February 26, 2013

Solazyme: On track for commercialization

Solazyme has frequently been covered here in the blog so this earnings update will not be too long. The company reported last week that it is on track for commercial production of its tailored algae oils on three continents by 2014. Still, the company's results reportedly fell short of analysts' earnings expectations.

While the blog is not too interested in reporting revenues given that most of the renewable chemical companies in our scope is still not mature enough to have meaningful sales, Solazyme did say that it was able to increase its Algenist sales of $16.5m by 130% in 2012. The company was able to launched 7 new products last year and reportedly successfully met all joint development agreement targets with partners such as Bunge, Chevron, Dow and Unilever.

Solazyme's total 2012 revenue ended December 31, 2012 was $44.1m versus $39m in 2011. Other sources of revenues aside from the Algenist sales include joint development revenue of $13.2m and government program revenue of $14.4m.

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Amyris: Weak results, fair progress

The blog is navigating the intricacies of financial reporting after Amyris and Solazyme recently announced their fourth quarter earnings results. Accounting and financial are not my strong suits so hopefully my reporting about some of their numbers are correct.

Let's first start with Amyris, which reported good enough progress on its milestones for 2012 but unfortunately, cash flows are still in the weak-to-negative territories and operating expenses still need to be toned down.

The key here -- and a JP Morgan equity report pointed it out -- is that Amyris needs additional funding this year as new product introductions, commercialization rates and product cost profiles have been unequal to business plans. Amyris currently has $45m cash balance. The company was able to secure gross proceeds of $42.25m in equity funding by the end of December.

Amyris roll out its first truckload shipment of Biofene in January

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February 25, 2013

Biofuel News Roundup

Yes, I am still working on posting earnings news...sigh. I hate reporting earnings...

BioFuel Energy lay-offs
US ethanol producer BioFuel Energy has reduced staffing at its Fairmont, Minnesota, ethanol facility resulting in the elimination of 40 full-time positions. The plant ceased ethanol production in September 2012, and will continue to operate its adjacent grain storage facility with its remaining employees. The Fairmont plant is expected to remain idle until this year's harvest season.

Lignol ups stake in Aussie biofuels
Lignol Energy Corp. has increased its stake in Australian Renewable Fuels Limited making Lignol one of its largest shareholders. Upon completion of transactions, Lignol expects to hold a total of 744,660,715 ordinary shares of Australian Renewable Fuels, or approximately 17.75% of the company.

US ethanol 2012 prices down vs 2011
Spot prices for US fuel ethanol were lower throughout most of 2012 compared to 2011, according to a report by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Prices were relatively stable during the first half of 2012 but they rose at mid-year as severe drought and scorching temperatures reduced corn yields resulting in higher prices for corn. Ethanol spot prices rose from a low of around $2/gal in mid-June to a 2012 peak of $2.61 in late July. That was still 30 cents/gal lower than the peak spot price at the same time in 2011.

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Weekly News Roundup

The blog is having a little difficult time catching up with news these days especially if there are several events coming up soon. By the way, do you know that this week there are two free renewable chemical webinars that will be held at the same date and at the same time?
  • Lux Research: The Role of Bio-Based Materials in the Era of Shale 
    • Date: February 26, 2013 11:00 am, Eastern Standard Time
  • Biobased Chemicals: Overcoming Challenges of Commercialization
    • Date: February 26, 2013 11:00 am, Eastern Standard Time
I'm still trying to decide which to attend as I only have one computer. Now if I only have two and record the other....

Here are this week's news roundup (or I think this was supposed to be last week's. Sorry for the delay!)

Cereplast forms algae business
US bioplastic producer Cereplast has incorporated a new wholly owned subsidiary Algaeplast, which will focus on the development and manufacture of algae-based bioplastics. The business' ultimate goal is to bring to market new polymers made from 100% algae content. The company recently commercialized small quantities of Biopropylene 109D, a compound with 20% post-industrial algae biomatter.

Global Bioenergies gets new Synthos funding
France-based Global Bioenergies has received a new payment of EUR 1.17m as part of the partnership initiated with rubber company Synthos in 2011. The payment follows the EUR 1.5m received for the successful completion of their first phase of bio-butadiene program in December 2012. Under the partnership deal, Synthos has exclusive rights on the conversion of glucose into butadiene for rubber applications while Global Bioenergies will be entitled to receive royalty payments.

