May 30, 2012

ICIS 2012 Innovation Awards

ICIS is now eliciting entries for this year's Innovation Awards.

Now in its ninth year, the ICIS Innovation Awards receive high-profile press coverage in ICIS Chemical Business and beyond. This year, were are pleased to announce sponsorship support from Dow Corning, Bayer MaterialScience, Shell Chemicals, U.S. Chemicals and CRA.

There are five categories to consider:
· Best Product (or process) Innovation
· Best Business Innovation
· Best Innovation by an SME
· Best Innovation for Sustainability
· Innovation with Best Environmental Benefit.

You can submit your entries and find more information at the ICIS Innovation Awards website:

By the way, the Best Innovation for Sustainability was introduced just last year. Entries in this category should illustrate innovative ways of making sustainability a key part of a company’s overall business approach and strategy.

All winners will feature in a special 16-page supplement to ICIS Chemical Business in October. You can see last year’s publication here:

Deadline is July 2, 2012. Good luck!

Pactiv compostable food tray

I am currently eating my lunch when I noticed the logo of my food's packaging and it said EarthChoice by Pactiv.

Given my curiosity, I immediately googled it, and lo and behold, the container (which I really like by the way), is made from NatureWorks' Ingeo bioplastic.

Pactiv launched its EarthChoice line in May 2010. More information on this link.

May 29, 2012

Big green chemical news

I set aside some of the news that came my way via email from Gevo, Segetis, Genomatica, LS9 and Solazyme.
Last week, Gevo announced that it has started the world's first commercial-scale corn-based isobutanol production at its 22m gal/year ethanol facility in Luverne, Minnesota, which was retrofitted to produce 18m gal/year of isobutanol. Gevo's CEO Patrick Gruber said [in an interview] that they expect the facility to even produce more than the target 18m gpy capacity.
Gevo's goal is to produce biobased isobutanol at a run rate of 1m gpy by year-end 2012 and at full capacity by year-end 2013. Gevo will start shipping the product to Sasol - where the two companies have a 3-year supply contract -- via railcars. Gruber said Gevo is maintaining 2012 target price for its bio-isobutanol at $3.50-4/gal.
More on my interview with Gevo at this link for ICIS news subscribers.
Speaking of operation start-up, LS9 also announced recently that it will host a grand opening ceremony at its Okeechobee, FL, demonstration facility on June 12, which has a 135,000 liter fermentation vessel.
The facility was retrofitted early this month and is expected to begin operation in the third quarter of 2012. For more on LS9 products, you can check them out on my previous post.
LS9 also announced that it has received $4.5m from the Florida Opportunity Fund's (FOF) Clean Energy Investment program. The Okeechobee facility will be used to generate large commercial samples for testing and product qualification by key partners and prospective customers, and to test and optimize new process conditions.
According to the company, it envisions the plant to be a long-term demonstration facility for all current and future products, with biodiesel being the first product at the facility.
For Segetis, the company announced on May 21 that it has expanded its collaboration with vinyl producer Georgia Gulf where the company can offer a new flexible vinyl compound based on Segetis' Javelin technology bioplasticizers.
The Segetis 100% bio-based plasticizers are built on cellulosic-based levulinic ketals and said to be compatible across a wide loading range, highly efficient with excellent permanence and bring faster processing speeds and elevated temperature performance. All Segetis plasticizers reportedly bring low vapor pressure and low extractables, and they are broadly miscible with many resin families.
Georgia Gulf has begun to introduce the new flexible compounds to manufacturers of toys and decorative construction materials, and the company continues to develop compounds for a growing range of applications.
In Solazyme's announcement, the company also expanded its collaboration with Dow Chemical and both have entered a contingent off-take agreement where Dow will purchase from Solazyme all of its requirements of algae-based oils for use in dielectric fluid applications through 2015 as long as Solazyme has the ability to supply such oils within agreed specifications and in certain terms and conditions of the sale.
Solazyme and Dow also stepped into their Phase 2 Joint Development Agreement, which includes accelerated commercialization timelines based on Solazyme's rapid progress in the production of tailored algal oils. The expanded deal enables additional application development work to be conducted by Dow, due to Solazyme's accelerated ability to scale up their tailored algal oil feedstocks.
Consumption of Solazyme's algal oil feedstocks, according to the company, is expected to significantly exceed the minimum estimated volumes of 8.5m gallons (29,000 metric tons) starting in the second half of 2013 and through 2015. The offtake agreement contemplates that final pricing for the oil will be linked to certain items including Solazyme's sugar-based feedstock costs.
Finally, Genomatica announced on May 14 that it has resolved its ongoing litigation with Evolugate LLC which alleged trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract against Genomatica.
The Florida litigation was dismissed May 3, 2012. The federal litigation was dismissed May 7, 2012.
As for my interview with LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren, she noted that the company is planning to commercially produce their carbon monoxide-based 2,3 butanediol (BDO) by the end of 2014, and CO-based ethanol by the end of 2013.
In the old days, Holmgren said 2,3 BDO was used as a feedstock for 1,3 butadiene for synthetic rubber during the world war II, but was abandoned afterward in favor of more cost-effective naphtha-based 1,3 BD.
LanzaTech said they are able to economically separate 2,3 BDO in their pilot facility in New Zealand. The chemical intermediate can then be thermo-catalytically converted into methyl ethyl ketones or1,3 BD.
"We've done quite a bit of work - but have more to do. If we are right -- since we'll be using our same organism and reactor that we use to produce ethanol -- we could commercialize very, very quickly. That's why we are excited about this," Holmgren said.
More on my interview with LanzaTech on ICIS news (requires subscription):

