June 22, 2012

BIO 2012 Coverage Update

By Sam Nejame, founder of Promotum, a management consulting firm
specializing in technology commercialization and business development.










------------------------
Wrapping up a week at BIO. Collection of interesting things seen and heard.

The Biofuels and Biobased Chemicals track kicked off boldly with a panel
comparing the outlook for Industrial Bio with Pharma Bio. Pretty scary
when you consider it took 30 years before recombinant drug cos. reached
meaningful profitability. Superstars Amgen and Genentech aside,
biotechnology was still crawling out the abyss in 2006. What did we
learn? Companies need to be honest and investors need patience.

Leveling the playing field. I’m always shocked when I see numbers for
government subsidies to the oil industry. John Hamer of Burrill reminded
me oil subsidies run ~$2.6B/year. Tough to wean an industry off subsidies
it’s enjoyed since 1926.

Benefits of renewable diesel more than just RINs. A panel covering
sustainability and GHG certification discussed biodiesel use in mines.
Good to see air quality (reduction in particulate, carbon monoxide, etc.
from diesel generators) and worker health benefits acknowledged.

The right stuff and single molecule “drop-ins.” Fuel standard
complexities can be maddening. Andrew Held, Virent, gave a brief primer
on jet fractions. Yep, those light ends are there in case you need to
restart the engine midair.

Moore’s law of biotechnology. I’ve been looking for the right way to
explain industrial biotechnology to clients for some time. How is it
tools that could previously only be used for products costing $10,000/kg
can now be used to make specialty chemicals, polymers… and even fuel? See
Nature 458: 719-724 (2009). Special thanks to Heather Youngs at EBI.

Scott Vitters, with Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle program, described successes
and obstacles in the company’s renewable packaging efforts. Coke
currently sells 1.8 billion servings/day with 50%-60% of their “value”
delivered in PET packaging. The company says it’s committed to 100%
renewable material at some point.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, architect of the $700 billion
Troubled Asset Relief Program, that saved numerous banks and other
financial institutions in 2008, appeared in Tuesday's Key Note with holes
in the soles of his shoes. Austerity for all!

Final thoughts: Isn’t it a little strange that the renewable fuels
industry is the only industry that must meet LCA requirements? And it
doesn’t get paid for the GHG reductions? Did you know there’s something
called “the Ethical Oil movement?” I guess green moms are just going to
say “No!” to Nigerian distillate.

June 19, 2012

BIO 2012 Coverage

Sam Nejame is covering the BIO 2012 meeting for the green blog. His thoughts for the first day...
--------------------
Sitting in for Doris at BIO International Convention in Boston. Couple of
brief notes.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon Abengoa Bioenergy and Myriant
gave updates on construction of their first commercial plants and Myriant
announced the first bond placement under USDA's B&I Rural Development Loan
Guarantee Program. Important precedent for the industry as it seeks to
move toward project finance.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization shows growing interest in
chemicals and fuels although pharma programs and participants (15,000)
dwarf us. Bit like the early days for "biofuels" with smaller audiences
and easy access to industry leaders.
-----------
Also saw an email today about Gevo collaborating with BiotechCorp. and ECERDC on investing in cellulosic isobutanol in Malaysia. Remember my post last week about these organizations setting up a biorefinery site in the state of Terengganu, and trying to attract foreign industrial biotechnology firms to invests in the site?
Unfortunately, I'm wrong again in my prediction of who they're going to announce this week (at BIO2012) as their latest collaborator...that's why I don't gamble ha!
According to Gevo's press statement, the company is in final stages of evaluating additional partners to complete the biomass to isobutanol value chain.
Gevo plans to have a set deal by the second half of 2012 with target of having a cellulosic plant operational by late 2015 or early 2016.
Ok, I need to take a nap now as I just got into Singapore and soooo jetlagged! Hopefully, we will hear more from Sam on what's going on at BIO2012.

June 17, 2012

The traveling blogger

Guess where the green blogger is off to? I'll be back on July 4!





