September 27, 2012

BioFuel Energy idles ethanol plant

Yields shrink due to drought
And while Gevo plans to switch to producing ethanol from bio-isobutanol (check my post before this one), Colorado-based BioFuel Energy, meanwhile, has decided to idle its Fairmont, Minnesota, ethanol facility until further notice because of high corn prices and ethanol oversupply.

The company said the Fairmont plant will remain idle until it will be able to secure local corn at price levels that will support better margins.

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September 26, 2012

Gevo biobutanol supply hits a snag

While I'm looking at my emails, I saw Gevo's announcement this week on its Luverne, Minnesota, facility update stating that the company will cut back its isobutanol production and instead will produce more ethanol.

The company started its 18m gal/year bio-isobutanol (or the equivalent of 22m gal/year bio-ethanol) production this year with a goal of producing bio-isobutanol at a run rate of 1m gal/year by year-end 2012, and at full capacity by year-end 2013.

On Monday, Gevo said it will not be able to achieve its desired year-end run rate, and instead that will (hopefully) be achieved by next year.

Gevo bio-isobutanol/ethanol process

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September 25, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

Sorry for this late post...I'm currently on vacation where I'm not supposed to touch a laptop. Nobody said anything about an Ipad ha!

Here are this week's news roundup. By the way, guess where I am this week? ;-)

Renmatix Opens R&D facility
US cellulosic sugar manufacturer Renmatix has opened its new research and development center in Pennsylvania, which, the company said, will accelerate its exploration of new feedstock sources, assist downstream customers in their transition to cellulosic sugars and further enhance the economics of its Plantrose process to produce the lowest cost sugar intermediates for renewable chemicals, fuel and materials.

Deinove's bacteria for 2nd gen ethanol
Deinove researchers have isolated and optimized a strain of Deinococcus bacteria that is able to generate ethanol from wheat-based biomass. The bacteria can degrade complex biomass residues into simple sugars and convert them into ethanol all in a single process and without additives such as enzymes, yeast or antibiotics.

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September 20, 2012

OPXBio acrylic acid update

Here's a slide presentation from OPX Biotechnologies presented at a biobased chemicals conference in San Francisco last week.

More on this post...

Read the blog's previous post for more information on bio-acrylic acid developments.

European Bioeconomy: Where is it now?

Ok, so I'm bummed out by my test score last night that I'm just going to sulk for awhile and watch videos.

Actually here is a cool video (even though I don't understand Dutch) that I retweeted from @biobasedchem about the possibility of a biobased economy.


Europe has been in the forefront of trying to put in policies to create a bio-based economy, which the European governing body European Commission defined as "economy using biological resources from the land and sea, as well as waste, as inputs to food and feed, industrial and energy production."

The term bioeconomy in Europe also includes the use of bio-based processes for sustainable industries. In fact, according to the European Commission, the EU bioeconomy already has a turnover of nearly EURO 2 trillion, and employs more than 22m if it covers agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production as well as parts of chemicals, biotechnological and energy industries.

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September 18, 2012

Growing green auto partnerships

Like consumer goods companies, the automotive supply chain is one of the pioneers in adopting bio-based chemicals (and biofuels of course although US auto manufacturers are still grumbling about engine compatibility especially with certain ethanol blends...).
This week, algae developer Joule announced its partnership with German automotive manufacturer AUDI AG -- a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG -- in the development and future use of Joule's Sunflow-E (which stands for ethanol), and Sunflow-D (which stands for diesel).

Joule said the relationship will help spur production of Joule's biofuels including fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule's SunSprings demo facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, which began operating this month.

Joule announced that it has already achieved productivity rates for its ethanol at 15,000 gal/acre/year in the lab and 8,000 gal/acre in outdoor production. Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E per acre annually, at costs as low as $1.28/gallon without subsidies.

Sunflow-D is reportedly in development with an ultimate productivity target of 15,000 gallons/acre/year at costs as low as $50/barrel without subsidies.

Joule said it will benefit from Audi’s considerable expertise and global reach as well as from the strength of its brand. In turn, Audi said it will have a first mover advantage as Joule’s exclusive partner in the automotive sector.

