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):
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