Weekly News Roundup

The green blogger is going on a part work/part vacation for the next two 2.5 weeks outside the US. I will try my hardest not to check my emails while I'm on vacation ;-). Don't miss me too much!
Here are last week's news roundup:
BioTork collaborates with BASF
US biotechnology company BioTork expanded its collaboration with BASF on the optimization of certain microbial strains for the production of bio-based polymers and chemicals. BASF has been conducting intensive research on the use of microorganisms for the production of proteins, enzymes, vitamins and other high-value and low cost chemicals. The two companies recently completed a pilot study. Financial terms of the partnership have not been disclosed.
Chemtex bags USDA biomass grant
Chemtex, the engineering and technology division of Grupo Mossi & Ghisolfi, has been awarded $3,996,000 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Biomass Crop Assistance Program to support the establishment of over 4,000 acres of miscanthus and switchgrass across eleven counties in North Carolina.  The feedstock will be part of the biomass supply for Project Alpha, a 20m gal/year cellulosic ethanol biorefinery planned to be build in Sampson County, North Carolina, with a plant start-up expected in 2014.
Vertichem acquires Thesis Chemistry
Vertichem will acquire 100% interest in Thesis Chemistry, which is currently commercializing its technology platform for the production of vanillin and aromatic aldehydes from plant lignin. The company is also developing more advanced biorefining technologies to convert lignin into phenols, cresols, BTX and fuels. Vertichem is working on a portfolio of green platform chemicals including lignin, xylose, and cellulose from woody biomass, agricultural resides and grasses.
LS9 opens demo plant
LS9 officially opened its demonstration facility in Okeechobee, Florida. The 75,000 gal/year facility will be initially used for commercial samples for testing and product qualification, and to test and optimize new process conditions. Large-scale production from the plant is expected in the third quarter of 2012.
Amyris bags $8m DARPA contract
Amyris has been awarded an $8m contract from the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop tools, technologies and methodologies that can transform biology into an engineering practice. Amyris said it can leverage its technology to developed improved DNA assembly and rapid integration across complex biological platform.
MVC Capital invests in Biovation 
MVC Capital will invest up to $3.05m in Biovation Holdings, a manufacturer of environment-friendly, organic and sustainable laminate materials and composites under the brand name Biosurf.  Biovation's materials are made from corn and soybean co-products that can be extruded into flat sheets or rolls. The products are expected to be used in industries such as decorative lighting, military applications, transportation, print media and electronics.
Darling International buys grease business
Darling International has completed the acquisition of all of the assets of RVO BioPur, which provides used cooking oil collection and grease trap services to restaurants and food service establishments in Connecticut, Massachusetts and northern New York City. Darling International recycles animal fat waste streams into tallow, feed-grade fats and animal feed ingredients.
...and in ICIS News (requires subscription):
Brazil sugarcane crushing declines in May - Unica

June 14, 2012

Oleochemical news roundup


 Solvay has announced this before but I guess this time, the project is for real as the company said it will build another 100,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) facility that will use refined glycerin for feedstock to be located in Taixing, China.
 
Solvay's Thailand-based affiliate Vinythai will manufacture the glycerin-based ECH using Solvay's Epicerol technology. This is Vinythai's second bio-based ECH. It's first one in Map Ta Phut, Thailand, is already ip and running since March this year.
ECH is an essential feedstock for the production of epoxy resins and is also increasingly being used in applications such as corrosion protection coating, in electronics, automotive or aersopace markets. For 1 tonne of ECH produced using the Epicerol technology, 1.1 tonnes of refined glycerin is used as feedstock and added with hydrogen chloride.
The new China-based plant is expected to become operational in the second half of 2014. Vinythai shareholders are expected to approve the investment formally in July 2012.
Vinythai's major shareholders are the Solvay Group (58.77%) and PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited (24.98%).
According to Solvay, China is the largest ECH market in the world.
In other oleochemical news (and a big one at that), state-owned Malaysian palm and rubber plantation firm FELDA Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH) is seeking to raise up to $3.2bn from an initial public offering under Bursa Malaysia (Malaysia's stock exchange). The IPO will be the largest in Asia and the second largest in the world after Facebook.
Proceeds from the IPO will be used to boost Felda's expansion in Southeast Asia and Africa. Felda was set up by the government in the 1950s as part of a rural development plan to alleviate poverty by giving Malaysian farmers land to grow cash crops mainly palm oil and rubber.
Felda Holdings BHD (where FGVH holds 49% equity stake) actually co-owns FPG Oleochemicals Sdn Bhd with Procter & Gamble Chemicals. FPG is a big oleochemical player in Malaysia with production capacity of 280,000 tonnes/year of methyl ester; 80,000 tonnes/year of fatty alcohol; 35,000 tonnes/year of glycerin and 60,000 tonnes/year of detergents as of 2011.
In the US, Felda also has an oleochemical subsidiary Twin Rivers Technologies based in Massachusetts, which the group bought in 2007. TRT produces fatty acid, glycerin, biofuels and esters.
FGVH is also a producer of crude palm oil and crude palm kernel oil -- an oleochemical feedstock -- with around 70 palm oil mills in Malaysia. FGVH is said to be Malaysia's largest oil palm plantation operator accounting for 6.7% of the country's market share last year. FGVH is expected to overtake Malaysian conglomerate Sime Darby as the world's largest listed plantation group.
Last but not the least, I forgot to include this news on my weekly roundup in April about the Netherlands-based biofuel producer BioMCN partnering with UK-based ED&F for the sourcing, risk management and delivery of crude glycerin from Argentina.
BioMCN uses crude glycerin as feedstock for producing bio-methanol, which can be blended directly with gasoline and [or] used for fuels such as bio-based MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), biodiesel, and bio-based DME (dimethyl ether).
By the way, I hope readers of ICIS Chemical Business did not forget to read this interesting article published on April 2 about glycerin-based glycols written by colleague Judith Taylor.
The article mentioned Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) now producing propylene glycol at its 100,000 tonne/year plant in Decatur, Illinois; and  Hong Kong-based Global Bio-chemical Technology Group (Global Bio-chem) making propylene glycol using corn-derived sugars. Global Bio-chem is also aiming to produce bio-ethylene glycol this year as well as further plans to make bio-butanediol.
Global Bio-chem has a 200,000 tonne/year bio-based propylene glycol plant in Jilin Province, China, which has been operating since 2007.

