November 19, 2012

Guayule rubber in wetsuit

US-based Yulex sent me this press release this weekend regarding their project with sports/outdoors products manufacturer Patagonia on a guayule rubber-based wetsuit as an alternative for the use of neoprene materials.

The blog first heard about guayule (pronounced why-YOU-lee) in 2009 when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) put out an article about their research with this plant as a source of natural latex ideal for making high-quality gloves, medical devices and even as biofuel with the use of its waste stems and branches (bagasse).

Guayule shrubs can first be harvested as early as 2 years after planting. The shrubs typically grow at least 3 feet high and several feet across, and sliced just above the ground, they regrow vigorously and are ready to harvest again in another year and a half or so.

According to Yulex, Patagonia has just launched a wetsuit that contains 60% renewable content using Yulex's biorubber material made from guayule and the rest from petrochemical-based materials. The guayule rubber has allowed Patagonia to use as little as neoprene as possible, the company said.

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November 16, 2012

Biofuel News Roundup

The blog decided to separate the biofuel news from the weekly roundup as there are too many of them and its piling up quickly. Current activities going on in the biofuel industry is the wait-and-watch mode for the much anticipated decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on whether it will change or maintain the status quo for the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2013.

The RFS requires 13bn gallons of ethanol to be produced in 2013. Several industry food groups are arguing that the RFS requirement is aggravating food prices because of the use of corn. The biofuel industry is fighting to maintain the status quo for RFS2.

A decision by the EPA is expected to come out soon.

Europe is also going through the same "mandates" challenge as the US. The European Commission (EC) put out a proposal in October that will limit the use of food crops such as oilseeds and cereals for the production of biofuels. EC is also looking to introduce a new legislation to account for indirect land usage changes (ILUC), which will assess the greenhouse gas emissions performance caused by biofuels.

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November 15, 2012

Algae update: Solazyme et al.

A lot of activities going on with Solazyme that includes its third quarter earnings report yesterday, the launch of its algal-based diesel to the consumer market, expansion of its production capacity in Brazil through the Bunge joint venture, and finally, a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) for additional production capacity through ADM's Clinton, Iowa, fermentation plant  -- the same plant where Metabolix previously produce its polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHA bioplastic resins before ADM decided to drop Metabolix in January this year.

Solazyme announced on Tuesday its month-long pilot program with biofuel retailer Propel Fuels where the companies are now selling Solazyme's algae-based diesel (called Soladiesel BD) in California at Propel's retail pumps in Redwood City, San Jose, Berkeley, and Oakland.

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November 14, 2012

Bioplastic potential in bag bans

This interactive map of various plastic bag bans (either already implemented, in the works, or did not go through...) is definitely worth sharing as I've mentioned via twitter, that these bag bans could lead to increase market share for compostable/biodegradable shopping bags.

One example is Metabolix's new Mvera B5008 compostable-certified film grade resin. Application for the bioplastic includes compost bag and can liners for organic waste collection as well as shopping and retail bags that can be reused as compostable organic waste bags.

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November 13, 2012

Weekly News Roundup

So many news, so little time....

Dow, Mitsui secures JV approval
Dow Chemical and Mitsui & Co. have completed the formation of its previously announced 50:50 JV in Brazil. The JV will operate a sugarcane plantation, build a 63m gal/year sugarcane-to-ethanol facility, which will be integrated into a biopolymers facility producing sugarcane-based polyethylene plastics for use in high-performance flexible packaging, hygiene and medical markets. Engineering and equipment fabrication for the ethanol facility in Santa Vitória is reportedly proceeding according to schedule, with operations expected to start 2Q 2013.

Clariant, Wilmar in amines
Swiss specialty chemical company Clariant has partnered with Singapore-based agribusiness firm Wilmar International Ltd. for a 50-50 joint venture in the production and sales of amines and selected amines derivatives. Clariant will contribute its Industrial & Consumer Specialties business unit’s sales activities of relevant amines and derivatives as well as its amines plant in Germany and production output from its amines plant in Brazil. Wilmar will contribute a new plant in China as well as its oleochemical expertise, including access to renewable raw materials.

Rivertop's biobased corrosion inhibitors
For the second year in a row, Rivertop Renewables will supply the Montana Department of Transportation its bio-based corrosion inhibitors under the trademark "Headwaters" for use with liquid deicers. The product is derived from corn sugar and is completely biodegradable. This fall the company opened its renovated laboratories and semi-works facility at the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC) in Missoula.

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November 12, 2012

Introducing Calysta Energy

I'm working on the weekly news roundup and reading some of the recent earnings report from Amyris, Gevo, Codexis and Solazyme. In between these and studying, I'll put this short post about a newly established company called Calysta Energy led by former Codexis CEO Alan Shaw, who stepped down from his post in Codexis early this year.

Calysta Energy was formed in 2011 is a spinout of DNA 2.0, a major provider of synthetic genes for industrial and academic use. I guess this company is joining those that are using gas to liquid (GTL) technology platforms such as LanzaTech, Newlight Technologies, Oakbio, Carbon Sciences, Siluria, Enerkem, among others.

