October 31, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

Here are this week's news roundup. Sorry for the delay as I got by distracted by the arrival of one of the worst hurricanes in the history of New York City. Our neighborhood was ok, thank goodness, but some of my family and friends still don't have electricity. 

My prayers for those families who lost a lot in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and my heartfelt thanks to those who are tirelessly helping in the rescue operation and clean-up across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

For now, here are this week's news roundup:

Bunge invests in Cobalt Technologies
US agribusiness major Bunge has invested in biobased n-butanol developer Cobalt Technologies for an undisclosed amount as part of Cobalt's Series E preferred stock financing. Bunge is also working with Cobalt and its partners Rhodia Poliamida e Especialidades on operating a pilot plant using sugarcane bagasse feedstock at the Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencia e Tecnologia do Bioetanol facility in Campinas, Brazil. The parties will also work together on co-location of a demonstration facility as well as future commercial-scale biorefinery at a Bunge sugarcane mill.

PHA improves PVC performance
Polydroxyalkanoate (PHA) resin developer Metabolix has developed a new series of PHA copolymers that demonstrated significantly improved mechanical and environmental performance characteristics of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The copolymers are said to be miscible with PVC resins and was able to improve plasticization, impact and processing modification of rigid and flexible PVC. Metabolix was working with custom compounder AlphaGary based in Massachusetts, USA.

Bio-based lubricants partnership
US agbiotech company Monsanto and Biosynthetic Technologies LLC have formed a licensing and supply agreement for the use Monsanto's Vistive Gold soybean oil in production of biosynthetic lubricant oils. Biosynthetic Technologies has developed a new class of bio-based synthetic oils under the brand LubriGreen Biosynthetic Oils that reportedly match or exceed the performance characteristics of the highest quality petroleum-based oils currently used in the automotive and industrial lubricant sectors. Monsanto has also invested $7m in Biosynthetic Technologies.

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October 29, 2012

Novozymes buys 10% stake in Beta Renewables

Novozymes today announced its 10% acquisition stake worth $115m in Beta Renewables -- a cellulosic biofuel joint venture between Chemtex (a division of Italian plastic producer Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi) and investment firm TPG.

Danish enzymes producer Novozymes and Beta Renewables have agreed to jointly market cellulosic ethanol using Novozymes' Cellic enzymes and Beta Renewables' PROESA engineering and production technology.

Novozymes said it will gain access to significant new business opportunities with the deal. Beta Renewables' 20m gal/year Crescentino, Italy, cellulosic ethanol plant is expected to start by year-end 2012 with initial production of 13m gal/year using wheat straw, energy crops and other locally-available biomass.

Here's an interesting advertorial video from Beta Renewables about their PROESA process...

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Zeachem completes cellulosic ethanol biorefinery

I am currently working on my weekly news roundup but in the meantime before Hurricane Sandy cuts off my electricity, I'll post (separately) these news today that came from Zeachem and Novozymes.

Let's start with Zeachem, which announced today that it has completed construction of its 250,000 gal/year biorefinery demonstration plant in Boardman, Oregon, and that it has also closed its series C financing totaling $25m.

Zeachem's Boardman, Oregon biorefinery
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October 26, 2012

Toyota Tsusho's Bio-PET rolls out

It's 2am and I'll make this a quickie post before my eyes popped out of my head.

Illinois, US-based Clear Lam Packaging announced yesterday that it has signed a deal with Toyota Tshusho for the use of its Bio-PET (polyethylene terephthalate) resin in Clear Lam's rollstock product line.

The new Clear Lam Bio-PET rollstock will be available in December and will run on existing equipment, including form fill and seal machinery used by food processors as well as on traditional industrial thermoformers. Clear Lam said it will incorporate the plant-based Bio-PET in sheet extrusions that will be sold to consumer packaged goods companies and manufacturers of industrial goods.

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BP cancels US cellulosic ethanol plans

UK-based fuel giant BP seems to have caved-in to biofuel market pressures (and investor pressures) as it announced today that it will end its pursuit of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production in the US.

