July 31, 2012

Versalis, Genomatica, Novamont partnership

Hello blog world! My apologies for the abrupt silence as the blogger did not have enough time to post an "Out of Office - I'm on a Marvelous Vacation" message. It's either posting or packing, and packing won hands down.

So coming back today and checking my 700+ emails, this news from Versalis, Novamont and Genomatica first caught my attention. In fact, I will have an interview with Genomatica CEO Christophe Schilling tomorrow morning.

The three companies announced on July 24 about their proposed partnership to produce biomass-based butadiene - a key raw material for the production of rubber.

Check my previous post for more on bio-based rubber developments.

Under the agreement, Versalis will use Genomatica's process technology to produce the bio-butadiene. One possible route to produce 1, 3 butadiene is the fermentation of sugars to 1,4 butanediol (which is what Genomatica has been developing) and then subsequent dehydration to butadiene.

Other possible routes also includes conversion of biobutanol to butenes and then to butadiene using the oxidative dehydrogenation process (remember Lanxess and Gevo's partnership?); and conversion of 2,3 butanediol to butadiene using a dehydration process (LanzaTech is looking at this as well with Synthos and Global Bioenergies).

Versalis, by the way, is a leading elastomers producer in Europe. According to Versalis, butadiene supply is increasingly becoming constrained and is subjected to availability problems.
"Decreasing supplies and a lack of dedicated butadiene production facilities have resulted in significant long-term pressure on the price and volatility of the chemical, which in turn increases the price of butadiene-based products, including tires. 
Concerns of scarcity in the butadiene market are compounded by growth forecasts within the BRIC countries where demand for automotive products made from butadiene, such as tires, is expected to increase."
Now if readers recall, Genomatica and Novamont already announced a previous joint venture deal in August 2011 to produce renewable-based butanediol (1,4 BDO) in a 40m lb/year plant in Italy starting late this year. The companies did not initially indicate where this plant is going to be located but then Novamont and Versalis also has a 50:50 joint venture called Matrica, which is planning to set up a EUR 500m biorefinery project in Versalis' Porto Torres complex in Sardinia, Italy.

So we put two and two together and could come up with a conclusion that Versalis and Novamont could produce the Genomatica-based butadiene as well as its feedstock BDO at Porto Torres. Whether that will be the 40m lb/year planned bio-BDO capacity or not is a question that the blog will ask Genomatica tomorrow.

The blog also does not know yet how much butadiene Versalis aims to produce and when they plan to start producing bio-butadiene.

July 17, 2012

BPA ban on baby bottles, cups

The US Food and Drug Administration finally ruled today under its food additive regulations that manufacturers of polycarbonate baby bottles and sippy cups (including closures and lids) should no longer use bisphenol-A (BPA) as an additive.

This action is in response to the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) petition to amend the food additive regulation given that BPA use for these products has already been abandoned.

For a chemical explanation on the use of BPA in polycarbonate resin - the resins are formed
by the condensation of 4,4′- isopropylenediphenol (such as BPA), and carbonyl chloride or
diphenyl carbonate.

According to the ACC petition, companies that produce PC resins claim that baby bottles and sippy cups manufactured from PC resins are no longer being introduced into the U.S. market and that manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups have abandoned the use of PC resins in making these products.

An industry poll by the ACC also noted that PC resin manufacturers, which represent over 97% of worldwide PC resin production capacity, are no longer selling PC resins to be used in the manufacture of baby bottles and sippy cups intended for import into the United States or sale
in the U.S. market.
“Although governments around the world continue to support the safety of BPA in food contact materials, confusion about whether BPA is used in baby bottles and sippy cups had become an unnecessary distraction to consumers, legislators and state regulators,” said Steven G. Hentges, Ph.D., of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of ACC.
“FDA action on this request now provides certainty that BPA is not used to make the baby bottles and sippy cups on store shelves, either today or in the future.”
Still, the use of BPA-based epoxy resins as coatings in canned packaging is still being criticized by advocacy groups.

Also today, the FDA's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received yet another petition this time from the US representative Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) to ban BPA from infant formula packaging.

The FDA is now calling for comments until September 17, 2012 on the lawmaker's petition.