Weekly News Roundup

I hope US readers had a great 3-day weekend. I sure did enjoy mine =). Unfortunately, given that ICIS' production is based in the UK and next week is the Queens Jubilee where my colleagues will have 2 days off, we are now scrunched to file earlier this week so you might not hear too much from the blog until Friday.
I am also starting to work on my ICB article about bio-based polyamides so this should be interesting.
Here are last week's news roundup. By the way, I had a great conversation with LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren and Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber last week. I filed my stories on ICIS news but I'm trying to see if the blog can steal and post them here. Stay tune.
INVISTA's energy-efficient nylon
Nylon polymer producer INVISTA has developed an energy-efficient process for the production of adiponitrile (ADN), a key raw material for nylon 6,6. The company said it also virtually eliminates benzene from the production process. Other benefits of the new ADN technology includes improved product yields, lower CO2 emissions, enhanced process stability and reduced capital intensity. INVISTA plans to deploy the technology and now has the option of installing it at its existing facilities in Orange and Victoria, Texas, in addition to a plant INVISTA is constructing in China.
DSM invests in innovations lab
DSM has invested EUR100m in three new R&D facilities in Delft and Sittard-Geleen, the Netherlands, over the next two years focusing on biotechnological and bioprocessing research in Delft and high performance materials in Sittard-Geleen. DSM is also a partner with CSM/Purac and the Delft University of Technology in the recently opened Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) on the DSM site in Delft. The BPF is an open facility in which other companies, universities, institutes, etc. can conduct their upscaling research for bio-processes.
BASF Venture invests in China
BASF Venture Capital GmbH has invested $5m in the China Environment Fund (CEF) IV, L.P., which focuses on clean technology managed by Tsing Capital. Tsing Capital, established in 2001, is the first fund manager investing in Chinese cleantech and environment related companies with an aggregate of assets under management over $600 million. China Environment Fund invests in portfolio companies across China in areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, environ­mental protection, new materials, sustainable transportation, smart grids, sustainable agriculture and cleaner production.
Lignol Energy joins Oak Ridge
Lignol Energy, a technology company in the advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals sector, has become a member of the Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium based in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Consortium is composed of some 40 organizations with a common interest in the development and commercial deployment of new carbon fiber materials made with a non-polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor. Oak Ridge will soon complete construction of the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTC), which will include a pilot plant capable of producing up to 25 tons per year of new carbon fiber materials from several different precursors, including lignin, which Lignol manufactures.
DuPont partners with Bio-Botanica
DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products Company has partnered with Bio-Botanica® Inc. in creating a new line of botanical extracts called ZeaBasics™. The products, manufactured by Bio-Botanica®, feature the proprietary ingredient Zemea® propanediol, a 100% biobased ingredient made from corn sugar through fermentation and developed for use in the cosmetics and personal care market.
Micro-algae institute launched in France
The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has launched GreenStars, in collaboration with 45 partners from public research, SMEs, multinationals, local authorities and competitive clusters, to focus on becoming one of the top global research institute worldwide in the field of micro-algae biorefinery within the next 5-10 years. The institute has a budget of EUR160m for 10 years of which 20% will come from public grants. GreenStars expects to have industrial prototypes as soon as 2016.
The world's first ethanol-based cooking fuel
CleanStar has opened its 2m liters/year ethanol-based cooking fuel facility in Mozambique's Sofala Province, using surplus cassava supplied by local farmers. CleanStar Mozambique is a company formed in 2010 by enzymes producer Novozymes and CleanStar ventures. CleanStar has started pre-sales of its NDZiLO cookstove and cooking fuel products through its company-owned shop network, which is being expanded across the city in preparation for full launch later this year. The fuel is said to be an alternative to using charcoal.
Ingeo bioplastic cradle to cradle certified
NatureWorks' Ingeo™ biopolymer is reportedly the first product of its kind to become Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Silver by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The certification is a multi-attribute program that assesses products for safety to human and environmental health, design for future use cycles, and sustainable manufacturing processes. The program provides guidelines to help businesses implement the Cradle to Cradle® framework, which focuses on using safe materials that can be disassembled and reused as technical nutrients or composted as biological nutrients.
Global biodiesel to reach $64bn by 2017
The global biodiesel market has experienced robust growth over the last five years and is expected to continue its momentum, reaching $64bn by 2017 with a CAGR of 19% over the next five years, according to Lucintel, a global management consulting and market research firm. The growth driver in biodiesel usage is not only being generated in Europe but the Rest of the World(ROW) and Asia Pacific (APAC) are expected to experience tremendous growth in biodiesel supply and demand by 2017, driven primarily by public policy support.
And in ICIS News (requires subscription):
Butamax Advanced Biofuels has been granted a patent in the US for producing isobutanol from recombinant micro-organisms on a commercial scale.
Taiwan's China Man-Made Fiber Corp (CMMFC) plans to change the feedstock for its monoethylene glycol (MEG) production to bio-based ethylene from the current naphtha-based ethylene in June.
Rhodia plans to build a bio-based solvents plant at its Paulinia site in Sao Paulo, southeast Brazil, and is also studying a project in Asia.
The US Commerce Department has announced anti-dumping duties (ADDs) on photovoltaic (PV) products from China, ranging from 31.14% to 249.96%.