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February 22, 2013

Novomer produces CO2-based polyols

So many news to post and so little time to do. The blog has earnings news from Solazyme and Amyris, updates from Cereplast, interview article from Ovation Biotech, updates on bio-adipic acid, and of course the weekly news roundup, and now this news from Novomer.

We'll start with this milestone announcement from Novomer, which has developed polypropylene carbonate (PPC) material made from carbon dioxide and propylene oxide, as well as polyethylene carbonate (PEC) made from CO2 and ethylene oxide.

Novomer said it just started the world's first large-scale manufacturing run of PPC polyol producing over several tons of finished product. The PPC polyol was produced at Albemarle's manufacturing facility in Orangeburg, South Carolina, using existing equipment that was modified for PPC polyol production.

Albemarle Orangeburg facility

Novomer did not disclose the exact annual capacity of the manufacturing facility but according to the company, production from the Albemarle facility is already considered commercial scale for smaller volume polyol applications. Albemarle, a specialty chemical company, will continue to be a manufacturing partner for Novomer using the Orangeburg facility, the company said.

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February 20, 2013

Developing guar gum alternatives

The blog is still working on a post about Ovation Biotech as well as updates on biobased adipic acid developments. Meanwhile, let's visit the guar gum market as I've been hearing about how tight this market has become since last year because of its increased use in hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the process where hard-to-get natural gas is extracted from shale.

Guar beans
Guar gum, an extract from guar beans principally grown in India and Pakistan, acts as a food and water store and therefore is considered one of those hydrocolloids (a substance that forms a gel in the presence of water). I used to cover some of this market back when I wrote articles for Chemical Market Reporter (the predecessor of ICIS Chemical Business) about hydrocolloids such as gelatin, xanthan, carrageenan, pectin, alginates, functional starches and of course guar gum.

According to market research firm Pike Research, India produces over 1m tonnes of guar beans and exports nearly half a million tonnes annually. The drought-resistant guar bean can be eaten as a green bean, fed to cattle or used in green manure while the guar seeds are dehusked, milled and screened to obtain the guar gum. The product is mostly used in food as texturizer and thickener, as pharmaceutical additives and in oil and gas extraction.

More on this post....

February 17, 2013

The quest for bio-polystyrene

I have this draft on bio-styrene for a couple of months now but has never been able to post it given that there are not many companies within the renewable chemicals industry developing plant-based styrene monomer alternatives.

However, on February 14 during his final State of the City address, the mayor of the city of New York Michael Bloomberg announced the city's plans for a polystyrene foam ban in food packaging from stores and restaurants.
"One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never bio-degrades is Styrofoam. But it's not just terrible for the environment. It's terrible for taxpayers. Styrofoam increases the cost of recycling by as much as $20 per ton, because it has to be removed.  
Something that we know is environmentally destructive, that is costing taxpayers money, and that is easily replaceable, is something we can do without. So with Speaker Quinn and the City Council, we will work to adopt a law banning Styrofoam food packaging from our stores and restaurants. And don't worry: the doggie bag and the coffee cup will survive just fine." - Mayor Bloomberg
By the way, just to be technically correct, Styrofoam is a polystyrene foam trademark under Dow Chemical and should not be applied to all polystyrene foam products unless it is manufactured by Dow.

New York city is not the only place that is considering or has implemented ban on polystyrene foam packaging. Several local jurisdictions in California including San Francisco and Los Angeles have implemented polystyrene bans and [or] have required food vendors to use recycled or compostable take-out packaging.

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February 14, 2013

Abengoa enters biobased n-butanol

I just wanted to post this briefly about Abengoa engaging in technology development for the production of n-butanol using bio-based ethanol. The company's bioenergy business has been very active in developing commercial market for cellulosic ethanol, and its 25.5m gal/year Kansas biorefinery plant is expected to start production in the fourth quarter this year.

Abengoa said production of biobased n-butanol will allow the company to access chemical markets it has not yet operated in.

Abengoa's catalytic conversion technology, which the company said has not been developed at industrial scale, will involve catalytic condensation of ethanol to produce butanol through the Guerbet reaction. In this process, Abengoa said it has developed and patented a catalyst that allows attainment of a conversion and a selectivity of ethanol to butanol that enables cost-competitive manufacture of biobutanol.