Malaysia sets up Asia's largest biorefinery site

An official from the government of Malaysia's biotechnology investment agency BiotechCorp sent the blog an email today regarding their Malaysian ringgit (M$)170m (€42.3m, $53.3m) investment for a biorefinery complex in Kertih, in the Terengganu State, which is expected to attract foreign companies to set up shop for their cellulosic-based manufacturing facilities.
The site will reportedly be Asia's largest biorefinery complex, which will sit on a 1,000 hectare land located at Kertih Biopolymer Park (developed by the East Coast Economic Region Development Council or ECERDC or Malaysia).
The site will also have a 30,000 hectares of land dedicated for feedstock plantations that will produce 10.5m tonnes/year of woodchips from Acacia mangium and Leucaena leucocephala -- I have no idea how to pronounce this -- but it is also locally known as "Petai Belalang."
This project is a collaboration between the Terengganu State government, BiotechCorp and ECERDC. BiotechCorp is Malaysia's biotech development agency assigned together with ECERDC to engage global industry biotechnology players especially from the US, Europe, Korea and Japan to set-up their bio-based chemical manufacturing facility in Kertih Biopolymer Park.
In fact, the agencies have already attracted a (M$)3.2bn investment from a joint venture between Korean chemical firm CJ CheilJedang (remember this company? It is also in partnership with Metabolix...) and France-based Arkema to manufacture bio-methionine and other thiochemical platform at an 80,000 tonne/year facility to be located at Kertih Biopolymer park.
For more about bio-methionine, click this link that the blog posted in January.
BiotechCorp said it is expecting  the new complex to be occupied by 8 global industrial biotechnology players by 2015.
In fact, another well-known industrial biotechnology company will announce their plans to set up shop in the complex next week at the BIO 2012 conference, according to the agency. I wonder who could that be??? I am thinking of LanzaTech given its activities in the cellulosic woodchips area as well as its familiarity in the Asian markets...
The Kertih Biopolymer Park, by the way, is also close to PETRONAS Kertih Integrated Petrochemical Complex, which, according to BiotechCorp, allows cross supply of products between both complexes, while providing economies of scale for utilities supply and logistics. 
"The complex will further create opportunities for technology and science-driven companies in the green chemical sector; which is central to the development of the bio-based economy. More significantly, it is one of the many crucial initiatives driven by BiotechCorp as a commitment to advance the bio-chemical sector and to secure a targeted RM4 billion of investment in the industrial biotechnology sector by 2013 to drive the Commercialization Phase of the National Biotechnology Policy (NBP)." - Dato' Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO of BiotechCorp
The agencies expect to get a total of M$6.8bn investment from foreign companies. Operation of the complex is expected to start by early 2014. The site will also use renewable energy coming from cellulosic feedstock instead of natural gas.
The total project is expected to generate a cumulative gross national income of (M$) 20.4bn by 2020 and produce 2,500 green-jobs for Malaysia.
Manufacturing facilities that will be set up on the site are expected to produce advanced carbohydrates, bio-based chemicals, bio-based materials, bio-based fertilizers and active feed ingredients using cellulosic feedstock.

