaluate other commercially viable uses for the Clinton facility leaving Metabolix in the commercial lurch although ADM said it will continue to provide PHA fermentation services for Metabolix during a 3-year period following the termination of the JV.

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January 11, 2012

Ethanol - Zeachem's highest margin product

Zeachem's 250,000 gal/year demo biorefinery
Why focus on ethanol? This has always been a question that lingers in my mind every time companies such Zeachem and even Gevo, LanzaTech and Amyris talk about their activity progress in the biofuel space.

Well, I bluntly asked this question to Zeachem CEO and president Jim Imbler, and his answer is just what the title says: "Given the subsidies for ethanol right now in the marketplace, this is our highest margin product."

Colorado-based Zeachem can now produce sugar-based acetic acid and ethyl acetate with the startup of the core operations at its 250,000 gal/year biorefinery facility in Boardman, Oregon. The intermediate chemicals can be used for applications including paint, lacquers and solvents, or the ethyl acetate can go through further processing (via hydrogenation) to manufacture ethanol at the back-end of the biorefinery.

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Sasol sells German oleo plant to Cremer

Sasol's Witten, Germany, plant
Can you tell that I love getting information about the oleochemical (lipid-based chemicals) market? The global oleochemicals market is not that big but there sure are a lot of activities going on in this space!

After the sale of US-based Vantage Specialty Chemicals to another private equity firm The Jordan Company, today, South Africa-based petrochemical firm Sasol announced that it will sell its oleochemical production site and associated oleochemical business in Witten, Germany, to family-owned Cremer Oleo GmbH.

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January 10, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

What the blog is currently working on for ICIS Chemical Business is a story on succinic acid. This market is very small but people are wondering whether this chemical will have a big impact in the market in the future.

Unfortunately, the two big producers -- Myriant and BioAmber -- are currently under IPO so the blog is not sure if they can talk to the press. We are hoping BASF, DSM and other interested parties will participate in this one...crossing our fingers!

For now, here are this week's news roundup. By the way, I am also working on a blog post about my recent interview with Zeachem...interesting information about their new biorefinery operations in Oregon...

Gevo sells IDGs to Lanld O'Lakes
Gevo signed on off-take and marketing agreement with land O'Lakes Purina Feed for the sale of isobutanol distillers grains (IDGs) from Gevo's isobutanol facility at Luverne, Minnesota. Land O'Lakes Purina Feed will be the exclusive marketer of Gevo's isobutanol dried and modified wet distillers grains for the animal feed market. The companies will also work together to explore opportunities to upgrade the material for special value-added applications in feed markets.

Virent bags five US patents
Virent has been issued five new US patents covering aspects of its catalytic BioForming platform. Patents 8,053,615, 8,017,818 and 7,977,517, cover the production of various liquid fuels and chemicals related to its partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and its ongoing partnership with Royal Dutch Shell. The additional two patents, 7,767,867 and 7,989,664, are directed to the production of a range of other industrial chemicals and chemical intermediates using Virent’s BioForming® process.

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January 8, 2012

Feedstock news galore

I used to cover the agbiotech market where BASF, DuPont via Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow Chemical via its Dow Agrosciences business, Syngenta and Monsanto where at each other's throat (I think they still are) competing to have the highest oil-yielding oilseed; the most drought-resistant and insect-resistant corn, soybeans, wheat, and other food crops; and developing crops that use less fertilizer.

This year seems to start the quest for non-food crops for use in biofuels and biochemicals.

DuPont said it is collaborating with NexSteppe to develop advanced feedstocks for biofuels, biopower and and biobased products. The collaboration will focus on the development of new sweet sorghum and high biomass sorgum hybrids. DuPont also made an equity investment in NexSteppe (amount undisclosed).

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January 6, 2012

Vantage Specialty Chemicals sold

FYI for our oleochemical friends: Vantage Specialty Chemicals, the largest oleochemical producer in North America, is now owned by the Jordan Company (TJC), a private equity firm.

Vantage's former owner, H.I.G. Capital sold the company for an undisclosed sum. ICIS actually broke this news in December 7 (subscription only) after several sources in the financial community noted in an interview that H.I.G. put Vantage in a formal auction process and that "it was a food fight among private equity firms".

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January 4, 2012

Venture investments still strong in 2012

It looks like another great start within the sector as indicated by this news about BASF investing $30m in Renmatix.

As mentioned in previous posts, I had been working on an article for ICIS Chemical Business (subscription required...sorry) about 2011 overview and 2012 outlook in renewable chemicals investments, and this year, it looks like the presence of venture corporations (as compared to venture capital groups) have been increasing in numbers looking for renewable chemicals/feedstock deals.

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BASF invests in Renmatix

Just like Coca-Cola's announcement of partnering with Gevo, Virent and Avantium, the renewable chemicals world take notice when chemical giants such as BASF, Dow Chemical and DuPont announced further investments in this field.

BASF's $30m investment in US cellulosic sugar developer Renmatix signals the German chemical firm's intent to expand its feedstock source especially for its renewable chemicals and materials portfolio.

BASF has been greatly expanding its renewable chemicals portfolio over the last few years especially in the bioplastic arena. BASF, by the way, is one of the top 4 global BDO suppliers and getting a cellulosic sugar-based BDO is probably one of BASF's agenda.

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    January 3, 2012

    LanzaTech bought Range Fuels

    As I am writing my second post of the year, we got this breaking news from @GiantMiscanthus on twitter that LanzaTech has bought Range Fuels for $5.2m.

    LanzaTech's CEO Jennifer Holmgren confirmed to the blog today that they have acquired Range Fuels via an auction. I'm sure we will hear more from LanzaTech on what they're planning to do with the company's assets.

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    January 1, 2012

    First 2012 post: OPXBio update

    Happy New Year!!! The blog wishes everyone a prosperous 2012!

    In my culture, we have this tradition that whatever you did in the first day of January is what you're mostly going to do throughout the year so maybe blogging today will make me more blog-productive throughout 2012. Crossing my fingers!

    We'll ring the new year with this update from OPX Biotechnologies. This was my last interview for 2011 and my apologies to OPXBio for being so late in posting this. The green blogger was able to talk to CEO Chas Eggert - after doing his financial rounds in New York City =) and I was able to get new information especially the company's plans to diversify its product portfolio into the fatty acid and acrylamide sectors.

    But let's start first with their recent financial round in September where the company was able to raised $41.2m in private equity financing. Investors now include Wolfensohn & Company, X/Seed, Altira Group, Braemar Energy Ventures, DBL Investors, MDV and US Renewables Group.

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