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February 13, 2013

Biofuel News Roundup

First biodiesel facility in Bali
UK-based Green Fuels has installed its FuelMatic GSX3 at a biodiesel facility in Bali, Indonesia, owned by Caritas Switzerland to convert used cooking oil initially totaling 1,000 liters/day from 150 hotels and restaurants, to fuel. This is the first time that biodiesel production has been introduced in the island, the companies said. Caritas will sell the biodiesel for use in local transport and to hotels and other customers who can use it to generate power and heat.

Waste plastic-to-oil facility in Ohio
Akron, Ohio-based RES Polyflow's energy recovery facility that uses waste plastics and rubber for feedstock will be operational as a demonstration facility for customers in the spring. RES Polyflow’s continuous feed process equipment converts tmixed plastic and rubber waste including tires, carpeting and e-waste into renewable transportation fuels, octane enhancers and aromatics using a patented waste to energy conversion process. The facility is funded in part by an Advanced Energy Program grant from the Ohio Third Frontier program.

Neste Oil ups waste usage for fuel
Neste Oil has achieved its target of increasing its use of waste and residue raw materials for refining into fuels by a total of 742,000 tons in 2012 compared to 330,000 tons in 2011. Neste Oil increased its use of waste animal fat in particular and added waste fat from the fish processing industry to its feedstock base. Neste Oil used a total of 2.1m tons of renewable inputs in 2012, of which palm oil accounted for 65%, waste and residues for 35%, and other vegetable oils under 0.5%.

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Weekly News Roundup

I am eager to share my interview about with this new start-up company called Ovation Biotech, which will be included in one of my oleochemical presentation slides (there's your hint!). I will post that interview as soon as I finish wrapping up my powerpoint presentation this week.

For now, here are this week's news roundup. Bioplastic it seems is back again in the limelight. In fact, a recent article from BNAmericas noted that sugarcane-based polyethylene producer Braskem will reportedly freeze its plans to build another green PE facility as well as a new sugar-based polypropylene plant. Braskem, it seems has also realized the cost pressure of manufacturing bio-based PE as compared to cheaper shale gas-based PE.

Braskem is the only company commercially producing biobased PE at its 200,000 tonnes/year facility in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Braskem has been planning to expand its biobased PE with around 400,000 tonnes/year-scale, a new bio-based polypropylene (PP) plant with a capacity between 30,000-50,000 tonnes/year.

There were reports in mid-2012 that these projects have been delayed but according to Braskem late last year, the company did not yet set definite deadlines for these projects, which were still being considered for approval at that time. I guess Braskem management has finally caved in under pressure from investors and credit ratings agencies to cut its leverage and increase cash generation.

Last month, Dow Chemical and Mitsui have also reportedly delay their plans to produce their own sugar-based PE in Brazil.

Purac offers sample PLA resins
Lactic acid producer Purac is now offering a range of specially developed high performance resins made from from PURALACT lactide based polylactic acid (PLA). The range includes PLLA homopolymer resins, PDLA homopolymer resins, and PLA compounded blends specifically developed for injection molding and extrusion. The resins are available for sampling and product evaluation purposes.

L'Occitane uses Braskem's Green PE
Cosmetic and personal care products company L'Occitane en Provence is now using Braskem's sugarcane-based polyethylene (PE) plastic in its Bonne Mere line of daily-use body products launched this month. The line is already being sold in France and will be exported to over 85 countries.

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February 12, 2013

Production milestones: Amyris, Genomatica

The blog wishes our Asian readers a Happy Lunar New Year! Maybe the year of the snake would bring luck for renewable chemicals in 2013 after a couple of production milestone disappointments (according to investors) seen last year.

Within the past two months, the industry has already seen Reverdia (JV between DSM and Roquette) with the start-up of the world's first large-scale bio-succinic acid plant in Cassano, Spinola, Italy, in December; Amyris announcing also in late December its successful production as well as shipment in January of its farnesene from the company's Paraiso fermentation facility in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and today, Genomatica announced it was able to produced 2,000 tonnes of bio-based 1,4 butanediol (BDO) within five weeks at the DuPont Tate & Lyle's biochemical plant in Loudon, Tennessee.

Over 2,000 tonnes of bio-BDO were produced, filling over 100 trucks, using Genomatica's technology.