In March 2012, Representative Markey sent three separate petitions to the FDA requesting the agency permanently remove regulatory approval for the use of BPA in baby and toddler food packaging, small reusable household food and beverage containers, and canned food packaging on the grounds that manufacturers have abandoned use of BPA in these products.
“With the FDA moving forward with my petition, and coupled with the American Chemistry Council petition to end the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, industry practice can follow consumer demand, and we will be able to end the use of BPA in infant formula forever. There are viable alternatives for BPA in food packaging, and I urge companies to stop poisoning our food supply with this dangerous chemical. FDA now must complete and make public their long overdue assessment of BPA’s health impacts and make clear its next steps for ensuring our entire food supply is free from this damaging chemical.” - Rep. Markey
According to Markey, canned food and beverage companies like Coca-Cola, ConAgra and Pepsico have openly opposed transition away from use of BPA.

It has been a while since the blog covered the BPA issue. For more background, here are some of our past posts on BPA.

ADM offers bio-isosorbide as BPA alternative

Eastman's 50-yr old BPA-free Tritan

BPA Q&A with metal packaging group

Corn-based BPA alternative

A chemical consultant's view on BPA

EPA moves in on BPA

BPA-free baby bowl 

FDA supports reduced BPA use

July 16, 2012

Codexis, Shell in fuel discussion

Codexis announced today that it is under exclusive discussion with Shell that would give Codexis certain rights and licenses to develop and sell their cellulase enzymes to third parties in the biofuels field on a worldwide basis except Brazil.

Codexis said it has exclusive rights to commercialize its cellulase enzyme technology in all other fields (such as chemicals).
“Currently, Codexis’ cellulase enzyme technology can only be commercialized in the advanced biofuels field through Shell and its affiliates. If we finalize a new agreement with Shell as we currently anticipate, the rest of the world’s second generation biofuels producers will now also be available as target customers for our cost effective cellulase enzyme technology,” said John Nicols, Codexis’ President and Chief Executive Officer.
Shell can also elect to reduce between 13 and 48 full time employee equivalents under the Codexis-Shell research collaboration on one day notice beginning on August 31. The previous required notice for this redundancy was 90 days.

Codexis said it would take appropriate cost reduction measures to reduce its operating expenses if Shell will provide this notice to Codexis.

Panasonic, Nike in bio-resins

I thought at first that bio-propanediol (PDO) is now being used on television parts (is it?).

But according to this press release from DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, Panasonic Corporation Eco Solutions Company (part of Panasonic Group) is instead using resins made from DuPont Tate & Lyle's Susterra bio-PDO for its line of kitchen and bathroom systems.

The compounded plant-based and petroleum-based resins are being used to manufacture Panasonic's kitchen countertops in the "Living Station" product line and the bathroom ceilings in the "Cococino" product line, which are being marketed in the Asia Pacific region.

The biobased materials also are being used for the wash basins and toilets in the Panasonic product line.
"We are delighted to be the first in the industry with a biobased commercialized product offering. This achievement contributes to Panasonic's sustainability goals as outlined in Green Plan 2018. The year 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Panasonic Company," commented Kazumasa Rokushima, director of the General Technology & Products Development Center, Housing Systems Business Group at the Panasonic Eco Solutions Company.
Meanwhile, Nike announced last week that it will soon start selling its most environment-friendly Nike GS football boot on August 15. The Nike GS boot is constructed using combined renewable-based and recycled materials.

The Nike GS  sole plate is said to be made of 50% Pebax® Renew (a plant derived material made with 97% castor beans made French specialty chemical company Arkema) and 50% renewable-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).

The boot laces, lining and tongue are made from a minimum of 70% recycled materials. The toeboard and collar, feature at least 15% recycled materials.