May 24, 2012

Uhde expands into PBS processing

Some of the blog's readers might be already familiar with biodegradable polymer polybutylene succinate (PBS) if they have been following developments within the biobased succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol (BDO). PBS available in the market is currently manufactured using petrochemical-based succinic acid and BDO.
European engineering company Uhde Inventa-Fischer announced last week that it is now offering to build facilities that can produce at least 40,000 tonnes/year of renewable-based PBS (can be completely or partially bio-based) using Uhde's patented energy-efficient process reactors under the trademark ESPREE and DISCAGE.  

Uhde's ThyssenKrupp business has also developed a bio-based succinic acid processing technology in collaboration with US-based producer Myriant. 

The companies confirmed that it is currently building a pilot plant in Leuna, Germany, for producing succinic acid from glucose. The pilot plant is expected to start in the third quarter of 2012.

Uhde said more details will soon be announced and when an ICIS colleague tried to contact Myriant, a spokesperson noted that they will make an announcement regarding their collaboration with Uhde in 6-8 weeks. The blog previously reported the pilot plant capacity is somewhere around 5,000 tonnes/year.
The green blog has been keenly following activities within the PBS market and according to Mitsubishi Chemical, which is one of the very few PBS producers out there, the global market is currently at 5,000-6,000 tonnes/year. This is expected to grow to 50,000 tonnes/year in the next five years, according to Mitsubishi Chemical.
Aside from Mitsubishi Chemical, current PBS producers include Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), Samsung Fine Chemical, several Chinese firms such as Kingfa Science & Technology, Zhejiang Hangzhou Xinfu Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Hanqing Hexing Chemical Co. Ltd., and China New Materials.
According to this April article from Plastics News, China New Materials is planning to start a 55m lb/year (25,000 tonnes/year) PBS plant in Zibo City, Shandong, but did not mention any time frame. The company is currently producing its own petroleum-based BDO.
China New Materials is said to be looking to sell its petroleum-based PBS to US plastic processors.
Kingfa Science & Technology just started its new 66m lb/year petroleum-based PBS co-adipate (PBSA) facility in Zhuhai last year in August, and is said to be planning to add 132m lb/year capacity. The green blog's sources indicated that the new capacity could probably be online by October.
Plastics News noted that Kingfa's PBSA products are mostly exported to Europe to make shopping bags, trash bags, toys and food-service products.
Xinfu Pharmaceutical said it has PBS production capacity of 28.7m lbs/year and sells half of it to Europe. According to Plastics News' article, Xinfu mentioned US PBS sales are less than 220m lbs or 90,000 tonnes -- but this might be an error (probably just 22m lbs or 10,000 tonnes) since estimated global PBS production is lower than this figure. (Unless Xinfu is including PBS blends??)
Within the biobased PBS activities, SDK has partnered with Myriant this year for the supply of bio-succinic acid for their PBS.
The blog does wonder if there is a plan by SDK to build a new bio-PBS facility given that its competitor Mitsubishi Chemical is now building a 20,000 tonne/year bio-PBS facility in Thailand, which is expected to start in 2014 through its joint venture with PTT Plc called PTT MCC Biochem.