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February 11, 2013

EU biofuel and oilseed prospects

Here is a good brief updates on the current European biofuels situation from the NNFCC, a UK bio-based economy consultancy.

 Like in the US, Europe's biofuel industry is also mired with constant uncertain legislation especially about the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which originally stipulates that there should be 10% biofuels used in transport fuels by 2020.

However, late last year, the European Commission wants to cap the contribution of food crop-based biofuels towards this target at 5%, which could greatly affect the first-generation biofuel market. According to the NNFCC, this new requirement will make it more difficult for crop-derived biodiesel to meet default values and could rule out crops like rapeseed for feedstock.

Non-food crop-based biofuels such as those using tallow fats, used cooking oil as well as algae, straw, sewage or manure will get more incentives. However, the biofuel industry in Europe is not sure whether these new RED targets can be fulfilled without first-generation biofuels since there is little commercial production of second generation biofuels in Europe.


February 10, 2013

More green awards, rewards

My apologies for the sparse posts, I am trying to finish my oleochemical presentation for the Plant Bio-Industrial Oils Workshop, which is due this Friday. In the meantime, I promise to certain somebody to post some of these news that might help those who need a little money or recognition for their start-up projects.

It isn't easy to be green and broke these days you know....

Biorrefinaria Brasil Challenge
Biorrefinaria Brasil is introducing the concept of “Challenge driven innovation” to troubleshoot a biorefinery problem identified at any stage of the production chain, e.g., from obtaining biomass, through the industrial processes up to distribution of bioproducts. Biomass can be sugar cane, oilseeds, wood, agro waste, algae, and other renewable carbon sources. The organization will award US$ 1,000.00 for the most challenging problem. Deadline for submission is February 15.

Bioplastic Innovation Awards
Organizers of the 6th International Conference on Industrial Biotechnology and Bio-based Plastics & Composites is inviting companies from the USA or Germany to submit application to win their Innovation Award "Biomaterial of the Year 2013," which will be presented at the conference held on April 10-12 in Germany. The award goes to an innovative company that found a suitable new application for a bio-based material which was introduced to the market in 2012 or 2013. Deadline for application is February 15.

DOE to award $6m for biomass projects
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a new Funding Opportunity Announcement for up to $6m for projects that will develop and demonstrate integrated feedstock supply chain systems that can deliver affordable biomass feedstock required by commercial biorefineries across the US. Funding will be available this year for one to two multi-year projects. All selected projects will require a cost-share contribution by the grant recipient including 20% for R&D activities and 50% for demonstration activities. Concept paper submission deadline is February 15 and full application submission deadline is March 22.

Presidential Green Chemistry Award now open
This year's annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards is now accepting nominations, which is due April 30. The awards promote the environmental and economic benefits of novel green chemistry, and recognize chemical technologies that incorporate green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture and use. The EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community.

February 7, 2013

Solazyme, Mitsui oleochemical deal

Algal oil producer Solazyme announced yesterday that it has entered a $20m multi-year deal with Japan-based Mitsui & Co. Ltd. to jointly develop a suite of triglyceride oils for use in the oleochemical industry.

The deal includes further development of Solazyme's high myristic algal oil as well as other oils that Solazyme said it is developing for the oleochemical and industrial sectors. End use applications can include  high-performance polymer additives, aviation lubricants, and toiletry and household products.

Now, the composition of the fatty acids contained in a particular oil determines the further use of the oils. For example, coconut oil and palm kernel oil (or called lauric oils) have high share of fatty acids with short chain length (C8 and C10) or medium chain length (C12 and C14).

These are particularly suitable for further processing to surfactants for detergents and cosmetics application.  Palm oil, soybean, rapeseed and sunflower oil as well as animal fats such as tallow contain mainly long-chain fatty acids such as C18s, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, which are used as raw materials for polymer applications and lubricants.

February 6, 2013

INVISTA, Arzeda in bio-butadiene process

Thanks to Lycra producer INVISTA for sending to me this news today about its collaboration with Seattle-based biotechnology company Arzeda.

INVISTA and Arzeda are developing technology platforms for a bio-derived processes that will combine Arzeda's synthetic biology and enzyme design capabilities with INVISTA's knowledge in catalysis and chemical processing.