July 13, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

I'd better put this out before this list gets longer. Some of the news that the blog missed for the past two weeks....
Grace and Braskem in catalysts
W.R. Grace and Braskem have partnered on a multi-year collaboration to develop process technologies and catalyst solutions to produce green chemicals. The agreement is intended to advance the commercialization of a process to convert renewably sourced feedstocks into value-added products. Details and financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
hte AG partners with Elevance
hte - the high throughput experimentation company and Elevance Renewable Sciences are collaborating on the development of bio-based specialty lubricants. hte will use its in-house developed multifold high throughput autoclave testing unit.
Aemetis in buying spree
Aemetis has acquired Cilion, Inc., including a 55m gallon/year (mgy) ethanol production plant located in Keyes, CA. The acquisition advances Aemetis' plans to use the existing ethanol plant's infrastructure to create a biorefinery producing advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals in addition to ethanol and animal feed products. Third Eye Capital, Aemetis' existing senior lender, provided a $15m term loan and an $18m working capital financing facility to assist Aemetis in the acquisition and to provide ongoing working capital.
Cargill buys bio-lube biz
Cargill has purchased the global Envirotemp FR3 fluid business and brand from Cooper Power Systems, a subsidiary of Cooper Industries. Cargill currently manufactures the patented, FR3 renewable dielectric fluid made from vegetable oil that is used in a wide range of applications for transformers and other electrical equipment.
BASF sells marine biopolymers
BASF SE has sold its Chitosan marine biopolymers business to Norwegian company Seagarden ASA. The biopolymers are used in personal care products and as pharmaceutical ingredients. The Chitosan business includes a production site in Tromsoe, Norway.
BASF's eco-label database triples in size
BASF's SELECT™ (Sustainability, Eco-Labeling and Environmental Certification Tracking) Eco-Label Manager has nearly tripled in size to 270 programs up from 100 programs the previous year. The SELECT Eco-Label Manager is a database that manages the abundance of eco-labels, environmental claims, directories and ratings systems strategically by allowing users to search, analyze and compare these programs in a structured and consistent format.
Oakbio's biopolymer from cement plant
Oakbio successfully produce biodegradable bioplastic polymers in their bioreactor systems using inputs of cement plant flue gas and electricity. The technology uses bioreactors driven by non-toxic microbes to capture CO2 and convert it to a products directly from the plant's gas emissions. The carbon conversion process is said to yield over 50% bioplastics in microbe biomass by dry weight.
Cardia Bioplastic's packaging alliance
Cardia Bioplastics and rigid plastic packaging company, Alto Packaging, have formed a partnership to produce high performance packaging solutions, manufactured with Cardia's thermoplastic cornstarch resins. Cardia's Biohybrid™ resins combine renewable thermoplastics with oil-based polymer material.
Global Bioenergies opens US branch
Global Bioenergies has expanded its global business operations into the US, opening a branch facility in Ames, Iowa. The new operation will focus on Global Bioenergies' program for bioconversion of renewable resources into isobutene and other light olefins.
Codexis' carbon capture tech displayed
Codexis' pilot-scale demonstration of its carbon capture technology conducted at the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Alabama, shows that enzymes have promise to facilitate CO2 capture at coal-fired power plants. This is the largest scale that enzyme-based carbon capture technology has been demonstrated to date, with the equivalent daily capture rate of 1,800 average sized trees per day. Codexis developed this patented technology under a license granted by CO2 Solutions, Inc.
Cereplast partners with Albis Plastic
Cereplast has entered a distribution deal with Hamburg, Germany-based ALBIS PLASTIC GMBH to supply Cereplast bioplastic resins to the United Kingdom and Ireland. ALBIS PLASTIC will distribute both Cereplast Compostables® resins, with an emphasis on blown film grades and blow molding grades, as well as Cereplast Sustainables® resins, including the Cereplast Hybrid Resins® product line.
Global biogas market to reach $33bn
The biogas market reached $17.3bn in global revenue in 2011 and will nearly double by 2022, hitting $33.1 billion in that year, according to a new report from Pike Research. The market for biogas sits at the confluence of a number of forces, including increasing demand for distributed generation, tightening environmental regulations, and accelerating buildout of infrastructure for natural gas and for vehicles powered by natural gas.
And in ICIS News (requires subscription):
Bio-based polyethylene (PE) is projected to have the best opportunities for growth among bioplastics through 2016 because of lower prices with expanding production capacity, according to Cleveland-based industry research firm The Freedonia Group.
Singapore's Strategic Petroleum has built a new system capable of converting different types of waste materials into synthesis gas (syngas), which in turn can be used to produce power, methane gas or petrochemicals.
A US appellate court dismissed the legal challenge to federal regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) filed by a broad coalition of industries and several states, saying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may rightly impose limits on such emissions.
The chemical industry has been at the forefront of the emerging green economy and without chemical businesses a green society cannot happen, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) said.

July 12, 2012

SDK starts bio-PBS sampling

The blog just noted in its last post about increasing activities from Japanese chemical companies, and in a happy coincidence, Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) just announced today that it has succeeded in producing its polybutylene succinate (PBS) resin under the trademark Bionolle using bio- based succinic acid.
PBS, a compostable polyester, is traditionally made from petrochemical-based succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol (BDO). The BDO part in SDK's Bionolle is probably still made from petrochemical feedstock. SDK's Bionolle Starcla is made from a combination of Bionolle (PBS) and starch.
Myriant is the company's bio-succinic acid supplier.
According to SDK, it has started providing the renewable-based Bionolle film-grade samples to customers such as Natur-Tec, a US-based bioplastic products manufacturer. Natur-Tec is already using petrochemical-based Bionolle for certain high-volume consumer goods packaging applications.
"Our customers are increasingly demanding higher biobased carbon content in our materials, in order to reduce the overall carbon footprint of their finished products. We are excited at the possibility of incorporating SDK's bio-derived Bionolle into our compounds and converted plastic products, to meet this burgeoning market demand." - Natur-Tec
SDK said it is planning to secure 10,000-20,000 tons/year of bio-based succinic acid to expand sales of its renewable-based Bionolle.
Another company already producing bio-based PBS (containing bio-succinic acid) is Japan-based Mitsubishi Chemical Company. The company estimated the PBS market worldwide at 5,000-6,000 tonnes/year, and is expected to grow to 50,000 tonnes/year in the next five years.