Meanwhile, Audi's parent company Volkswagen, has also been busy earlier this year as it announced its partnership with Amyris and Solazyme last March to evaluate the use of each of the company's respective advanced biodiesel technology in Volkswagen's TDI Clean Diesel technology incorporated in the 2012 Passat and 2012 Jetta models.

Amyris has been developing its Biofene farnesene-based renewable diesel while Solazyme's technology harnesses the oil-producing ability of microalgae to produce its SoladieselRD fuel. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already approved Solazyme's registration for its biodiesel which enables the company to market the biofuel either in blended and unblended (R100) forms.

Both Amyris and Solazyme have 12 months evaluation period to equip Volkswagen engineers data for the automotive company to measure environmental impacts from the use of each renewable diesel formulas. Volkswagen said their clean diesel TDI models accounted for 22% of their 2011 sales, significantly up over the past recent years.

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September 16, 2012

EPA sets 1.28bn gal biodiesel for 2013

Glycerine consumers will probably like hearing this news as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets its biodiesel requirement in 2013 at 1.28bn gallons under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) which established the second phase of the Renewable Fuel Standards program.

EISA specifies a one billion gallon minimum volume requirement for the biomass-based diesel category for 2012 and beyond. Under the EPA's definition, biodiesel products are "advanced biofuels that are derived from sources that include vegetable oils and wastes oils from renewable sources."

Photo from Nebraska Soybean Board
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Weekly News Roundup

So many news, so little time. I'm still working on an oleochemical post and in the meantime, something is brewing in the cleaning products market that needs to be investigated. Stay tune! In the meantime, here are this week's news roundup (which seems to be focusing on bioplastic these days...)

H&M bans PFCs
Retailer H&M Group will start banning the use of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in their global supply chain starting January 1, 2013. PFCs are used to for water repellent function mainly on outer wear garments, but also on shower curtains, tents, etc. The company said alternative chemical is being used that has good environmental and health properties.

Ingeo bioplastic stable in landfill
A peer-reviewed article in the journal of Polymer Degradation and Stability concludes that Ingeo biopolymer is stable in landfills with no statistically significant quantity of methane released. The tests according to ASTM D5526 and D5511 standards simulated a century's worth of landfill conditions.

Cardia bioplastic in personal care package
A multinational consumer goods company has commenced in-market validation of their personal care products packaging made from Cardia's renewable Biohybrid resin technology. The undisclosed company is collaborating with Cardia in order to improve the environmental profile of their product packaging.

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September 14, 2012

Biobased ECH growing rapidly

My first school exam is coming up so I have to eased down my social media activities a bit (and here I thought being unemployed will give me more time to nap...).

According to this report from energy publisher SBI (which I saw on, the market for bio-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) and biomethanol are the fastest growing segments in the bio-based chemicals industry because of the growing demand for biofuels.

What is the connection between ECH and biofuels, you ask?

Traditionally, ECH (a chemical intermediate primarily used in the manufacture of epoxy resins) is produced via allyl chloride route using propylene and chlorine as initial feedstock or allyl alcohol route via direct oxidation of propylene in acetic acid as the initial processing step. The chart below from Chemsystems shows the routes towards ECH production. These petro-based routes produce synthetic glycerol as one of the byproducts.

In the past several years because of the deluge of crude natural glycerol as byproduct of biodiesel production, several ECH producers worldwide have looked into using glycerol as feedstock to produce ECH instead. Not only are there cheap, readily available crude cheap glycerol worldwide but it is also a bio-based material.

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September 13, 2012

Advanced Biofuels Capacity update

I am still in the "capacity news" mode so let me briefly post this press release from BIO last month covering their recent Roundtable discussion regarding capacity progress from several advanced biofuels companies.

BIO and its US biofuels members have been fighting hard this year for Congress to preserve the current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) status mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The RFS requires 13.2bn gallons of ethanol to be produced in 2012 and 13bn gallons in 2013. Several industry food groups are arguing that the RFS requirement is aggravating the impact of drought (that spread throughout the US corn belt in summer) on food prices. Last month, more than 150 Republicans and Democrat members of Congress have signed a letter to the EPA requesting the RFS amendment.