BP said it is cancelling plans to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Highlands County, Florida, and it will instead refocus its US biofuels strategy on research and development as well as licensing its biofuels technology. I guess there goes the promised 200 jobs in Florida...

Photo credit: BIO

The company originally planned to build the 36m gal/year cellulosic ethanol facility in 2008 with the intention of using 20,000 acres of energy cane crops for feedstock. The facility was expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2014.

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October 24, 2012

More delays for METEX' bio-PDO

France-based METabolic EXplorer (METEX) is joining the ranks of other public industrial biotechnology firms (such as Amyris, Codexis, Gevo...) who are not too happy with the way their stocks are falling this year.

Difficulty in financing and planned capacity delays are also hitting METEX hard with the company announcing on October 8 plans to reduce its workforce to 75 people, about 1/3 of its employees from a total count of 121 as of December 31, 2011, according to French news agency Boursier.com

According to METEX, the reorganization plan is a result of a difficult economic market conditions that started the beginning of this year, and that the company has to address "a greater need for competitiveness."

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October 23, 2012

2013: A validation year for industrial biotech

Speaking of the recent BIO Pacific Rim Industrial Biotechnology summit, my ex-boss kindly forward to me a recent report from investment firm Jefferies & Company on their key takeaways about several discussions coming from the conference.

I need to knock on several investment firms' doors again to be able to get these types of reports and share it to the blog readers ;).

According to Jefferies' equity analyst Laurence Alexander, 2013 will be a key "validation year" for most biobased chemicals and next generation biofuels technologies.
"The nascent renewables industry is seeing differentiation on the use of sugars, oils, and, increasingly, syngas as potential feedstocks. Given the range of biotech and thermocatalytic conversion processes, the variations in related co-products, and the differences in the level of new infrastructure investment that will be required to support feedstock collection and product commercialization, the first round of projects will exploit "pockets of opportunity" where local arbitrages and incentives reinforce each other."
"Companies such as BASF, DSM, DuPont and Novozymes will likely use the next 5 years to evaluate which technologies and feedstocks are most likely to cement market-leading economics."

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October 21, 2012

Zeachem looks at bio-propanol

Look at what I found! I have always been asking Zeachem what specific C3 chemicals they are looking into and now I have my (sort-of) answers from this slide presentation that Zeachem's chief commercial officer Bob Walsh recently presented at BIO's Pacific Rim industrial biotechnology and bioenergy summit.

In this presentation, Zeachem points to development of its C3 platform that includes propionic acid, ethyl propionate and propanol. These chemical building blocks can lead to the production of bio-based propylene. The blog previously posted recent activities on this market.

Of course Zeachem is already producing its C2s -- acetic acid and ethyl acetate at the company's 250,000 gal/year demo facility in Boardman, Oregon.

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October 19, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

My apologies for the delay in this post. I had to do several phone calls throughout the day today and yesterday. My twittering and Facebook addiction also got the best of me lately ;-).

Here are this week's news roundup:

Reverdia, Helm biosuccinic partnership
Bio-succinic acid producer Reverdia has partnered with European chemical distributor Helm AG for the distribution and joint market development of Reverdia's Biosuccinium. Reverdia expects its 10,000 tonne/year biobased succinic acid plant in Cassano Spinola, Italy, to start operations by the end of 2012. Helm said the biobased succinic acid will be a good addition to its portfolio of biobased chemicals and diacids such as sebacic, azelaic and adipic acid.

Perstorp capitalizes on bioplastic growth
Swedish chemical firm Perstorp said it is committed to meet the strong growing demand for biodegradable plastics with its Capa thermoplastics, which is made from biodegradable resins polycaprolactone (PCL). Perstorp said its Capa Thermoplastics can blend well with many other polymers. The company doubled the production capacity of its Capa biodegradable resins at its Warrington, England, plant last year

TOKU-E's bioacrylamide now available 
TOKU-E company announced that its newly developed ultra-pure bioconversion acrylamide is now available in bulk quantities for electrophoresis and other life science applications. The company produces its ultra pure acrylamide using enzyme conversion with nitrile hydratase.