July 10, 2012

More Japanese firms in green chems

So the green blogger received a call yesterday from a Japanese chemical firm inquiring about bio-based paraxylene (PX). The caller said their Chinese clients have become more interested in renewable-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Of course, this is a very interesting news for me and I'm hoping to get first dibs on further developments from this company. By the way, for more on bio-PX developments, you can read my story published on March 12 at ICIS Chemical Business.
Anyway, I have been noticing since last year how more and more Japanese chemical companies are more readily on-board when it comes to using plant-based chemicals.
Cases in point are the following recent announcements:
  • Japan-based Toray and US bio-isobutanol producer Gevo signed an off-take deal for Toray to source renewable-based paraxylene (PX) that will be produced at Gevo's planned pilot facility. Where that pilot facility is going to be built remains a question. Gevo is currently working on bio-isobutanol-based PX in a contracted facility at Silsbee, Texas, US, owned by US specialty chemical firm South Hampton Resources. According to Toray, it will use the bio-PX produced by Gevo to carry out its own pilot-scale production of bio-based PET. Toray plans to offer samples of bio-PET fibers and films to customers in 2013 for market evaluation.
    • Toray has also been working with Japanese specialty chemical company Ajinomoto on the development of nylon raw material 1,5 pentanediamine (1,5 PD) using plant-based amino acid lysine via Ajinomoto's fermentation technology
  • Japan-based Sojitz has acquired sales rights to Brazil-based Braskem's green polyethylene (PE) bioplastic made from sugarcane. Sojitz' synthetic resin subsidiary Sojitz Planet Corporation will aim to sell 20,000 tons/year of green PE products in Japan and Asia-Pacific in three years. 
    • Also late last year, Sojitz started working with US bio-succinic acid producer Myriant to develop plastics made from succinic acid. It also has acquired exclusive sales rights for succinic acid-based resins in Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Sojitz said it plans to set up a commercial biobased derivativese plant that will consume 150m pounds/year of Myriant's biobased succinic acid. The facility is expected to start in 2015.
    • In related news, Myriant has partnered with Japan-based Showa Denko in January this year for the production of polybutylene succinate (PBS) resins using Myriant's bio-based succinic acid.
I've even wrote an article about this topic on ICB in October 2011. In this article, I've mentioned renewable chemical activities from Mitsubishi Chemical Company (MCC), Mitsui, Kuraray, Toyota Tsusho, Teijin and Toray.

Biobased isobutanol updates

US bio-butanol producers Gevo and Butamax have been very busy churning out press releases while I was away, and the blog received another two from Gevo this morning.  

Gevo announced today that it has partnered with Italy-based Beta Renewables to develop an integrated process for the production of cellulosic-based isobutanol.
The project would combine Beta's PROESA technology (focusing on cellulosic feedstock pretreatment), Gevo's GIFT process (focusing on isobutanol manufacture via fermentation), and ATJ technologies (I am still trying to figure this one out and has asked Gevo for a background on this technology).
Gevo and Beta Renewables are said to be evaluating future opportunities to partner on other US and international projects with a long-term goal of developing a licensable package for future third parties.
Speaking of cellulosic isobutanol, the blog mentioned last month of Gevo's intent to manufacture the product in Southeast Asia as the company has signed a collaborative agreement with Malaysia's BiotechCorp and East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) to build a plant at a biorefinery complex in Kertih, Terengganu.
Gevo's plan is to have a cellulosic isobutanol plant in operation by late 2015 or early 2016.
Another announcement from Gevo today is their progress on the newly-started 18m gal/year bio-isobutanol plant in Luverne, Minnesota. The company said it was able to successfully ferment isobutanol in large 250,000 gal commercial fermenters, and transport it in tanks and railcars.
Some of the initial isobutanol produced will be shipped to customers such as Sasol. Gevo said it plans to be in the start-up/learning mode of operations for most of 2012.
By the way, the production in Luverne was almost jeopardized last month when rival Butamax filed a preliminary injunction request to bar Gevo from operating the plant and selling bio-isobutanol produced from the plant because of ongoing patent disputes. The District Court of Delaware denied the request on June 20.
Butamax released a statement saying that the company plans an immediate appeal to the court's decision. Yesterday, a judge has issued a temporary order restraining Gevo to supply the automotive fuel blendstock market with its bio-isobutanol from Luverne during Butamax's appeal process.
Gevo said yesterday that it has filed an appeal regarding the order and testing for automobile fuels will continue but with non-biobased isobutanol. The company said it is still free to operate in markets such as chemicals, jet fuel, marine fuel, small engine fuel and all other markets.
Other recent news from Gevo and Butamax on bio-isobutanol:
  • Butamax Early Adopters Group surpasses capacity targets with addition of Big River. Membership represents 11 production facilities and nearly 900 million gallons of ethanol capacity
  • Gevo and BioFuel Energy collaborates to explore large-scale isobutanol production