May 23, 2012

Brazil's first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant

Cellulosic biomass technology developer GraalBio is planning to help build Brazil's biorefinery industry with a R$300m ($146m) investment of a new 22m gallons/year cellulosic ethanol plant to be constructed in Alagoas using sugarcane bagasse and straw for initial feedstock.
GraalBio is also developing a new type of cost-competitive biomass called Energy Cane, a cross hybrid of sugarcane varieties with selected types of grasses producing low sugar content but high fiber. An experimental site in Alagoas is expected to produce 100,000 Energy Cane seedlings by the end of the year. The company is hoping to achieve productivity target of 100 tons of dry mass/hectare.
GraalBio said the cellulosic ethanol facility will be Brazil's first. Construction is expected to start in July and start-up of operations is expected by the end of 2013. For pretreatment and conversion of biomass, GraalBio has licensed the PROESA technology from Italy-based Beta Renewables - a joint venture between Chemtex (a division of Italian plastic producer Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi) and investment firm TPG.
Chemtex will provide engineering services, equipment and technical field services to GraalBio's facility. Danish firm Novozymes and the Netherlands-based DSM will provide the enzymes and industrial yeasts, respectively.
By the way, Novozymes said it has been looking for locations in Brazil to build its new enzyme manufacturing plants dedicated to support the country's growing advanced biofuel industry.
"The location of new plants will, among other things, depend on where the industry is expected to scale up, where Novozymes' partners are located, and where the best framework conditions exist," says Peder Holk Nielsen, Novozymes VP.
GraalBio said it will also expand the use of its Energy Cane biomass into the bio-based chemicals field. The company is also building a pilot plant in Campinas this year for the development of new biochemical pathways using PROESA. By 2017, GraalBio said it hopes to build five facilities for the production of biobased chemicals in Brazil using modified Brazilian yeasts.

"While the maturity of second-generation biofuels technologies in Brazil is materializing, the U.S. is building 29 biorefineries for several products obtained from the conversion of cellulose. GraalBio is in negotiations with patent holders to license, purchase and apply industrial solutions in Brazil, and it will look for partners in Brazil in different areas, including co-development, supply of feedstock and new projects." - GraalBio

May 22, 2012

Braskem's next bioplastic move

The green blog was a bit concern for a while on the status of Braskem's green poplypropylene (PP) project when news of management shake-up within Braskem reached ICIS news desk a couple of weeks ago.
However, I saw this article from dated May 8 talking about Braskem pushing through its $100m sugarcane ethanol-based PP plan with a new 30,000 tonne/year facility in Rio Grande do Sul near Porto Alegre, southern Brazil. The facility, which will be alongside Braskem's 200,000 tonne/year Green PE plant, is expected to be completed in 2013.
According to the article, Braskem's current Green PE customers such as Toyota, Tetra Pak, and Danone, have already lined up for Green PP.
Another recent news from Braskem is its recent collaboration with Australia-based Plantic Technologies where it plans to use Braskem's Green PE for its  corn starch-based ecoPlastic branded products such as trays and films.
Braskem said the use of Green PE will increase the renewable content of ecoPlastic to more than 90% without compromising barrier properties already offered by the packaging.