Signing ceremony between BiotechCorp, ECERDC and the Terengganu State Government

June 13, 2012

Gevo continues operation


ICIS news reported* this morning that Gevo will continue to optimize its bio-isobutanol operations in Luverne, Minnesota, as previously planned amid today's injunction decision by the US Federal District Court of Delaware to limit Gevo's commercial activities effective immediately.
The order specifies that Gevo "will not deliver, provide, distribute, ship, release or transfer any of its bio-based isobutanol produced in Luverne facility [that uses recombinant yeast microorganisms] to any third party except that it may sell its bio-based isobutanol to Sasol for chemical applications and the US Air Force for jet fuel testing applications."
The court order resulted from a lawsuit brought by Gevo's competitor Butamax Advanced Biofuels (a joint venture between DuPont and BP). The blog already got lost which one has what patent between these two over bio-isobutanol.
According to Gevo, it will "maintain its status quo" on the Luverne plant given that the company has already started the 18m gal/year bio-isobutanol facility last month, which is expected to produce 1m gal/month of bio-isobutanol by the end of 2012.
"As the judge has not made a decision for or against the preliminary injunction to date, it's understandable that she wants to make sure Gevo sticks to its current business plan. For Gevo, that means we continue to optimize Luverne operating parameters, continue engineering work and preparation for construction of Redfield and most importantly we sell our renewable isobutanol to Sasol and the U.S. Air Force." -- Brett Lund, EVP,  General Counsel for Gevo.
In my interview* with Gevo last month, the company said it expects the Luverne facility to reach full capacity run rates by the end of 2013. The company will start retrofitting another ethanol plant in Redfield, South Dakota, with capacity to produce 40m gal/year of bio-isobutanol.
Since most of the isobutanol product from the Luverne facility is expected to go to Sasol and sampling to the US Air Force, I guess this injunction will not impact Gevo's operation that much. But the company has to resolve this patent issue with Butamax as soon as possible in order to avoid another type of injunction that can cripple their plans for commercialization.
Other customers waiting in line for Gevo's product for chemical applications (that I know of) includes Lanxess, Toray, and Coca-Cola.
Recapping the blog's last post about Gevo and Butamax's patent battles since April:

UPDATE 6/14/2012
Butamax's corporate communications manager Pamela Schools sent the blog an email today wanting to add some comments to the ongoing lawsuits:
  • In April, Gevo has been granted patent 8,153, 415, and also filed a lawsuit against Butamax/DuPont stating Butamax has been using the related technology covered by this patent.
    • "Butamax does not infringe any valid claim of this patent."
  • On May 3, Butamax requested the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to re-examine Gevo's patent 8,101,808. The USPTO, however, denied Butamax its request to also re-examine Gevo's patent 8,017,376
    • "The request for reexamination of the '376 patent was granted. This patent is in reexamination and several claims were in fact rejected as anticipated by Butamax's own patent applications."
  • On May 15, Butamax said the USPTO has granted the company patent 8,178,328, which covers an engineered pathway for producing isobutanol from recombinant microorganisms at commercial scale.  It also includes extraction and distillation of the isobutanol, and steps for recovering distillers grain produced during isobutanol fermentation. Butamax added the '328 patent to its ongoing litigation against Gevo, which in return Gevo dismissed in a statement stating that it is virtually identical to the claims in Butamax's earlier issued 7,851,188 patent, which were rejected and declared unpatentable by the USPTO during reexamination.
    • "Certain claims of the '188 patent are under reexamination but not all the claims. Further, the US PTO only issued an Office Action for which Butamax has an opportunity to respond. This is the process of reexamination and the patent remains in full force and effect during reexamination." 
Speaking of lawsuits unrelated to the Gevo-Butamax saga, the blog also received recent news on this front from Neste Oil

The Finnish biofuel player filed a patent infringement suit against US-based Dynamic Fuels, Syntroleum and Tyson Foods. Dynamic Fuels, which produces animal fats-based diesel, is a joint venture between Syntroleum and Tyson Foods.
Neste Oil said one of its patents is believed to have been infringed by Dynamic Fuels in the production of renewable diesel at Dynamic Fuels' plant in Geismar, Louisiana.
This patent was issued by the USPTO on May 29, 2012, and expires in 2025. Neste is already producing its own fats and oils-based diesel at its sites in Singapore, the Netherlands and Finland under the company's technology called NExBTL renewable diesel.
Syntroleum released a statement that the Neste Oil patent no. 8,187,344 is "related to and shares the same inventors as a prior Neste patent 7,279,018." Claims to the '018 patent were said to have been rejected upon reexamination by the USPTO. Syntroleum claims it has not infringed any of Neste's patent rights.
*Subscription required

June 12, 2012

OPINION: Sustainability or CSR - is it all just good PR?

This is an insight piece today taken from the ICIS website...

INSIGHT: Sustainability or CSR - is it all just good PR?