July 6, 2012

Solazyme production milestones

 Algae-based chemicals producer Solazyme announced two production milestones last week: a successful commissioning of its fully-integrated biorefinery in Peoria, Illinois, US; and the start of construction of its Brazilian biorefinery under the Bunge-Solazyme joint venture.
The Peoria facility's 128,000-liter fermentation operation has been up and running since the fourth quarter of 2011 producing algal oils, but Solazyme said the facility has now been able to demonstrate commercial-scale production of algal-based fuels.
"The demonstration/ commercial-scale plant will have a nameplate capacity of 2m liters/year of oil and will provide an important platform for continued work on feedstock flexibility and scaling of new tailored oils into the marketplace." - Solazyme
The biorefinery was partially funded with a grant from the US Department of Energy to demonstrate commercial-scale production of renewable algal-based fuels, according to Solazyme.
In Brazil, Solazyme and its JV partner Bunge Global Innovation have broken ground on a 100,000 tonne/year algal oil production facility adjacent to Bunge's Moema sugarcane mill.
Startup of the plant is expected in the fourth quarter of 2013. The facility will operate under Solazyme Bunge Produtos Renovaveis Ltda. The plant is expected to cost between $90m-$110m to build.
According to a presentation from Solazyme at the ICIS World Surfactants Conference held in New Jersey in late April, the company plans to introduce its lauric oils derived from algae in 2013. The algae-based lauric oils can replace lauric oils derived from palm kernel oil or coconut oil.
Solazyme can modify the fatty acid composition and saturation of its genetically engineered algae oils to produce lauric acid contents greater than 80%. The company estimates the market for palm kernel oil at $9.3bn (€7.1bn) and coconut oil at $5.3bn as of 2011.

Glycerin-based PG plant in Europe

Greetings green blog fans! I am still fighting off jetlag but there had been soooo many news within the past two weeks that I have a lot of catching up to do before going on another 1-week vacation (my final one this year) starting July 20.
Let me start with a favorite topic of mine - glycerin. I have been covering the glycerin market since September 2000 when I first started as staff editor at Chemical Market Reporter (the magazine now evolved into ICIS Chemical Business).
Since then, I've reported numerous times on how this industry has constantly been looking for new applications for glycerin given that this is a plentiful byproduct of oleochemical and biodiesel manufacture. It is only after a decade that some of the new uses that I've reported in the past have now come into large commercialization such as in glycerin-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) and propylene glycol (PG).
Last week, Belgium-based oleochemical company Oleon announced that it has started up its new 20,000+ tonnes/year glycerin-based PG in Ertvelde using a former fatty alcohol plant. The production process has been developed and licensed by BASF in collaboration with Oleon. BASF also supplies the catalysts for the bio-based PG process.
Official commissioning of the new bio-PG plant in Ertvelde, Belgium

PG has historically been produced by hydrolysis using propylene oxide. BASF's glycerin-based process is said to have fewer production steps. Annual global PG market exceeds 2m tonnes, according to Oleon.
PG is used in products such as antifreeze, de-icing, unsaturated polyester resins, detergents and cosmetics.
In the US, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) started its 100,000 tonnes/year glycerin-based PG in Decatur, Illinois, last year, producing USP grade and industrial-grade PG. ADM also has the capability to manufacture PG from sorbitol, a corn-derived sugar alcohol.
The blog recalled in the past that Huntsman and Dow Chemical also had plans to make glycerin-based PG. Both chemical companies as well as Arch Chemical and Lyondell are major petroleum-based PG producers.
According to ICIS, market participants in North America expected about 2,268 tonnes of refined glycerin will be used in the glycol market this year.