Weekly News Roundup

Here is my (semi)weekly news roundup which has been stewing for a while in my draft box. School is over for now and I'm glad to announce that I am moving on to the next semester. Hopefully, this summer will be more productive for the blog.
FMC launches environmental unit
FMC Corp. has launched FMC Environmental Solutions, a new division that integrates the company's portfolio of products that prevent or remediate contamination of air, soil and water. The division has three business units: Air Pollution Control focusing on the use hydrogen peroxide, trona and sodium bicarbonate; Soil and Groundwater Remediation business focusing on fast-acting chemistries for remediation of normal and halogenated organics and metals; and Water Treatment.
Blue Marble Biomaterials gets certified
Blue Marble Biomaterials' natural flavor and fragrance facility in Missoula, Montana, is now fully kosher certified and food-grade compliant. The company has been working with SAFC since 2010 to achieve food grade documentation and quality control features. Blue Marble Biomaterials currently produces natural ester, thioester and extract products via fermentation process.
Eastman, Rubbermaid team up
Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP) and Eastman have collaborated on bisphenol A (BPA)-free foodservice plastic products using Eastman's Tritan copolyester. The products were previously made from polycarbonate. RCP's new BPA-free products under categories Ingredient Management, Food pans/boxes/square containers, PROSERVE line of products, and ProSave line of products are available through foodservice and broadline distributors.
Evolva expands collaborates with IFF
Evolva Holding SA expanded its collaboration with International Flavors & Fragrances on developing a commercially viable biosynthetic route for the production of a key flavouring ingredient. The project started early last year and is said to be progressing on schedule. The collaboration is now expanded to include an additional flavouring ingredient.
Amyris and Ceres on sweet sorghum diesel
Amyris has successfully processed Ceres' improved sweet sorghum hybrids into renewable diesel under a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant. The pilot-scale project held at the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Colorado pilot-scale biochemical conversion facility evaluated both sugars and biomass from Ceres' sweet sorghum hybrids grown in Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana and Tennessee. Ceres first commercialized its improved hybrids in Brazil this season.
TMO produces ethanol from Chinese cassava stalk
TMO Renewables is now processing an initial shipment of cassava stalk delivered from China to produce bioethanol. Improved efficiencies at TMO's 12,000 sq. ft. demonstration facility in Surrey, England, are projected to produce ethanol for less than $2/gal, marking a crucial step toward commercialization. TMO's conversion process will reportedly yield 70 to 80 gallons of second generation ethanol per ton of feedstock.
Origin Oil collaborates with PACE in oilfield
Algae developer Origin Oil will collaborate with California-based PACE with oil field operators in Texas and elsewhere to improve petroleum recovery and water cleaning for re-use at well sites, using a process originally developed for algae harvesting. OriginOil plans to provide the equipment and capability to process up to one barrel per minute in continuous flow.
...and with Algasol in biofuels
Origin Oil and biofuel developer Algasol Renewables have partnered on the development of an integrated algae growth and harvesting system to achieve new levels of cost and performance in microalgae cultivation for biofuels and high value products. Algasol's patented system focuses on how to grow algae in floating bags, and Origini Oil said their testing has indicated this can be much more efficient than other cultivation methods.
OakBio partners with Lehigh on CO2 capture
Cement producer Lehigh Permanente and Oakbio formed a partnership based on a CO2 capture technology that can convert greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into valuable products. The Oakbio process involves microbial capture of CO2. The companies plan to conduct research scale studies going forward
University of Minnesota's new startup
The University of Minnesota has launched a startup called Heat Mining Company LLC that will use sequestered carbon dioxide rather than water to extract heat from deep underground and use this thermal energy to generate electricity. CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPGTM) technology is said to be an attractive solution for conventional fossil-fueled power plants. The University of Minnesota submitted the technology for patents in March 2009 and licensed it exclusively, worldwide to Heat Mining Company LLC through the Office for Technology Commercialization.
And in ICIS News (requires subscription):
Cefic releases sustainability report for Europe chems industry:

Opinion: Thoughts on Facebook and the Genius of Markets

By Sam Nejame, Promotum

Just an aside on comparative valuation. Isn't it a little strange, that a company which monetizes the social habits of teenage girls (Hello Facebook!), is more valuable than the future of food, materials and energy?

Without exaggeration almost everything we touch, wear, eat, drive etc. depends on chemicals and fuels. Yet, right now the market capitalization of the entire publicly traded sector for renewable fuels and chemicals is ~$2.5B (not including corporate subsidiaries, ethanol, sugar, etc.).

Facebook of course priced last week ~$100B (and falling). That's not quite in the league of ExxonMobil, but it's close to British Petroleum, and right there with the combined value of Dow Chemical ($39B), DuPont ($48B) and Archer Daniels Midland ($22B).

Does this make any sense? If Facebook disappeared tomorrow the world would go on. If petroleum disappeared tomorrow would there even be an economy?