12 June 2012 16:11  [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
Seeking sustainabilityLONDON (ICIS)--Some chemical companies simply get on with it while others like to talk more openly about what they do – in a closely managed way, of course.
The two approaches are reflected in producers’ attitudes towards public relations and towards sustainability and sustainability reporting. Particularly in the west, some have embraced sustainability openly; even going to great lengths to produce good looking and, they think, persuasive financial and sustainability reports. Others simply do not bother.
These differences have to do with history, ownership and cultural differences, Eric Johnson of Atlantic Consulting suggests in his book ‘Sustainability in the Chemical industry’, published earlier this year by Springer. But it doesn’t mean that they operate in different ways.
Johnson has amassed the data and considered chemical producers’ attitudes towards sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and public relations. Not everyone will be welcome his conclusions: that sustainability reporting is just PR in another form. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. The chemical industry has never attracted the most welcome attention. And it can do with all the friends it can get.

June 8, 2012

Biofuel News Roundup

Sorry this has been a long time coming. I hope biofuel fans are not too mad at me...
Enerkem starts waste-to-etoh plant
Montreal-based Enerkem initiated production of cellulosic ethanol from waste materials at its demonstration facility in Westbury, Quebec. The primary purpose of the Westbury facility is to validate the technology process design before full-scale commercial production, to test various waste feedstocks coming from customers and partners, as well as to continuously improve the technology, according to the company.
Repsol buys biofuel tech NEOL
Spain-based fuel company Repsol has acquired 50% of NEOL Biosolutions, formerly the bioindustrial divsion of Neuron Bio. The alliance is expected to accelerate development of bioprocesses for use in production of advanced biofuels. Repsol's New Energy unit is currently working on different business initiatives in bioenergy, renewable energy and electric transport.
Great Lakes Biodiesel picks TWD
TWD Technologies has been selected by Great Lakes Biodiesel (GLB) to build Canada's largest biodiesel plant, which will have capacity of 170m liters/year. The plant is scheduled to be operational by the Fall of 2012. TWD is providing full engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) for the Great Lakes Biodiesel Plant located in Welland, Ontario.
Biofuel competitive with H2Bioil process
Purdue University has developed a thermochemical process called H2Bioil method that can produce cost-effective biofuels. The method is said to be competitive when crude oil is $100/barrel. H2Bioil is created when biomass, such as switchgrass or corn stover, is heated rapidly to about 500 degrees Celcius in the presence of pressurized hydrogen. Resulting gases are passed over catalysts, causing reactions that separate oxygen from carbon molecules, making the carbon molecules high in energy content, similar to gasoline molecules.
Amyris fuel on Azul Airlines
Azul Airlines will use Amyris's sugarcane-based jet fuel during a demonstration flight on an Azul E195 aircraft powered by GE's CF34-10E engines. The "Azul+Verde" (a Greener Blue) flight will take place in Brazil on  June 19th, during the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The companies will provide additional information about the flight plans shortly, following authorization from Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC).
Evogene, T6 partners in castor
Evofuel Ltd., Evogene's wholly owned subsidiary, and T6 Industrial S.A., entered a collaboration for development of castor bean seeds as feedstock for biodiesel production. The companies will evaluate and develop Evofuel's advanced castor bean varieties for commercial production in Argentina. According to the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Argentina's 2011 biodiesel production was 2.5 billion liters, with soybean oil being the main feedstock.
Edeniq partners with Flint Hills
Edeniq will supply Flint Hills Resources Renewables its Cellunator technology which enables plants to mill corn and other plant materials into small, uniform pieces of feedstock that can be easily converted into sugars to produce biofuels. Edeniq is installing the technology at the first of four Flint Hills plants. Flint Hills expects further adoption of Edeniq equipment to produce cellulosic ethanol. Edeniq recently announced the company has raised over $30m in additional funding led by existing investors, as well as new investor Flint Hills Resources Renewables.
Sundrop Fuels, ThyssenKrupp partnership
Sundrop Fuels has partnere with engineering firm ThyssenKrupp Uhde to build a commercial green gasoline facility in Alexandria, Louisiana, with a capacity of up to 50m gal/year using biomass for feedstock. Sundrop Fuels will convert forest residues and thinnings as feedstock combined with natural gas into gasoline by using gasification, gas purification, methanol synthesis and a methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process. The company's first production plant will have a capacity of about 3,500 barrels of renewable gasoline per day.
Gevo collaborates with VP Racing Fuels
Gevo and VP Racing Fuels will jointly develop a product line of renewable, high-performance, isobutanol-based fuel blends for the small engine market while looking toward other performance applications for isobutanol as well. The relationship will allow the companies to initially assess market opportunities, positioning and distribution channels to commercialize renewable fuels for outdoor power equipment.
Butamax, Fagen partnership
Butamax Advanced Biofuels has partnered with biofuels engineering, procurement and construction contractor Fagen to retrofit ethanol plants for biobutanol production. Fagen has constructed over 85 ethanol plants totaling approximately 6bn gallons of annual production. Butamax also announced the formation of the Early Adopters Group (EAG), a consortium of biofuel production companies interested in
becoming early adopters of Butamax™ biobutanol technology. Lincolnway Energy of Nevada, Iowa; and Corn, LP of Goldfield, Iowa are the latest additions to the EAG.
Primus Green's green gasoline
New Jersey, US-based Primus Green Energy Ltd. has produced its first sample of high octane (93) renewable drop-in gasoline through a proprietary combination of biomass conversion technologies. The company recently broke ground on an automated demonstration plant and is planning to break ground next year on a commercial plant in eastern Pennsylvania that will be designed to produce 4.8m gal/year of gasoline from wood pellets and non-food, herbaceous crops.
Cool Planet Biofuels' cellulosic gasoline
Cool Planet BioFuels has achieved 4,000 gallons/acre biomass-to-gasoline conversion in pilot testing using giant miscanthus, an advanced bioenergy crop. The giant miscanthus was developed at the University of Mississippi and provided from a high yield plot by Repreve Renewables.
DONG Energy approves DSM enzymes
Royal DSM has been qualified as supplier of enzymes for DONG Energy - Inbicon's wheat straw to cellulosic ethanol process. The enzymes have been successfully used in the 1.5m gal/year demonstration scale biorefinery of DONG Energy - Inbicon in Kalundborg, Denmark. The plant produces cellulosic biofuel for Statoil which is distributed via gasoline stations throughout Denmark.
Lallemand, Mascoma market yeast
Lallemand Ethanol Technology and Mascoma announced that the Mascoma Grain Technology, or MGT, yeast product will be marketed under the commercial name TransFerm for use by the fuel ethanol industry. TransFerm is a bioengineered drop-in substitute for conventional fermenting yeast that will reportedly lowers costs for corn ethanol producers. TransFerm is manufactured and distributed by Lallemand and jointly marketed and sold by Mascoma and Lallemand through an exclusive partnership.
Novozymes' new plant and partner
Novozymes has inaugurated the reportedly largest enzyme plant dedicated to biofuels in the US. The $200m facility is located in Blair, Nebraska. Novozymes has also joined the consortium behind Maabjerg Energy Concept, which will use Novozyme's biotech expertise to design a new bioenergy production plant, which will produce 94m cubic meters of biogas, 73m liters (19m gallons) of bioethanol, as well as district heating for 20,000 households and electricity for several thousand homes. The Maabjerg plant is located in western Denmark near the cities of Struer and Holstebro in Jutland.
Neste Oil's waste fish fat diesel
Neste Oil has begun to produce its NExBTL renewable diesel using waste fat from fish processing industry at its Singapore refinery. The batch of waste fish fat complies with the strict sustainability requirements of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive and is also accepted as a raw material for renewable fuel in the US.