The biofuel industry, of course, is fighting to maintain the status quo for RFS. According to BIO's Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section "the US is at critical juncture in the development of advanced biofuels and they rely on the RFS to guarantee that the US fuel market will be open to domestic alternatives to foreign oil."

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September 12, 2012

Green blog capacity news

Here are some of the recent capacity updates that the blog came across in the past week. We will start with LS9 which announced this week the successful start-up of its fatty alcohol production in the company's 135,000 liter-scale demonstration facility in Okeechobee, Florida.

I am actually working on another post about oleochemical capacity updates this year, lots of news in Asia!

Going back to LS9, the company said the fatty alcohols produced will be for testing and product qualifications by key partners and prospective customers. One of the key customers here is consumer products major Procter & Gamble (P&G). Majority of fatty alcohols consumption worldwide is used to produce surfactants, a $5bn market with various applications most of which goes to cleaning products including detergents. Fatty alcohols itself is a $500m global market.

LS9 said their sugar-based fatty alcohols have an "excellent replication of technical metrics seen at pilot scale." Traditional fatty alcohols are produced using lipid-based feedstock (animal fats/vegetable oils).

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September 11, 2012

Flashback from 2005

I was revising my profile on some of my social media platforms when I came across this presentation on Slide Share that I made in 2005 for the International Castor Oil Association (ICOA).

In my presentation are some of my predictions on the growing influence of biodiesel worldwide and the trend towards green chemistry. Of course, I was just focusing back then on their impact on the fats and oils market but who could have imagine how the development of renewable chemicals market exploded since then??

I should revisit some of my old archives on CMR and see what treasures of past information I could dig up. I hope you enjoy this one!

September 10, 2012

European Bioplastic publishes guidelines

This is good news for marketers of bioplastic products who want to ease consumer confusion on what a bioplastic means.

The trade group European Bioplastics has just launched its "Environmental Communications Guide for Bioplastics" that was developed by an international ad hoc working group within the last six months with the goal to help marketing and communications professionals  to correctly present the innovations and beneficial claims of bioplastics based on approved standards without resorting to greenwashing.
Greenwashing (a compound word modelled on "whitewash"), or "green sheen", is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly.
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September 9, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

I'm bringing back the weekly news roundup and hopefully will be able to maintain this. These are some of the news that accumulated in my draft box for 2-3 weeks now so my apologies...

Teijin's polyester recycling in China
Teijin Ltd. has established Zhejiang Jiaren New Materials Co. Ltd., a joint venture with Jinggong Holding Group in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, China. Through the JV, Teijin will chemically recycle polyester as well as manufacture and sell the resulting fibers via its ECO CIRCLE technology, Teijin's closed-loop recycling system for polyester. The JV will invest Yen 6bn ($76m) in the construction of facilities for dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) production, polymerization and spinning with is expected to start by the end of March 2014. The DMT facility will have initial capacity of 20,000 tonnes/year and is expected to expand up to 70,000 tonnes/year. Annual production capacity of recycled polyester will initially be at 19,000 tonnes/year.

Verdezyne bags adipic acid patent
Verdezyne has been grated patent 8,241,879 titled "Biological methods for preparing adipic acid" by the US Patent Office. The patent covers proprietary processes for selectively converting non-petroleum oils into adipic acid.Verdezyne has designed its proprietary adipic acid process specifically for the production of nylon 6,6

DuPont Tate & Lyle expands in Colombia
DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products has appointed Fehrmann S.A. as distributor for Zemea® in Colombia. Fehrmann is a family-owned company serving the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and household markets since 1956. Zemea® is a 100% biobased ingredient made from corn sugar through fermentation and developed for use in the cosmetics and personal care market.

Evonik's new bio-polyamides
Evonik Industries has launched rayon fiber-reinforced bio-based polyamides which has an overall bio-content ranging between 67% and 100%. Evonik's VESTAMID Terra polyamides are fully or partially obtained from castor oil and commercially available chopped rayon fibers form the reinforcing fiber substrate. According to Evonik, rayon fibers are obtained entirely from wood residues.