According to the company's website, Calysta will leverage its extensive expertise in protein engineering, gene synthesis and gene expression optimization to create advanced molecular biology tools able to engineer novel production organisms which enable process technology (I love cut and paste tools!).

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Sustainable Palm oil: Is certification enough?

I have been loosely following environmental issues concerning the sustainability of global palm oil supply and production given my interest in the oleochemical sector where palm oil derivatives is a major feedstock.

Japan-based fragrance company Shiseido was just one of the latest global consumer/food product firms that announced their initiative to make sure their palm oil supply comes from a sustainable supply chain.

Shiseido has already joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2010. RSPO is an international non-profit organization established by the World Wide Fund (WWF), companies and organizations involved with palm oil production. According to RSPO, total members as of October 23 was 755.

Shiseido said it will make sure its total volume of palm oil used as raw material for their cosmetic products will be RSPO-certified oil by 2013. All RSPO members are required to submit a time bound plan to produce, trade, process and/or purchase and use 100% certified sustainable palm oil before their general assembly meeting which was held in November 1 (somewhere...).

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November 11, 2012

PHA bioplastic update

I have two posts that keeps accumulating virtual dusts...this one and the one about oleochemicals...

Since I am in the bioplastic mode again (thanks to recent news about polybutylene succinate or PBS), let me see what we can do with this one about polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) since there had been several news that came out about in the past few weeks.

One is this company called Newlight Technologies which has been operating under stealth mode since its inception in 2003. Newlight has developed a resin functionalization technology that enables the company to produce PHA-based plastics that reportedly can match or exceed the performance of commodity plastics using using air and greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide for feedstock.

Reminds me of LanzaTech technology except LanzaTech is not focusing on PHA-based resins.

Just for a background, PHAs are semi-crystalline thermoplastic polyesters that are fully biodegradable in anaerobic and aerobic conditions (copying this verbatim from an industry source).

Newlight Technologies said it has invented, patented, and commercialized a game-changing carbon capture and plastics manufacturing technology. The most important thing to note is that the company is already operating on a large-scale, continuous basis, and is in fact already selling its plastics to customers with applications ranging from furniture parts to storage containers to packaging films.

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November 9, 2012

Nike uses bio-based polyurethanes

As folks in the polyurethane industry would tell you, the sports products and footwear markets are hot spots for growing bioplastic demand.

I actually wrote about Nike's announcement of its GS football boot in July when it announced that its new football boot has been worn by Brazilian football star Neymar. Back then, Nike said the sole plate of this boot is made of 50% Pebax Renew (Arkema's castor-based thermoplastic elastomer with about 97% renewable-based component), and 50% bio-based thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU).

Spain-based Merquinsa, a Lubrizol company, actually noted on a press release last month that it was their Pearlthane ECO TPU product (also made with castor oil derivatives) that Nike used on the plate base of the GS Football boot. The castor-based TPU made the sole plate 15% lighter than traditional plate composition, according to Merquinsa.

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November 8, 2012

Neste Oil expands in bio-naptha

A short post about Neste Oil's renewable naphtha product before it gets buried in my draft box..

According to Finnish energy giant Neste Oil, it has launched commercial production and sales of bio-based naptha produced as a co-product of its NExBTL renewable diesel refining process at its sites in Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Neste's NExBTL renewable diesel is produced by hydrotreating fats and oils (via application of hydrogen and catalysts). This article from Green Car Congress provided a nice explanation of how naptha is produced from hydrotreated fats and oils such as Neste's NExBTL.

According to the article, the type of catalyst and reaction temperature are important factors in determining yield and composition of liquid products such as  green naphtha (C5-C10), green jet fuel (C11-C13), green diesel (C14-20) and even liquid petroleum gas. A severe hydrocracking catalyst would lead to a high production of green naphtha whereas a mild-hydrocracking catalyst is prone to produce mainly green diesel.

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Mitsubishi expands PBS partnership

I apologize for the long hiatus as I just finished my mid-term exam last night and I made a promise to focus all my attention on school for the exam.

I have been wanting to post this news since it came out on November 5 about the collaboration between Mitsubishi Chemical and France-based automotive equipment supplier Faurecia on the use of polybutylene succinate (PBS) resins made from 100% biomass-based feedstock in automotive applications. I have mentioned the biodegradable polyester PBS before when I last posted about succinic acid.

It is commercially available in the market although not in big quantities. The last time I spoke with Mitsubishi Chemical, the company estimated the global PBS market were at 5,000-6,000 tonnes/year, and most of it is manufactured using petrochemical-based succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol (BDO). An industry source estimated the current PBS and derivatives market at 100,000–120,000 tonnes/year.

Faurecia said it has been conducting research into 100% renewable-based bioplastic since 2006 and will now partner with Mitsubishi Chemical to co-develop a full-range of bioplastics designed for use in automotive interiors. The collaboration will start with biomass-derived PBS, where Mitsubishi is already a producer via its partnership with US bio-succinic acid manufacturer BioAmber.

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