May 15, 2012

May 8, 2012

Siemens develop ABS plastic alternative

 Researchers at technology company Siemens have developed an alternative material to polystyrene-based acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) plastic made from renewable-based polymers and carbon dioxide.
The new material -- a result of a three-year project funded by the German Research Ministry and in collaboration with BASF, Munich Techical University and the University of Hamburg scientists -- is a mixture of polyhdroxybutyrate (PHB) bioplastic and carbon dioxide-based polypropylene carbonate (PPC) (containing 43% by weight CO2) supplied by BASF.
According to the press release, the new composite polymer has more than 70% renewable-based content. Bosch-Siemens-Hausgeräte (BSH) demonstrated its performance by using the material to make a vacuum cleaner cover under series-production conditions. In cooperation with BSH and BASF, the Siemens researchers now want to examine whether they can replace other types of plastic used by BSH with CO2-based composite materials.
I think this is the first time that the blog posted a story about an alternative to ABS polymer.  The blog previously reported developments in PPC such as those by Novomer and Cardia Bioplastics.
Novomer recently partnered with US starch company Penford to develop and commercialize packaging materials made from starch-PPC composites, while Cardia Bioplastics have also developed a blend of  PPC and starch plastics used for carrier bags under the trade name CO2S.
Korea-based firm SK Energy SK Innovation is also working on PPC under the trade name Green Pol. The company begun to produce PPC in a continuous process type pilot plant since late 2008 and according to the company's recent investor report, SK Energy SK Innovation is planning to commercialize their Green Pol plastic around 2013-2014.
Plant construction, commercial testing and market development for its Green Pol is already ongoing, according to SK Energy SK Innovation. It's PPC, by the way, is a copolymerization of propylene oxide (56% by weight) and carbon dioxide (44% by weight) using a proprietary highly active catalyst based on Co-Salen.
By the way, SK Energy's chemical business SK Chemicals is already commercializing bioplastics under the brand name EcoPlan (resins made from PLA) and EcoZen - a proprietary polymer made with combined glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate (dubbed PETG under the brand SkyGreen) and a biobased monomer (I tried to do some research on what the biobased monomer is but failed..maybe PLA?).
Correction 5/10/12: SK Innovation has emailed the blog about certain information as follows:
1. It is SK Innovation, not SK Energy, who are working on PPC business. -- There was a company re-organization and change in early 2011.
2. SK Chemical is another independent company who is working on Ecozen.It is not a chemical business unit under SK Innovation or SK Energy although all of them belong to SK Group.
I found this cute video of SK Chemicals' bio-copolyester EcoZen.

Dutch CSM focuses on biobased chems

 Finals week is looming ahead and before I get bogged down with studying, let me post some of these recent news that came my way this week.
First is from Dutch food ingredients company CSM, the parent company of lactic acid producer Purac. CSM announced yesterday that it is leaving its global bakery products business and focusing instead on bio-based ingredients serving end-markets in food, chemicals and polymers.
The company said it will start divesting its its North American and European Bakery Supplies businesses leaving only its Purac and Caravan Ingredients businesses, which had combined 2011 sales of EUR 704m ($914m). The combined business will target growth opportunities in new lactic acid applications such as bioplastics, animal health and nutrition, as well as next-generation biobased alternatives for petroleum-based materials.
If readers recall, Purac currently has a joint venture 25,000 tons/year succinic acid project with BASF located in Purac's site near Barcelona, Spain. The facility is expected to start next year. The companies are also planning a 50,000 tons/year succinic acid capacity although no timeline has yet been announced.
Purac also started this year its new 75,000 lactide plant in Map Ta Phut, Thailand, which will produce lactide monomers for biobased resins and plastics.
The Caravan Ingredients business produces specialty ingredients including lactic acid based emulsifiers, functional blends containing enzymes and fortification ingredients.

May 7, 2012

Metabolix update

As mentioned in the previous post, Metabolix management seems to be handling the company well after the Telles joint venture break-up with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) early this year.
Before its first quarter 2012 earnings was announced on April 26 , the company has been putting out several press releases below:
  • Metabolix Awarded Two U.S. Patents for Technology to Produce Biobased Polymers and Industrial Chemicals
  • Metabolix and Ball Horticultural and Floral Plant Growers Launch New Mirel-based SoilWrap Biodegradable Plant Container
  • Metabolix Opens First European Office
The company reported during its earnings conference call that it has been able to provide customers with access to Metabolix's PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) product inventory currently at more than 5m lbs. The company also said that it has narrowed the potential PHA production partners to four sites.
Other milestones included pilot-scale (up to 60,000 liter or 15,000 gallon) production of C4 chemical specifically GBL (gamma butyrolactone) and lab-scale biobased acrylic acid. GBL by the way is an intermediate to producing butanediol (BDO).
"In the first quarter we produced densified biomass polylactic acid, a key C3 chemical and we expect to sample it to perspective customers beginning in the second quarter. The sampling process is a key step along the path toward securing industry partnerships." - Metabolix
The company said it has also been able to demonstrate that its switchgrass PHB techology can function in sugarcane. 
Metabolix said it expects to end 2012 with a cash and investment balance of $48m-50m. However, the company is expecting further restructuring such as reduced head count and consolidation of its two facilities in Massachusetts.
Still, Jefferies & Company analyst Laurence Alexander lowered its price target for Metabolix from $3.50 to $3.15/share stating that the company's specific plans on production timing are still unclear.
"Apart from goals of $48-$50m in cash on hand at year-end and entering 2013 with a cash burn of ~$24m, Metabolix remains wary of giving sufficient financial details to assess the relative importance of the different announcements. We expect the shares to remain range-bound until the announcements have more context--either directly, through financial disclosures, or indirectly, through partnerships that provide some sketch of a framework for Metabolix's ability to capture value created by its unique technology positions."