Is Shell still interested in cellulosic ethanol?


On Codexis' 8-K filing today, the company said its cellulosic ethanol research collaboration between Iogen and Shell will now be terminated effective June 30, 2012. 

The question here is Shell's commitment in cellulosic ethanol, and if Codexis will still have Shell for its research collaboration partner after this news.

Shell dropped Iogen as its cellulosic ethanol partner in April as the companies noted that Iogen is said to be refocusing its strategies and activities.This results in shelving the companies' plans to build an industrial scale cellulosic ethanol in Manitoba, Canada. Codexis has been collaborating with the Shell-Iogen deal on developing the technology relating to conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol.
According to Codexis, its research collaboration deal with Shell under the Raizen-Shell biofuel JV is still ongoing although investors fear that Shell might also pull out of this one given that the Codexis-Shell research pact expires at the end of October.
Raizen currently holds 16% stake in Codexis.
The only advanced biofuel research collaboration that Shell has right  now aside from Codexis is US-based Virent, where the companies are looking to develop biomass-based gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.
Codexis, by the way, recently hired its new CEO John J. Nicols, formerly senior vice president, strategic development and catalysts at Albemarle. It will be up to Mr. Nicols now to see if he can persuade Shell to continue investing research in cellulosic ethanol.

June 7, 2012

Biodegradable plastics in style

It is not just consumer products companies who are jumping into the bioplastics arena but premium brand company Gucci also realized the benefits of bioplastic.
The company launched its "Sustainable Soles" edition of women's and men's shoes designed by Frida Giannini as part of Gucci's Prefall 2012 collection. The shoes are made of biodegradable plastics (the company did not indicate what kind of polymers), which it said was certitied by UNI EN 13432 and ISO 17088 in Europe.
Sustainable Soles will be available at selected Gucci stores worldwide and on gucci.com from the end of June  2012. These shoes make me drool that's for sure. I wish I could afford a Gucci though.
According to Gucci, the men's sneakers (seen above) includes bio-rubber soles and bio-based shoelaces. The Gucci logo used in the shoes are said to be made from recycled polyester label.
   
