Business Briefs

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

1. Spain-based Neuron Bio recently announced it has commissioned a pilot-scale fermentation plant that will be used to scale up the production of yeast, bacteria and algae as part of its own research and development efforts. It will also be used to scale up biorefining processes for third-party companies. The pilot plant employs a batch process, and can produce 400 liters (106 gallons) of culture at a time. It also provides for the subsequent recovery and purification of the bioproducts cultivated in it. Information released by the company states that it has invested €500,000 ($706,550) in the plant. The equipment will be installed provisionally in the the Ogíjares industrial park until construction of Neuron Bio’s new building in the Granada Heath-Sciences Technology Park is complete.

2. Nidus Partners LP announced that Denmark-based Novozymes has joined Nidus as a corporate partner. Novozymes will collaborate with Nidus and its other partners Bunge Ltd. and Monsanto Co. to select and develop early-stage energy technologies. Launched last September, Nidus takes a novel approach to commercialization by using its partners to identify market opportunities and experienced entrepreneurs to find and develop technologies that address these market needs. To date, Nidus has reviewed hundreds of technologies resulting in three startups: Electrochaea LLC, Six Convert LLC and Xtend Energy. Partners have a right of first offer for the innovations developed through Nidus. A limited number of additional partners with the appropriate market and technical expertise will be invited to participate in the partnership.

3. U.K.-based bioplastics company Biome Technologies plc has announced interim financial results for the six-month period ending June 30. According to the company, it experienced a 132 percent sales revenue growth within its U.K. bioplastics division, Biome Bioplastics, making the division profitable for the first time. Revenue for the entire Biome group increased by 55 percent during the period, to £10.4 million ($16.6 million). Its biodegradable and compostable bioplastic materials are made from renewable feedstocks, such as potato starch and cellulose. The company’s website lists a range of 10 bioplastic materials it has developed. Information published by Biome as part of its interim financial results states that its materials are produced at Biotec, an advanced manufacturing facility in Germany that has been developed as a 50/50 joint venture. The dedicated bioplastic production facility has an annual capacity of 20,000 tons. The facility is currently operating at 60 percent of its capacity.

4. BioAmber Inc., through its subsidiary Bluewater Biochemicals, has identified Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, as the site for its first North American biobased succinic acid production facility. The plant will have an initial annual production capacity of 17,000 metric tons and is anticipated to be commissioned in 2013. Permitting work for the facility began in June. The company leveraged $35 million in combined grants and loans provided by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Canadian Sustainable Chemistry Alliance to locate its facility in Sarnia. BioAmber plans to double production capacity in Sarnia by 2014 through the introduction of a next-generation yeast being developed with Cargill Inc. While biosuccinic acid will be the product of focus for BioAmber at its Sarnia facility, the company also intends to produce 1,4 butanediol (BDO)—a chemical with a $4 billion existing market—using technology exclusively licensed from DuPont Applied Biosciences. At peak production, according to BioAmber, the goal is for the Sarnia plant to produce 35,000 metric tons per year of biobased succinic acid and 23,000 metric tons per year of BDO.

5. The algae and biochemical sectors are becoming more interwoven as Houston-based biochemical firm Glycos Biotechnologies Inc. and Ft. Collins, Colo.-based algae developer Solix BioSystems Inc. reported that their early-stage research and development collaboration yielded positive results, demonstrating the potential for Solix’s algae oil to be converted into a range of high-value specialty chemicals through GlycosBio’s novel microbial platform. Solix’s crude algae oil, obtained from the company’s pilot facility located in the Southern Ute Reservation near Durango, Colo., was found to be nontoxic, easily metabolized and upgraded by GlycosBio’s proprietary biocatalysts at the company’s research facilities in Houston. While the production of ethanol may not be a focus of the research and development collaboration, the alcohol acts as a viable springboard for getting to the basic building blocks of producing the chemicals such as isoprene, a chemical of specific interest for GlycosBio.

6. Emeryville, Calif.-based Amyris Inc. has signed a multiyear supply agreement for several hundred tons of its renewable squalane with Nikko Chemicals Co. Ltd. for distribution in the Japanese market. Squalane, a high-end moisturizing ingredient used in a range of cosmetics, is traditionally sourced from shark liver or refined olive oil. Amyris’ squalane, which is produced using its renewable platform building block farnesene—trademarked Biofene—is made using sugarcane of high purity and has better stability. According to Amyris, its biobased squalane is now EcoCert certified and has been successfully tested and integrated in end products by its partners and products. Earlier this year, Amyris received a purchase order from the company’s collaboration partner Soliance, a French biobased ingredient provider to the cosmetic industry, for its biobased squalane. The company also produces biobased squalane as part of a manufacturing contract arrangement with Glycotech Inc. at a plant in Leland, N.C.