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    September 7, 2012

    Bioplastics in baseball games

    The blog first mentioned BASF's partnership with US major league baseball team Seattle Mariners in April this year, where fans were able to receive compost kit compliments of BASF, Ecosafe (the maker of compostable bags that uses BASF's Ecovio biodegradable resins) and Seattle Public Utilities.

    The compostable offerings now expanded to snack packaging where the Seattle Mariners are now using BASF's biopolymer resin in their peanut bags at the Safeco Field. Management of the baseball team said they are on track to divert 86% of their waste from landfills.
    “All of our service ware is already compostable, but snack food bags have been one of the biggest barriers preventing us from getting to our goal,” said Jenkins. “Flexible packaging made with BASF biopolymers could represent the holy grail of greening for our waste stream.” - Seattle Mariners
    The problem right now is separating the contaminants in the compost stream.

    More on this post...

    Green cleaning products merger

    Too bad I won't be able to attend the 1st ICIS European Surfactants conference this month as Belgium-based Ecover is one of the presenter in the conference. But I'm betting that there will be questions coming up about the company's recent acquisition of US green cleaning product company Method.

    Oh well, I guess I will have to wait for Neil Burns, the co-producer of the Surfactants conference, to give us an update coming from the conference.

    According to Ecover, both companies are deeply rooted in the use of plant-based ingredients. Ecover and Method will continue as separate brands but combined, will create "the world's most dynamic and visionary green cleaning company," said Ecover CEO Philip Malmberg.

    The companies collectively have sales of $200m and a combined staff of 300.

    Photo Source: Method

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    September 6, 2012

    NatureWorks expands PLA capacity

    Polylactic acid (PLA)-based bioplastic producer NatureWorks announced yesterday that it will increase production of its Ingeo biopolymer capacity at Blair, Nebraska, US, from 140,000 tonnes/year to 150,000 tonnes/year -- a 7% increase -- because of a proprietary production equipment developed by engineering firm Sulzer Chemtech.

    NatureWorks said the companies have been working for more than a year on this capital improvement project where NatureWorks contributed its lactides processing knowledge and Sulzer its equipment and engineering design expertise. NatureWorks owns patents to the new process but Sulzer has exclusive sublicensing rights worldwide.

    Commissioning of the installed new equipments is expected in the first quarter of 2013. The facility will also now be able to produce new, high performance resins and lactides, according to NatureWorks.

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    September 5, 2012

    Soy oil voted best coatings feedstock

    This is a very interesting analysis and bought me back to my days as "editor of oils, fats and waxes" at Chemical Market Reporter =).

    According to SpecialChem's community insight on various plant-based industrial oils used for coatings application, soybean oil has the best chance of being used as a renewable raw material for commercial sustainable coatings, followed by linseed oil, castor oil, coconut oil and tung oil.

    Based on 410 votes, soybean oil received 44% of the votes as the vegetable oil is said to have the highest amount of linoleic acid and lower amounts of linolenic acid and oleic acid -- therefore providing unique paths to modify soybean oil for making low VOC alkyd coatings.

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    Codexis cuts R&D ties with Shell

    Speaking of enzymes again, I have been following the biofuel collaboration between Codexis and Shell especially this year when Shell dropped cellulosic ethanol developer Iogen as its research partner in June. Codexis has been collaborating with the Shell-Iogen deal on developing technologies related to conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol.

    Codexis and Shell have finally reached an agreement yesterday where the companies terminated their biofuel research collaboration effective August 31, two months early before their collaboration contract expires on November 1.

    Shell said it will pay Codexis $7.5m for the remaining full-time employee equivalents (FTEs) and milestone payments that would have been due under the original agreement. Shell also agreed not to sell any cellulase enzymes to third party biofuel customers using technology developed by Codexis after the end of the Shell Research deal.