This summer, Gucci and its eyewear supplier Safilo, also launched a biodegradable sunglasses made from what they called "Liquid Wood" -- which turns out to be a material composed of wood fiber/lignin and natural wax. 
The companies also announced that their eyewear will now used 100% recyclable packaging. Customers (wish I could be one) are given informational leaflet and a pre-addressed envelope in order to send the case to a dedicated recycling center, which will make new products out of the materials.
Another Gucci eyewear line called Eyeweb is made with injection-molded bio-based sunglasses composed of castor oil-based polyamides. Arkema is the only company I know right now that is supplying castor-based polyamides for use in sunglass and eyewear frames. 
 

Gucci first launched its sustainable Eyeweb collection last year. According to Gucci's parent company, PPR Group, Gucci was able to replace 34 tonnes of plastic bags consumed last year with cornstarch-based plastic bags.  PPR's brands also include (among many others)  Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, etc.
PPR's Sustainability targets by 2016 includes all collections to be PVC-free by 2016, and to phase out all hazardous chemicals in their brands and production by 2020.

Danimer's bio-adhesive for bio-PET


The use of bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers is getting another boost with this announcement from DaniMer Scientific.
FYI, DaniMer's sister company Meredian, by the way, is a producer of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymers.
DaniMer said that it has partnered with DuPont Tate & Lyle for the use of its bio-based propanediol (PDO) Susterrra, and Myriant for the use of its bio-succinic acid, in the development of a bio-based label adhesive.
The adhesive, under the line DaniMer 92721, was created to eliminate the problems associated with PET container recycling, according to DaniMer. The adhesive, with a more than 50% renewable content, dissolves completely in PET flake caustic wash recycling operations "without clumps or stickies."
"This new bio-based formulation is competitively priced with block co-polymers, with pricing not linked to crude oil derivatives. In addition, rheology of DaniMer 92721 enables the adhesive to operate in existing adhesive systems at temperatures under 325 deg F. Results from industry standard protocol testing show the product enables zero contamination in PET recycle streams."
DaniMer said it will provide details and announce the commercial launch of their new label adhesive at the Nova-Pack 2012 Conference in Arlington, Virginia, which is being held today and tomorrow at West Arlington Gateway Hotel.

DaniMer recently announced its entrance into the Czech Republic market with a partnership deal with Standridge Color Corporation. The company is expected to produce DaniMer's PHA plastics at Standridge's Czech plant earlier this year, according to Plastics News.

June 6, 2012

Ajinomoto, Bridgestone in bio-isoprene

 The race for bio-based synthetic rubber development continues with new players - Japan-based specialty chemical firm Ajinomoto and tire company Bridgestone Corp.

According to Ajinomoto's press release, the two companies will jointly developed isoprene ( a key chemical intermediate for synthetic rubber manufacture) using biomass for feedstock. The companies have been jointly doing research since June 2011.
Ajinomoto said it has already successfully manufactured bio-isoprene at a laboratory-scale using fermentation process, and that Bridgestone has also succesfully produce polyisoprene rubber using the material.
Ajinomoto and Bridgestone said they plan to decide on the potential for commercialization in 2013. It seems Ajinomoto has been especially active this year in the bio-based chemicals arena such as its partnership with Toray on the development of nylon raw material 1,5 pentanediamine using plant-based amino acid lysine.
Back to isoprene, another tire and rubber company working on bio-based isoprene is Goodyear with its partner DuPont Industrial Biosciences. Goodyear said in March that the two companies have already demonstrated proof of the technology through the production of a prototype tire made with DuPont and Goodyear's BioIsoprene monomer.
The two companies said they expect additional investments to establish pilot plant operations and manufacturing infrastructure. Unfortunately, no timeline has been disclosed.
AND ONE MORE!
European rubber and tire company Michelin is also working with US-based Amyris for the development of bio-isoprene using Amyris' farnesene. Amyris expects to begin commercialization of the bio-isoprene in 2015, with Michelin reportedly committing off-take columes on a ten years basis.
Amyris is also working with Japan chemical firm Kuraray to develop high-polymers by replacing petroleum-based butadiene and isoprene feedstock with Amyris' farnesene molecule.
Other companies working on bio-based chemical feedstock for synthetic rubbers includes:
Glycos Biotechnologies - bio-based isoprene
Aemetis - bio-based isoprene
Genomatica - bio-based butadiene
Global Bioenergies - bio-based butadiene in collaboration with Synthos. Bio-based isobutene (which can be converted to isoprene) in collaboration with LanzaTech.
Elevance - bio-based rubber compounds in collaboration with Hutchinson Worldwide
Gevo - bio-based rubber compounds in collaboration with Lanxess