7. North Carolina-based Avjet Biotech Inc., a developer of distributed refining systems and parent company of Red Wolf Refining, has released an overview of its biorefining process. The company’s patented RWR System uses a thermal catalytic process to refine triglycerides into biobased aviation fuels. The objective of the RWR process is to produce fungible drop-in replacement transportation fuels from a wide variety of renewable oils, including those sourced from oilseed crops, animal fats or algae. Fats, oils and lipids are mixed with hot water and hydrolyzed, breaking the fatty acids from the glycerin backbone. A thermocatalytic process then deoxygenates the fatty acids. The two oxygens are driven off as carbon dioxide and unsaturated bonds within the fatty acid are saturated. The result is a straight chain, saturated hydrocarbon, an ideal molecule to reform into transportation fuels. The next step is to change the structure of the molecule to either increase the flash point or suppress the freeze point. Some cracking is also done, which means some of the longer molecule chains are broken into shorter chains. Competing processes are generally based on a technology that uses additional hydrogen to drive off oxygen from the triglyceride feedstocks. The RWR process has been specifically designed to be cost-competitive at smaller, distributed scales.

8. Novamont, an Italian company that produces a biodegradable plastic from waste materials, and Genomatica, a California-based biobased chemical maker, have formed a joint venture to build an industrial biorefinery to produce Genomatica’s butanediol (BDO) for use in Novamont’s bioplastic products. While Genomatica will provide an engineering design package and technology transfer help to Novamont, the terms of the agreement have put Novamont in charge of financing the future facility. The company will also purchase the BDO produced at the plant, which is expected to reach roughly 40 million pounds per year when it goes online by the end of 2012. Novamont has indicated the company will convert an existing facility in Italy and will also run the facility once complete. The partnership between the two companies is not the first for either. Genomatica has already partnered with Tate & Lyle, Mitsubishi Chemical, Gruppo M&G and Waste Management. Novamont has partnered with Eni, an Italian oil and gas company, to build another biorefining facility, located at a petrochemical plant owned by Eni. Novamont has also opened a North American facility in Connecticut.

9. Lakewood, Colo.-based biorefining firm ZeaChem Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding with Chrysler Group LLC to accelerate the development and market adoption of cellulosic ethanol. One of the primary goals of the strategic alliance with Chrysler is to help the company promote positive consumer perception about the concept of cellulosic ethanol. ZeaChem’s first commercial plant, expected to have an annual capacity of 25 MMgy, is planned for location adjacent to its 250,000-gallon-per-year demonstration facility near Boardman, Ore., currently under construction and intended to use woody biomass as feedstock. The company is also considering Michigan or Canada as potential sites for future commercial production facilities where abundant concentrations of woody biomass are plentiful. The company stated that the Boardman biorefinery project is progressing on time and on schedule for a fall start-up, adding that the first phase of construction was 80 percent completed in late July. The biorefinery will produce and test quantities of ethyl acetate by the end of the year with significant volumes of cellulosic ethanol volumes projected to follow shortly thereafter. Testing of its acetic acid is expected to follow.

10. UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, announced that it has begun construction in Hawaii of a biofuels demonstration unit that will convert forest residuals, algae and other cellulosic biomass into green transportation fuels using rapid thermal processing  (RTP) technology. Backed by a $25 million U.S. DOE award, the Honeywell UOP Integrated Biorefinery will upgrade biomass into high-quality renewable gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The project is part of the DOE's efforts to help spur the creation of the domestic biofuel industry, drive domestic job creation and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The project will also support the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative goal to achieve 70 percent clean energy by the year 2030. Located at the Tesoro Corp. refinery in Kapolei, the Integrated Biorefinery will be used to demonstrate viability of the technology, test the fuels produced and evaluate the environmental footprint of the fuels and the process technology. The project is scheduled to begin initial production in 2012 and be fully operational by 2014. The RTP technology converts biomass into a pourable, liquid biofuel. This liquid biofuel will then be upgraded to green transportation fuels using hydroprocessing technology from Honeywell's UOP. In 2008, UOP partnered with Ensyn Corp. to form a joint venture business, Envergent Technologies LLC, to offer RTP technology and equipment.


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