May 4, 2012

Live Blog: BASF Sustainability Conference

May 3, 2012

Management reshuffle at green chems

I noticed the blog has been receiving a lot of notices on personnel changes within the renewable chemicals sector this year and the most recent one is Amyris' top management team announced yesterday.
According to Amyris, three of its management team - the president of global operations Mario Portela,  VP general counsel and corporate secretary Tamara Tompkins, and CTO Neil Renninger -- will be departing from the company, although Renninger will remain as member of the board of directors.
Biofuel Digest's Jim Lane has a very interesting article today about the Amyris announcement.Will the management reshuffling calm investors' fears (after Amyris' stock plunge 90% this year since its IPO) or is Amyris' problems really rooted on the company's inability to execute technology fast enough? In the article, a Wall Street analyst noted that bankruptcy could even be a realistic scenario.
2012 could certainly become a very challenging year for green chems.  Amyris will announce its first quarter results on May 8, and we will see how their investors will respond to this latest company news.
On the bright side, we can look at Metabolix and Codexis, which had its own management reshuffling done, and both companies seem to be doing good at placating investor fears at the moment.
Codexis, of course, is still looking for its next CEO after Alan Shaw stepped down in February. The company's CFO Robert Lawson also departed in January. The company has been busy promoting its enzymes and its first renewable chem product - Codexol fatty alcohol. Codexis also recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary since it was first founded as a biotechnology firm focusing on pharmaceutical intermediates.
Codexis will announce its first quarter result on May 10.
Metabolix, seemed to have rebounded fast enough after the company lost its production source when its Telles joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland broke up in January. According to the company's 1Q 2012 earnings result announced on April 26, Metabolix expects to end 2012 with a cash and investment balance of $48m-50m. The company currently have more than 5m lbs of PHA product inventory available and said that it is in advanced discussions with prospective manufacturing and commercialization partners.
I will write more about Metabolix's recent activities (which has been a lot) in another post. In the meantime, the company just announced the promotion of its director of strategy and commercial development Max Senechal to VP of biobased chemicals, as Codexis advances its chemicals development. Metabolix also appointed Matthew Strobeck as part of its board of directors in March, and Lynne Brum as VP of marketing and communications in January.
Speaking of (ADM), the company recently announced the hiring of Kyle James to be its general manager of Glycols. James has recently served as business process commercial manager, Industrial Chemicals, and vice president of Telles. Prior to this role, he also served as vice president, ethanol sales at ADM.
James will oversee ADM's commercial operations of its glycols business including sales of propylene glycol, glycerin, and co-product streams as well as be responsible for feedstock sourcing and supply chain/distribution for the glycols business.
Another recent big management shuffle is from  DuPont Industrial Biosciences where VP of marketing and sales Tjerk de Ruiter has resigned "to pursue other opportunities." De Ruiter, who was the former CEO of Genencor, joined DuPont Industrial Biosciences in May 2011 following DuPont's acquisition of Danisco and its Genencor division.
The blog is betting we will see De Ruiter again in one of our regularly covered renewable chemical companies. Stay tune! No, we don't have any inside information, it just seems like this is what has been happening in the industry lately.
DuPont has also appointed Todd Sutton this month to be the president of DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, which produces biobased propanediol (1,3 PDO) in Loudon, Tennessee.
Other management changes happening in the past 6 months include:
  • Zeachem just appointed this week its new CFO Peter Cheesbrough to replace Andy Vietor, who will remain with the company as VP of Finance. Late last year, Zeachem also added three board members - Nancy Buese of MarkWest Energy Partners, Ross Pilari of CVC Capital Partners, and Charles Shaver of TPC Group.
  • Myriant appointed William Wells and Dhanes Charoensupaya to the company's board of directors in March, and Norman Augustine in October. The company also announced in January that BASF veteran Werner Praetorius has joined its strategic advisory board, and Susan Hager, formerly of Qteros, is now Myriant's VP of communications and government affairs.
  • Genomatica appoints Jeff Lievense as Executive Vice President, Process Technology
  • Gevo appoints Ruth Dreessen, Managing Director of Lion Chemical Capital, LLC, to the Board of Directors
  • Former Idaho National Laboratory Scientist Joins OriginOil's Board of Advisors 
  • BioAmber Strengthens its Management Team and Board of Directors
  • Solazyme Announces Appointment of Mark Warner as SVP of Engineering
  • Virent Board of Directors Welcomes New Member

