Business Briefs

People, Partnerships & Deals
By Biorefining Magazine Staff | May 20, 2011

1. Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. and Royal DSM N.V. have signed a letter of intent for a collaboration to evaluate Elevance’s unique monomers for the production of specialty biobased high-performance thermoplastic materials for DSM’s engineering plastics portfolio. Specifically under the proposed partnership, Elevance will provide natural monomers produced from plant oils along with its proprietary metathesis technology to enable the production of various polymers. DSM will provide expertise on polymer research, application development and commercialization. DSM, along with BP, also recently invested an undisclosed amount in biotech firm Verdezyne from the closing of a new investment round. Previous investors OVP Venture Partners and Monitor Ventures also participated in the new round. In other company news, DSM and France-based starch and polyols producer Roquette Freres plan to jointly build a 10,000 metric ton per year commercial-scale biobased succinic acid facility near a Roquette starch manufacturing site in Cassano Spinola, Italy. The proposed production plant, scheduled to come online by second quarter 2012, would be Europe’s largest biobased succinic acid production facility.

2. Los Angeles-based Rentech Inc. has received approval by the Province of Ontario, Canada, to obtain a long-term supply of up to 1.3 million tons per year of Crown timber for the company’s planned biobased jet fuel project, Project Olympiad, located in the Township of White River, Ontario. The proposed wood allotment for Rentech’s planned project is the largest ever awarded in the Provincial Wood Supply Competitive Process administered by the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. Scheduled to be operational by 2015, Project Olympiad is expected to produce approximately 23 million gallons annually of RenJet fuel—Rentech’s trademarked renewable and certified low-carbon jet fuel—via a proprietary process based on Fisher-Tropsch chemistry that, together with gasification and upgrading, is capable of converting syngas from biomass and fossil sources into hydrocarbons that are subsequently upgraded utilizing technology from an alliance with UOP, a Honeywell company. The project will also produce 13 MMgy of biobased naphtha, an intermediate hydrocarbon that can be used for the production of polyethylene for plastics, along with other applications.

3. Cobalt Technologies and American Process Inc. have announced an agreement to build an industrial-scale cellulosic biobutanol refinery. The companies have also agreed to jointly market a joint biorefining solution to biomass power facilities and other customers. API is developing and commercializing lignocellulosic sugar production and bioenergy process technologies. The company is currently working to construct a facility in Alpena, Mich., which will demonstrate the conversion of hemicelluloses extracted from woody biomass into fermentable sugars. The project, funded in part by an $18 million U.S. DOE grant and a $4 million grant from the state of Michigan, will initially produce cellulosic ethanol. API’s technology, known as GreenPower+, is a patent-pending proprietary process for extracting hemicelluloses sugars from woody biomass using steam or how water. The sugars are then converted to fermentable sugars. The extracted biomass is returned to a boiler and used to produce steam and electricity. The sugars are further processed into end products.

4. The Chempolis Biorefining Park has been a busy place over the past month, hosting energy commissioners and prime ministers. Gunther Oettinger, the EU energy commissioner, took a tour of the facility that puts the 3G formico biorefining technology to use. Members of Chempolis, including Paivi Rousu, vice president of R&D, spoke to the commissioner on the company’s ability to make biofuels and biobased chemicals from nonfood raw materials during his visit. Along with Oettinger, Esa Hamala, the director general for the ministry of employment and the economy, also toured the facility in Oulu, Finland. Nearly a month earlier, Farooq Abdullah, Indian minister of new and renewable energy, also visited the park to discuss Chempolis’ technology. The prime minister was on a four-day tour across Finland that aimed to “promote cooperation in the exchange of renewable energy know-how and technology between the countries.” Earlier this year Chempolis signed with a Chinese company to build a biorefining facility similar to the Oulu facility. The company has already appointed a managing director for the joint-venture, Esa Niemi, to oversee the company’s operations in its Asia Pacific pulp and biofuels businesses. Chempolis has invested roughly $20 million in R&D, resulting in a portfolio of more than 100 patents.

5. Roughly 20,000 biobased products are made in North America, according to the USDA, but how many consumers are familiar with the term biobased? A leading enzyme maker based out of California might have a fairly good estimate. Through the company’s study “Household Sustainability Index,” Genencor now has a better guess at how many people in the U.S. and Canada know about some of the products its enzymes help to produce. According to the study, four out of 10 American consumers “have heard of the term ‘biobased’ to describe products or product ingredients used in cleaning and personal care products, clothing and fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.” For Canadians, the number is roughly one-third of the population. Fortunately, the number of both Americans and Canadians that said they would “definitely,” or “likely” buy a biobased household product in place of a non-biobased product (if the cost and effectiveness of the products were the same) was much higher, totaling eight out of 10. Genencor currently provides enzymes for nearly 400 products, and Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO of Genencor, says that the findings of the study show that consumers are prepared to choose biobased products, “especially those consumers who are familiar with green products and are generally confident about their environmental claims.”

6. Sapphire Energy has signed with the Linde Group in an effort to collaborate on a commercial-scale system that could deliver CO2 to open-pond algae systems like those currently being used by Sapphire. Linde is currently the leading supplier of CO2 in the U.S., providing CO2 for processes like dry-cleaning to cooling food products. The goal of the project is cut the costs of delivering anthropogenic CO2 to the open ponds, and before the multiyear agreement is able to develop a commercial-scale system, Linde will provide CO2 at Sapphire’s Columbus, N.M., demonstration facility. In the Netherlands, Linde has already created a CO2 delivery system that supplies 550 greenhouses with the gas through a 100-kilometer pipeline from a nearby refinery. “Producing fuel by algae using CO2 from large emitters like power stations and chemical plants is a very promising way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Aldo Belloni, a member of the executive board of Linde AG. According to Linde, a single commercial algae-fuel facility will require roughly 10,000 metric tons of CO2 per day.

7. A program in St. Louis is offering citizens the opportunity to become involved with algae biofuel development by collecting algae samples that will be analyzed for oil content at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The second annual Backyard Biofuels Citizen Science Project kicked off May 7 with AlgaePalooza. The event was held in the Life Science Lab at the St. Louis Science Center, and is co-hosted by the Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Members of the public who attended the AlgaePalooza had the opportunity to talk with the research scientists behind the Backyard Biofuels Citizen Science Project and learn why algae has the potential to be a sustainable source of fuel used to power cars, trucks and airplanes. Attendees also learned how to identify various types of algae and participate in hands-on experiments and activities like painting with algae and making algae ball necklaces.

8. Genomatica and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., the eighth largest chemical maker in the world, signed a broad memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining multiple potential areas of collaboration. Mitsubishi and Genomatica will explore forming a joint venture to build the first commercial plant in Asia for Bio-BDO. This plant would use Genomatica’s direct, one-step technology and leverage Mitsubishi’s leadership in BDO applications and sales, as well as their manufacturing expertise. The companies will also discuss collaborating to develop several major chemicals, which are strategic to both companies. Mitsubishi also made an equity investment in Genomatica as part of Genomatica’s recently-announced $45 million Series C-1 funding. “We respect and share Genomatica’s vision of the importance of sustainability for the chemical industry, and we recognize their achievements with C4 chemicals, which are strategic to us,” says Hiroaki Ishizuka, representative director of Mitsubishi Chemical. “Asia is the fastest-growing chemicals market in the world and we see great potential to deliver biobased chemicals to this market as a growing complement to our current conventionally sourced chemicals. We believe that a strategic partnership with Genomatica will provide market-leading economics and quality that will benefit both parties.”

9. Evonik is helping to expand the bioenergy industry, and nearly every place from Argentina to Nebraska is reaping the benefits. Nearly a month after announcing that the German-based company would expand its global position in biodiesel catalyst production by building an alcoholate catalyst plant in Argentina, Evonik has ensured its business ventures in Iowa will also expand. Through a $50,000 donation, the company will “help prepare individuals for work in the biotechnology and milling industries,” according to the company. The money will be used to operate the Washington County Technology Center at the Cargill-owned Blair, Neb., BioRefinery Campus for five years. The hope is to train future employees for technical jobs within the campus. Alan Brewer, vice president of Evonik’s Health and Nutrition Business Unit in North America, notes the critical need for highly trained, highly qualified people to work at the Evonik plant in Blair, which produces lysine, an amino acid used as a feed additive in the swine and poultry industry. “In the past,” Brewer says, “Evonik has hired people and trained them. Now, graduates of the Technology Center program will have a leg up on qualifying for jobs offered by Evonik and other businesses.” During a two-year program, students will develop skills in chemistry and other processes used at the facility on the way to earning an associate degree in applied technology.


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