Weekly News Roundup

The renewable chemical industry seems to be pretty quiet these days aside from a great news yesterday regarding the bio-PET collaboration between consumer brand companies Coca-Cola, Nike, P&G, Ford and Heinz.
Just FYI to readers, the blog will be out of service from June 15 to July 4. Translation: The blogger will be traveling partly for work and partly for vacation. Yeah!
Here are this week's news roundup:
Braskem, Tecnaro bioplastic partnership
Braskem and Tecnaro GmbH will collaborate to produce a new line of application for Braskem's sugarcane-based polyethylene (PE) plastic. Tecnaro will produce Green PE-based biopolymer compounds under the trademark ARBOBLEND, which can be processed by injection molding, extrusion or thermoforming depending on the formula. Tecnaro was selected by Braskem to expand the penetration of the biopolymer in the European market
PTT completes NatureWorks buy
PTT Global Chemical has completed its investment transaction on May 31 and fully acquired a 50% stake in NatureWorks for $150m (Baht 4,572m). PTT Global Chemical announced the acquisition last year in October. The companies plan to build a polylactic acid facility in Thailand.
DuPont solar deal in China
DuPont China will collaborate with China Sunergy Co. Ltd. in photovoltaic technologies and materials over a three-year period. China Sunergy has agreed to increase its purchase of photovoltaic materials from DuPont, including DuPont™ Solamet® photovoltaic metallizations used in solar cells to achieve higher cell efficiency and DuPont™ Tedlar® polyvinyl fluoride film-based backsheets for solar module protection.
Vertellus picks castor distributor
Vertellus Specialties has picked the Horn Company as its authorized distributor of castor oil, castor oil polyols and derivatives in the 11 western states of California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico as well as four southwestern states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arizona.
Solvay opens India R&D center
Solvay has opened its new research, development and technology (RD&T) center in Gujarat State, India, which will focus mainly on the development of high-performance polymers, organic chemistry, nano composites and green chemistry. The Centre has also established three fellowships for research in sustainable chemistry, nano technology and polymer science at the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara.
HallStar's bio-based polymer patent
The HallStar Company was awarded US Patent number 8,158,731 titled "Biopolymer Compositions Having Improved Flexibility" from the US Patent and Trademark Office. The patent applies to bio-based polymeric additives such as its HALLGREEN R-8010 bio-based polymeric succinate that improves the flexibility and pliability of biopolymers including polylactic acid (PLA), starch-based polymers, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), and polyhydoxybutyrate (PHB).
BioSolar selects Stevens Urethane
BioSolar has entered into a manufacturing agreement with Massachusetts-based Stevens Urethane, a subsidiary of JPS Industries, for the upcoming full-scale production of the company's BioBacksheet for North American customers. BioSolar has developed a technology to produce bio-based materials for solar cell components that reportedly will reduce the cost per watt of solar cells.

June 5, 2012

Brand companies form bio-PET collaboration

 The bioplastic industry will be glad to hear that well-known branded companies such as Coca-Cola, Ford Motor, Heinz, Nike and Procter & Gamble, have teamed up to accelerate the development and use of 100% plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic materials and fibers in their products.
   
The companies formed this group called "Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC)" which will build up upon Coca-Cola's success in its PlantBottle packaging technology.
PTC members said "it is committed to developing commercial solutions for PET plastic made entirely from plants, and will aim to drive the development of common methodologies and standards for the use of plant-based plastic including life cycle analyses and universal terminology."
This is a good sign for the bioplastic community especially these days when the global plastics industry in general is facing a downturn because of macroeconomic uncertainty. If demand is weak and pricing for traditional petrochemical-based plastics are going down, plastic converters are not interested to invest in premium bioplastics.
For those who are not familiar with PET, this is traditionally manufactured by combining ethylene glycol (EG) with polyethylene terephthalic acid (PTA).
According to ICIS' official chemical economist Paul Hodges on his Chemicals and the Economy blog, US ethylene prices are already 44% down over the past 7 weeks. PTA in China (which is globally the largest producer) is down 23% as buying interest was said to be low because of persistently weak polyester demand and downbeat outlook curtailed buying activity.
Added to this weak demand is that China and India's PTA capacity is expected to reach 69m tonnes/year in 2015, a 60% increase from 43m tonnes/year this year, according to ICIS.
On its own, 100% plant-based PET will not be able to survive its infancy stage if cheap petroleum-based PTA materials and cheap ethylene from North America will deluge the global market. The backing and commitment of consumer branded companies through this collaboration is an assurance that they are ready to move the bioplastic industry forward even if it means losing margins in the near term.