    Shell retains its right to use and manufacture the enzymes including those enzymes that result from Codexis development in the span of a ten-year period beginning August 31, 2012. The enzymes will be for Shell's and its affiliates' own use only. Shell can also sub-license the right to manufacture the enzymes to third parties but only for Shell's own use.

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    Novozymes expands bio-based activities

    Danish enzymes producer Novozymes is a very busy company these days both in the areas of renewable chemicals and biofuels.

    The blog already mentioned Novozymes' collaboration with Cargill and BASF on sugar-based acrylic acid. The company also announced last month its development of a fungus that enables production of a chemical building block called malic acid, which can be used as a flavor enhancer or a feedstock to produce commodity chemicals such as 1,4 butanediol (BDO).

    I tried to find more information on malic acid as this chemical building block is unfamiliar to me. According to Novozymes, malic acid belongs to the group of C4 dicarboxylic acids along with succinic acid and fumaric acid.

    According to a 2004 biomass chemicals report by the US Department of Energy (DOE) --which you can download at the blog's green files-- secondary chemicals that can come out of malic acid include hydroxybutyrolactone and hydroxy succinate derivatives.

    Malic acid is currently produced from fumaric acid or maleic acid, both derived from maleic anhydride, which in turn is produced from vapor-phased oxidation of hydrocarbons particularly butane. According to the DOE report, the conversion from fumaric to malic is done using fermentation.

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    September 4, 2012

    Elevance Withdraws IPO

    Sorry about the new layout folks. I've been getting input from readers on how to improve the blog and one thing that is apparently missing is the date on each post!

    Unfortunately, I can't put the dates on the old layout so I have to I have to redo the blog instead. I hope this will not turn off the readers.

    Back to this news, it seems that renewable chemical companies that have pending IPOs (initial public offering) are wise indeed to withdraw given the uncertain financial and economic situation lingering here in the US and in Europe.

    I've been hearing from financial gurus on TV that the financial market will even be more volatile after the November US presidential election, and it will not matter which party wins. The good news here is that renewable chemical companies seem to be getting good financial backing this year to support their commercialization phase.

    Elevance Renewable Sciences, which filed its IPO on September 21, 2011, announced on Friday that it has withdrawn its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stating that the company has instead been able to raised additional funds through a private placement of preferred stock.

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    September 1, 2012

    Bio-acrylic acid on the way

    So...I just found out yesterday that my goodbye post on my old blog has been taken down by ICIS. I am not sure how this action is beneficial to them except that it looked really mean-spirited to me but I guess that's how some corporations work.

    Oh well...

    So let me start my second post about bio-acrylic acid. BASF, Cargill and Novozymes announced last month that BASF has joined both Cargill and Novozymes in the development and commercialization of bio-based acrylic acid using sugar-based 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) for feedstock.

    I first reported about this project in January 2008 when Cargill and Novozymes announced back then about their collaboration on 3-HP produced from sugar fermentation using bioengineered organisms. The US Department of Energy gave the project a $1.5m funding.

    The companies said back then that their bio-acrylic acid could be ready within five years. Five years later, Cargill and Novozymes have pulled in Germany-based chemical firm BASF, which is the world's largest producer of acrylic acid, according to its press statement.

    According to a June 2010 global acrylic acid capacity report from Tecnon OrbiChem (which was published by ICIS), BASF had a total global acrylic acid capacity of 1.14m tonnes/year including the company's joint venture with Petronas in Kuantan, Malaysia (160,000 tonnes) and with YPC (160,000 tonnes).

    The other top producers include Dow Chemical, Arkema, StoHaas Monomer, Nippon Shokubai and Formosa Plastics.

    INVISTA seeks more bio-based nylon feedstock

    My interview with INVISTA happened after the company announced its partnership with LanzaTech to develop bio-based butadiene as feedstock for their proprietary adiponitrile (ADN) production technology. ADN is an intermediate chemical used in the manufacture of nylon 6,6.

    LanzaTech initially plans to convert carbon monoxide (CO) to 2,3 butanediol (2,3 BDO), and then subsequently convert it to 1,3 butadiene (BD) using gas fermentation. Longer term, the companies plans to produce CO-based BD directly using a single step process via gas fermentation.

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