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October 18, 2012

Strong bioplastic growth led by bio-PET

Another delayed post is this press release last week from the industry trade group, European Bioplastics, on their annual report on the global bioplastic capacity/production status and five-year growth projections.

The report, which is published in cooperation with the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites from the University of Hannover (Germany), noted a fivefold growth of the global bioplastics production capacity -- from 1.2m tonnes in 2011 to 5.8m tonnes projected for 2016.

The strongest growth will be led by bio-based, non-biodegradable bioplastics group such as bio-PE (polyethylene) and bio-PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which are dubbed "drop-in" solutions. Remember our bioplastic cheat sheet here?

According to the European Bioplastic report, biobased PET is already accounting for 40% of the global bioplastics production capacity. Partially biobased PET will continue to grow to more than 4.6m tonnes by 2016, which will accoount for 80% of the total bioplastics production capacity in that time frame.

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Green Biologics' biobutanol now available

I am still working on the weekly news roundup but in the meantime, the blog recently had a very interesting conversation with Green Biologics' vice president of business development, Tim Staub, on the company's commercialization of its bio-based n-butanol.

It started when somebody from Arkema (via LinkedIn) was asking about current availability of bio-based n-butanol and Green Biologics posted that the company has just imported 55 tonnes of corn waste-based n-butanol produced by its partner, Laihe Rockley, in Jillin, China.

The world's first commercial cellulosic n-butanol (as the company claimed) is now available for those who are interested in testing the product here in the US. The company is focusing on collaborative business model largely with major chemical downstream producers.

Laihe Rockley biobased n-butanol plant in Jilin Province, China

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October 16, 2012

LanzaTech in CO2-to-acetic acid

Miss me? I miss blogging too, and for those who recently contacted me via email, my apologies for the delayed response. A lot of personal things going on but I am trying to get back into the green groove.

We have several green chemical news that came out this week but let us start first with LanzaTech's carbon dioxide-based acetic acid partnership with Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas, which is also a current investor in the company via its venture arm Petronas Technology Ventures Sdn Bhd.

The companies will work together to develop and commercialize acetic acid production using waste carbon dioxide (sourced from refinery off gases and natural gas wells) as feedstock.
“Rather than trying to sequester carbon deep into the earth, we will “bury” it in a chemical. In this way, companies can not only comply with emissions reduction requirements, but also generate revenue along the way.” - Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech CEO.

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October 12, 2012

Global Bioenergies in bio-propylene

Source: Nexant
France-based Global Bioenergies (GBE) announced this week that it was able to  directly convert glucose to propylene using the same artificial metabolic pathway that the company uses to produce its bio-isobutene.

According to the company, artificial pathway means:
"The GBE pathway uses enzymatic activities and metabolic intermediates that are not found in nature but only occur in microbial strains engineered by GBE. By engineering new functions into natural enzymes, we have created enzymes with specificity towards non-natural substrates that lead to the synthesis of target molecules."
Propylene, according to GBE, has never been naturally directly produced by microorganisms and therefore direct bio-production of propylene required an artificial metabolic pathway.

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FTC's revised Green Guides

'Tis the season to remind manufacturers to be careful about their green marketing claims.

Last month, the European Bioplastics trade group launched its Environmental Communications Guide to helo marketing and communications professionals to correctly present the benefits of bioplastics based on approved standards.

Last week, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finally revised its Green Guides (Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims) after more than a decade of figuring out the meaning of "green" with series of workshops for the past couple of years.

The last Green Guide was revised in 1998. I remembered mentioning the FTC Green Guide workshops in January 2008 (I started the green blog in November 2007) and when the FTC released the proposed revised Guides in the fall of 2010.