May 2, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

There have been a lot of news in the past two weeks that the blog wasn't able to cover, and news are still pouring in as my colleague Clay Boswell covers this week's BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology conference in Orlando, Florida.
The first big news for this week is Shell and Iogen's announcement that they are cutting off their cellulosic ethanol project plans in Manitoba, Canada. Talk about another confidence let-down for cellulosic biofuel at a time when the US advanced biofuel industry is trying to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to revise the volume requirements for cellulosic ethanol under the 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard.
I will post more about the current going-on within the biofuel sector (as soon as I sort out my email inbox where unopened  mails are steadily growing).
For now, here are this week's news roundup:
ADM, KOST develops bio-glycol
KOST USA and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has successfully developed its BioChill® line of heat transfer fluids using ADM's biobased propylene glycol. BioChill® Heat Transfer Fluids are specifically designed for use in Gas Pipeline Heaters, Gas Processing, Natural Gas Storage, Line and Bath Heaters, HVAC Systems, Pharmaceutical & Food Processing Plants, Solar and Radiant Heating Systems, Process Heating & Cooling, Ice Rinks, Playing Field Subsurface Heating, Thermal Energy Storage.
Dyadic expands Abengoa license deal
Enzyme producer Dyadic has expanded its exclusive licensing deal with biofuel company Abengoa for $5.5m. The license deal originally provided Abengoa with the right to use Dyadic's C1 platform technology to develop, manufacture and sell enzymes for use in second generation biorefining processes to convert biomass into sugars. The amended license expands the territories to worldwide rights and provides Abengoa with the ability to produce, use and sell C1 enzymes in first as well as second generation biofuels and other bio-based processes.
GlyEco buys Evergreen Recycling
Waste glycol recycler GlyEco acquire certain assets of Evergreen Recycling Inc., another glycol recycling company based in Indianapolis, IN. The transaction is scheduled to close on June 30, 2012. Evergreen Recycling primarily service the waste automotive antifreeze industry. The company was founded in 1999 by owner Tom Shiveley, who has operated the business while maintaining his career as an expert in industrial waste water treatment with the Ford Motor Company. He will join GlyEco full time, serving as General Manager of the Indiana facility.
OriginOil develops waste water treatment
Algae developer OriginOil has developed a chemical-free process previously used for algae harvesting that may also help clean up the water produced in oil well water flooding and hydraulic fracturing. Using a lab prototype of the technology, OriginOil researchers have been able to clarify samples of flowback water from a Texas oil well carrying heavy concentrations of dissolved organics, known as frac flowback. The heavy concentration of petroleum in the oil well water samples was easily separated from water and floated to the surface for removal.
CSIRO, Lonza in insect silk products
Australian research agency CSIRO and US-based life science company Lonza have entered a joint development agreement to advance and market new insect silks for a broad range of medical and industrial applications. Potential uses include composite fibres for the aviation and marine industries and medical applications including wound repair, drug delivery, and repairing and replacing human tissues such as membranes, ligaments, blood vessels and cartilage.
Ford, Dow in lower-weight car components
Ford Motor Company has partnered with Dow Automotive Systems, a business unit of Dow Chemical, to research the use of advanced carbon fiber composites in high-volume vehicles. The development teams will focus on establishing an economical source of automotive-grade carbon fiber and develop component manufacturing methods for high-volume automotive applications.
BASF to buy Novolyte
The Valence Group has advised Arsenal Capital on the sale to BASF of Novolyte, a global producer of electrolyte materials for lithium batteries and high-performance solvents. The sale includes Novolyte's joint venture with Foosung, a leading global fluorine chemistry company and high purity lithium salts producer based in South Korea. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Lanxess in renewable-based rubber feedstock
Lanxess has partnered with biotechnology firm evocatal in the development of biotechnological methods for the synthesis of precursors for the rubber production. The goal of the project is to make use of local renewable materials in the manufacture of rubber upstream products. The cooperation aims at identifying new pathways for synthesis and developing effective biocatalysts.
Wilmar invests in Inventure Renewables
Inventure Renewables and its sister company, Inventure International, have closed a $5M round of financing with an option to increase funding in a second tranche to a total of $12M. Lead investor Wilmar International has taken an equity stake in both companies. A portion of the funds will be used to build and operate a pilot plant to convert palm fiber waste and sugar cane bagasse into mixed sugars, which can be used for fermentation into ethanol, butanol, and building blocks for a range of industrial chemicals. CMEA Capital is also participating in this round of funding, along with several other investors.
And in ICIS News (requires subscription):
News from BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing conference in Orlando, Florida, this week: