Business Briefs

People, Partnerships & Deals
By Biorefining Magazine Staff | July 25, 2011

1. EdeniQ Inc. and IKA Works Inc., a subsidiary of German firm IKA Werke GmbH Co. KG, have agreed on a mutually exclusive global agreement for the supply of biomass mixing and milling technology for the advanced biofuels and biochemical markets, and for the ongoing development of biomass milling process technologies. EdeniQ and IKA first formalized their partnership in 2009 with the signing of an exclusive manufacturing agreement for a proprietary milling device trademarked by EdeniQ as the Cellunator. The Cellunator has been installed by EdeniQ at corn-ethanol plants across the country. As the collaboration evolved, both companies decided to formalize their ongoing research and development efforts with a focus on offering milling and mixing equipment specifically for biomass conversion. The development work with focus on EdeniQ’s proprietary pretreatment process, including an enhanced version of the Cellunator, is designed for processing cellulosic biomass under the development moniker Super Cellunator.

2. The U.S. DOE has finally made its first conditional commitment for a loan guarantee for cellulosic ethanol. On July 7, the agency announced it is offering a conditional commitment for a $105 million loan guarantee to Poet LLC for the development of its 25 MMgy corn cob-to-ethanol facility, dubbed Project Liberty, at Emmetsberg, Iowa. Construction of the facility, which will be co-located with Poet’s 57 MMgy corn-based facility in Emmetsberg, is expected to begin in August, according to the DOE. Production is slated to begin in May 2013.The DOE has been heavily criticized for its lack of loan guarantee offerings to cellulosic biofuels projects. Since the program’s inception in 2005, multiple applications have been filed by would-be cellulosic ethanol producers, but until now none have made it through the arduous application process successfully. The total project cost for Project Liberty is $261.2 million, according to the DOE. Initially, ethanol produced at the facility is expected to cost approximately 50 cents more per gallon than gasoline, but those costs are expected to be reduced over time.

3. Cupertino, Calif.-based advanced biofuel producer AE Biofuels Inc. bolstered its technology portfolio by acquiring Zymetis Inc., a privately-owned biobased chemical and fuel developer headquartered in College Park, Md. As a result of the acquisition, Zymetis will continue as a wholly-owned subsidiary of AE Biofuels. Zymetis holds four granted patents and more than 10 pending patents centered on the core of its trademarked Z-microbe, a marine organism that was originally discovered to consume plant cellulose at a high rate in the Chesapeake Bay. The genome of the bacterium, Saccharophagus degradans, has been fully sequenced by researchers at the University of Maryland. Zymetis researchers have successfully engineered the microbe to produce approximately 90 enzymes to rapidly convert sugar, starch and cellulose into saleable biochemicals and biofuels via its Zymetis Integrated Process.

4. Royal DSM may have the tests to prove that the company’s yeast technology can convert 90 percent of hydrolyzed biomass in the cellulosic ethanol process, but that hasn’t stopped the life sciences company from strengthening its yeast technology. DSM has purchased the Netherlands-based C5 Yeast Co., for an undisclosed amount. Although DSM has created a microorganism that can convert both the C6 and C5 biomass sugars produced by enzymes in a typical cellulosic process, the company noted the importance of C5 Yeast Co.’s ability to specifically convert the difficult C5 sugar fractions. The move will increase the position of DSM in area of fermentation technology. The area of second-generation biofuels is one that DSM believes will be huge in the U.S., with an expected market size of more than $1 billion by 2020, mostly related to the enzymes and yeast needed to convert agricultural residues and other wastes to biofuels.

5. OPX Biotechnologies Inc. raised $36.5 million in a Series C round of private equity financing to accelerate the development and commercialization of its first target product offering, a biobased alternative to acrylic acid, called BioAcrylic. The financing was led by US Renewables Group, which also included new investor DBL Investors. The round also saw strong participation from existing investors Mohr Davidow Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, Altira Group and X/Seed Capital. During an 18-month pilot-scale program completed in February, OPXBIO demonstrated the scale-up efficiency of its proprietary Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering (EDGE) technology to make performance-equivalent BioAcrylic that is lower cost and more sustainable than petroleum-based acrylic acid. In April, OPXBIO and Dow Chemical Co. signed a joint development agreement to prove the technical and economic viability of an industrial-scale process to produce BioAcrylic using a fermentable sugar (such as corn and/or cane sugar) as feedstock. OPXBIO anticipates full commercialization of its BioAcrylic within three to five years.

6. Dupont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DuPont, has entered into an agreement to purchase a parcel of land in Nevada, Iowa, adjacent to Lincolnway Energy LLC’s conventional ethanol plant. It is DDCE’s next step toward building one of the world’s first commercial-scale biorefineries to produce fuel-grade ethanol from cellulose, in this case stover—dried cobs, stalks and leaves left after grain harvesting. DDCE is successfully producing cellulosic ethanol at its precommercial facility in Vonore, Tenn., and is scaling up the process to globally license its end-to-end production system. DDCE also is launching its 2011 Stover Collection Program to enable a cost-effective supply of stover for the biorefinery project. The company is working closely with local grain producers to obtain commitments and collect thousands of tons of stover from Iowa fields this fall. DDCE is collaborating with Pioneer Hi-Bred, also a DuPont Company, and Iowa State University, to establish best practices in harvesting, storage, and transportation, and assure the agronomic and environmental integrity of cornfields.

7. California-based Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, has announced the release of a new enzyme product, Accellerase TRIO. The new project is designed to enable biorefinery companies to more cost-effectively manufacture cellulosic fuels from a wide range of feedstocks, including switchgrass, wheat straw, corn stover and municipal solid waste. The new product allows for low enzyme dosage to produce ethanol, which helps to improve the economics of cellulosic biofuel production. According to Genencor, Accellerase TRIO includes a cocktail of enzymes that breakdown the glucan (C6) and zylan (C5) found in cellulosic feedstocks into fermentable sugars, which increases the yield per unit of feedstock. Data indicates a two-fold lower dose of enzymes is needed when compared to the performance of Accellerase DUET.

8. Forming partnerships continues to be the name of the game for Amyris Inc. as the Emeryville, Calif.-based biotech, and Asia-based agribusiness giant Wilmar International Ltd., plan to jointly develop and commercialize a family of surfactants derived from Amryis’s biobased farnesene, Biofene, for use in a range of products, including consumer packaged goods, personal care products and industrial applications. The proposed collaboration would engage in a feasibility study to complete the technical development of the surfactants, engage in testing activities to validate product performance and customer acceptance and secure necessary regulatory approvals for manufacture and sale of the products. Upon completion of the feasibility study and subject to the execution of definitive agreements, Amyris and Wilmar anticipate forming a joint venture entity, through which they would manufacture the products to be marketed by Wilmar through its established channels. The joint venture may produce its own Biofene for captive use. Both companies expect that biobased surfactants will be effective replacements for nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactants (NPEs), the use of which is currently being phased out or severely restricted by regulatory agencies around the world due to health and environmental concerns. The current market for NPEs exceeds $1 billion annually.

9. Wankei Wan, a professor of biochemical engineering at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, discovered that exposing microalgae to static magnetic fields could be another viable route for optimizing growth rate and lipid production in microalgae. According to Wan, his research team designed and built a lab-scale raceway pond featuring a paddle wheel that gently agitated the fluid, and they began growing a common species of single-celled algae called Chlorella kessleri. They then took a small side stream off the main reactor and passed it through a static magnetic field all the while measuring the growth rate and oil production of the algae. What Wan observed, which will soon be published in a paper to be submitted in the journal Bioelectromagnetics, wasn’t short of being “an interesting phenomenon,” he says. By exposing algae to magnetic fields, Wan and his team were able to double the growth rate and double the lipid oil production, essentially economizing the overall process by four-fold. “It’s quite a significant improvement,” Wan says.

10. Biorefining firms like Genomatica and BioAmber recognize the impact their research and development activities will someday have, and so does the U.S. EPA. On June 20 in Washington, D.C., the nation’s environmental regulatory agency, in conjunction with the American Chemical Society, honored both companies with the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for their respective achievements in breakthrough technology development. San Diego-based Genomatica received an award for “Production of High-Volume Chemicals from Renewable Feedstocks at Lower Cost” under the “greener synthetic pathways” category. The award recognized both the breadth of Genomatica’s potential industry impact and the tangible commercialization milestones for its first target product offering, 1,4 butanediol (Bio-BDO) made from renewable sources. The global market for 1,4 butanediol is worth approximately $4 billion. BioAmber earned an award for “Integrated Production and Downstream Applications of Biobased Succinic Acid” under the small business category. BioAmber is recognized for integrated production and downstream applications of biobased succinic acid and for creating a portfolio of renewable chemicals and polymers that are derived from succinic acid. Its portfolio includes modified polybutylene succinate (mPBS), a novel, high-temperature biopolymer.

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