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October 11, 2012

Puma debuts biodegradable shoes

Sports products company PUMA is launching in February 2013 worldwide its collection of shoes, apparel and accessories that are either biodegradable or recyclable when consumers return their worn-out products to PUMA's Bring Me Back Program.

The InCycle collection are said to be 100% Cradle-to-Cradle Basic certified. The collection includes lifestyle sneaker Basket (biodegradable), track jacket (recyclable), shirts (biodegradable) and a backpack (recyclable). PUMA said it is aiming to increase the number of of their products made of more sustainable materials.

The PUMA InCycle collection uses biodegradable polymers, recycled polyesters and organic cotton.

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Biochemistry: Signs of the times

I am fully back in gear (after another grueling exam) and ready to post. Yesterday, the twitter world was abuzz about the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry going to two American scientists Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz, a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and Dr. Brian K. Kobilka, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

The two scientists discovered the inner workings of G-protein-coupled- receptors (GPCR), that reside on the surfaces of cells and react to a host of hormones and neurotransmitters.

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Weekly News Roundup

I'm beginning to hate school...Good thing I still have this blog so I can vent my school frustration in a productive way. Here are this week's news roundup:

Biosuccinium in solvents
Bio-succinic acid producer Reverdia has collaborated with Belgium-based fine chemical company Proviron for the manufacture of Proviron's Provichem 2511 Eco, a di-methyl-succinate (DMS) that can be used as a solvent and a raw material for fine chemicals such as pigments and UV stabilizers. Commercial volumes for the product are now available, according to the companies. Reverdia's 10,000 tonnes/year commercial bio-succinic acid facility in Cassano Spinola, Italy, is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2012.

Cereplast sells bioplastics in India
Cereplast has begun selling its first Hybrid resins "Sustainable Biopropylene H-101" in India initially for safety helmets application. The resins will be delivered by A.R.M.Y India, Cereplast's partner in Hyderabad. Cereplast opened its corporate office in Hyderabad in August.

Fraunhofer Center now open
The new Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes (CBP) in Leuna, Germany, is now open. The aim of the CBP is to transition innovative biotechnological and chemical processes to industrial-scale production. Linde Engineering Dresden GmbH was commissioned by the Fraunhofer Institute to build five pilot-scale process units known as modules for the CBP in December 2009.

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October 7, 2012

Cleantech list recognizes chems

Congratulations to renewable chemical and biofuel companies who made it to this year's annual Global Cleantech 100 companies!

The list, according to Cleantech Group, is an annual barometer reading of the global innovation community's shifting views on which companies, and the type of clean technology sectors, are most likely to have big commercial impact in a 5-10 year timeframe.

According to the report, energy efficiency remains the hottest and growing sector within cleantech. Within this category, lighting and enterprise energy management solution (usually for buildings management) are the dominant sub-sectors.

Since the list's inception three years ago, companies focusing on green chemistry still remain underrepresented among overall clean technology sectors but the good news is that mainstream media is now recognizing the importance of the chemical/ advanced biofuel sectors.

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October 5, 2012

To Succinity and Beyond!

I'm on a study mode now but let me post this news from BASF and CSM today about the formation of their 50-50 bio-succinic acid joint venture company called Succinity. I love the name by the way and for some reason, I keep mixing this with the movie Toys Story's famous quote "To Infinity and Beyond!." =)

BASF and CSM have been working on bio-based succinic acid since 2009 and in fact, are currently modifiying an existing fermentation facility in Barcelona, Spain, owned by CMS's subsidiary Purac. The Montmelo site, if memory serves me, is supposed to have a 25,000 tonne fermentation capacity.

The facility is expected to produce 10,000 tonnes/year biobased succinic acid, which is expected to commence operations in late 2013.

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October 4, 2012

Solazyme plant capacity online

Solazyme just published this You Tube video of their new 128,000-liter fermentation operation in Peoria, Illinois. The company said its algae-based oils production capacity is now online and based on my previous reports about the facility, the plant is expected to have a nameplate capacity of 2m liters/year of oil.