The companies initial focus will on the production of bio-derived butadiene (BD). Butadiene is an intermediate chemical used in the production of synthetic rubber and various plastics. INVISTA said it is also a key intermediate used by the company in its proprietary butadiene-based adiponitrile (ADN) production technologies. ADN is an intermediate chemical used in the manufacture of nylon 6,6.

If readers recall, this blog's first post was about INVISTA's partnership with LanzaTech announced in September last year. The companies are also collaborating on production of bio-based butadiene using initially LanzaTech's carbon monoxide-derived 2,3 butanediol process, and later on, a direct single-step process to produce butadiene through a gas fermentation process.

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Biofuel battle heats up (more)

So I was watching the Superbowl game on Sunday (ok I admit I am more into commercials than the game itself since my Giants team was not involved), when I saw the Dodge Ram truck commercial "God Made a Farmer" and I thought about the recent 2013 Renewable Fuel Standards proposal by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Yes, my brain is weird, I know.

The farm crop and biofuel industries are probably thanking God last week when the EPA announced its proposed 2013 volume and percentage standards for biomass-based diesel (1.28bn gal, 1.12%), advanced biofuel (2.75bn gal, 1.60%), and cellulosic biofuels (14m gal, 0.008% in ethanol equivalent volumes). Total renewable fuels volume requirements proposed for 2013 is at 16.55bn gallons or 10% of all gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2013 using projections and assessments from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

                                                   2013                           2012
Cellulosic biofuel                        14m gal                    8.65m gal
Biomass-based diesel                   1.28bn gal                 1bn gal
Advanced biofuel                        2.75bn gal                 2bn gal
Renewable fuel                           16.55bn gal               15.2bn gal
*All volumes are ethanol equivalent except for biomass-based diesel

The volumes are the minimum that would need to be consumed in the US. The proposal will be open for a 45-day public comment period and EPA will consider feedback from a range of stakeholders before the proposal is finalized.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the RFS2 program and the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to an overall level of 36bn gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner and importer determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.

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February 4, 2013

Weekly News Roundup

Here are last week's news roundup. I will post a separate one regarding Amyris' recent announcement of its Biofene shipment milestone.

Novozymes buys Iogen enzymes biz
Enzymes producer Novozymes has acquired Iogen Bio-Products, the industrial enzymes business of Ottawa-based Iogen Corp. for C$67.5m ($67.7m). The deal includes all commercial rights to Iogen Bio-Products' existing product portfolio, pipeline facilities and know-how with the exception of any assets related to Iogen Corp.'s bioenergy process technologies. The acquisition is expected to be finalized later this month.

Air Products completes phase 1 CCS project
Air Products is now operating Phase One of its two-stage carbon capture project from one of its steam methane reformers located within the Valero Port Arthur Refinery in Texas. The project will eventually capture 1m tons/year of carbon dioxide (CO2), which will be recovered, purified and transported by Air Products via a pipeline owned by Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC for injection into the Denbury Onshore, an enhanced oil recovery project operated by West Hastings Unit. Phase two is to be onstream in April 2013.

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Formic acid as deicing agent

While I'm still working on the blog's weekly news roundup, here is an interesting video from BASF about the use of formic acid (in the form of potassium formate - a biodegradable salt of formic acid) as  a deicing agent.

It features how potassium formate dissolves the crystalline structure of ice and if used in airport runways, the melted water with potassium formate enters a waste water treatment plant in the airport where the chemical reportedly breaks down harmlessly into carbon dioxide and hydroxide ions (as it combined with oxygen molecules).

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Biofuel News Roundup

Sorry for the delayed news roundup. I have been working hard negotiating with a couple of consulting firms for possible employment opportunities. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

In the biofuels and energy market, the big news last week was the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2013 Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) proposal, and the stepping down of Steven Chu as the Secretary of the US Department of Energy.

The blog will write more about the RFS and the back-and-forth "polite" bickering between the petroleum industry and the biofuels industry in another post.

Meanwhile, Steven Chu noted in his letter to Energy Department employees some of the Department's successes in the past four years especially in sponsoring programs for clean technologies such as solar photovoltaic, wind farms, and electric vehicles. Secretary Chu also emphasized that the Department of Energy will continue its mission for the US to lessen dependency on foreign oil, to work on solving the devastating effects of climate change, and continue the agency's significant role in accelerating the transition to affordable, accessible and sustainable renewable/clean energy.

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