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October 2, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

Second exam coming up next week! My other half is looking at me with evil eye as I type this post. By the way, thanks for the well-wishes on the blog's first monthsary (or is it monthsiversary?? -- these made-up words will boot me out of my English class...)

Here are this week's news roundup.

DuPont bio-PDO in TPU resins
DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products has licensed the use of its Susterra biobased propanediol (PDO) brand to Nam Liong Enterprise for its Ureamax Plus TPU (thermoplastic polyurethanes) films and its Enprotex Plus waterproof fabrics. Nam Liong's Ureamax and Enprotex Plus are used in the manufacturing of waterproof and [or] breathable textiles, and contains a minimum 20% by weight of Sustera bio-PDO in the TPU or PU-based resin.

Yingli Green Energy in subsidy complaint
China-based solar energy company Yingli Green Energy denies accusations of receiving illegal subsidization according to a complaint by EuProsun, an initiative of European solar companies led by SolarWorld. EuProsun filed the complaint at the European Comission.

Butamax expands biofuel patent
Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC has been granted patent 8,273,558 by the US Patent and Trademark Office, which focuses on modified genes in microorganisms that allows for significant increase in the volume and rate of isobutanol produced through a certain pathway. The '588 patent also protects blending the isobutanol produced through the modified yeast cells with fossil fuels.

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October 1, 2012

One month blog milestone

It has been a month since the new Green Chemicals blog has been launched and I just wanted to thank you to all those who have continuously followed the green blogger as well as those who have just checked this blog.

It has been an incredible month as the blog was able to get 6,000 readers just in September alone. Email subscribers are around 127. This is in comparison to the old green blog (which has 5 years under its belt) that has an average 10,000-15,000 page views per month and a total of 350 email subscribers since I last checked in August.

Almost half of our readers came from the US followed by Japan, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Brazil. As you can see in this map, the blog's readers are spread out all over the world proving that green chemistry is of great interest to almost every countries where industrial manufacturing exists.

I also wanted to thank my social networking buddies as according to the blog's statistics, most of our referrers came from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

I am excited that I can still help provide information about renewable chemicals, biofuels, clean technologies and a bit about sustainability initiatives from individual companies as well as the chemical/manufacturing industries as a whole.

With your help, I hope to keep this blog rolling along as we continue to cover and monitor developments of these burgeoning and definitely exciting industries in the years ahead.

Bio-based specialty chems thrive

My last article from ICIS this year was just published as part of the SOCMA Leadership 2012 supplement. I was assigned to write an article on how specialty chemicals companies such as Allylix, Rivertop Renewables, and Blue Marble Biomaterials (BMB) are doing amid financing pressures and mainstream media focusing more towards bio-based commodity products as opposed to specialty chemicals.

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Coca-Cola picks bio-EG supplier

Happy October! It feels like it has been awhile since I last posted. School is creating chaos on my grand blogging plans but the blogger will persist.

Finally, Coca-Cola announced it's long-awaited bio-based monoethylene glycol (bio-MEG) plans for its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) PlantBottle as the plastic industry has always been curious on how Coca-Cola will sustainably source its bio-MEG supply given that there are not a lot of producers out there for this material (only one source according to Coca-Cola).

For those who are not familiar with PET bottles, the resin is made from 30% MEG and 70% PTA (purified terephthalic acid) by weight. Coca-Cola's PlantBottle packaging is currently made with sugar-based MEG and petroleum-based PTA.

Coca-Cola announced last week that it has partnered with India-based JBF Industries Ltd. to further expand its bio-MEG supply. JBF Industries will build what they claimed as the world's largest facility to produce bio-based glycol to be located in Araraquara, Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes/year. The bio-based MEG will use sugarcane and bagasse for feedstock. The blog wonders how much sugar the facility will consume...

Xiemar Zarazúa, President, Brazil Business Unit, and Ronald J. Lewis, Vice President, Procurement & Chief Procurement Officer at The Coca-Cola Company.

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