Business Briefs

People, Partnerships & Deals
By Biorefining Magazine Staff | November 21, 2011

1. California-based LS9 Inc. has successfully ramped up its technology to the 20,000-liter (5,283 gallon) scale, demonstrating continued progress in the scale-up and commercialization of its biobased chemicals and fuels technology platform. Initial production at the 1,000-liter scale was completed at the company’s pilot plant in San Francisco. The company has since increased the scale of production 20-fold to produce approximately 1 ton of a specific chemical for its strategic partner Proctor & Gamble. The company says the 20,000-liter batch was produced at a tolling site. LS9’s fermentation technology uses sugar as a feedstock and depending on the metabolic pathway engineered into the bacteria, the company can produce various chemicals or fuels. The company intends to continue production at the tolling site for the next few months, with the potential of moving up to the 50,000-liter production level. The increase in production will lead into the start up of LS9’s demonstration facility in Okeechobee, Fla., which is expected to become operational during the first quarter of 2012.

2. Tampa, Fla.-based Culturing Solutions was scheduled to host the grand opening of its algae-to-biofuel demonstration plant in New Port Richey, Fla., on Nov. 17. The company says it will produce transportation fuel, energy, nutritional products, cosmetics, medicine and other household items from algae. Culturing Solutions will use carbon dioxide from industrial gases to grow the algae. This is the company’s first demonstration plant in Florida. Its technologies are being used in Florida, Rhode Island, Australia, Romania, Hungary and Russia. Culturing Solutions is a company that designs and manufactures photobioreactors and other algae processing production tools. Continuous algae production with its Phyta-Platform Photobioreactor offers superior control over conventional algae growing platforms.

3. The consolidation of the biobased chemicals industry by major companies is taking shape as Eastman Chemical Co. integrated the assets of biobased n-butanol and acetone developer TetraVitae Bioscience Inc. into its wholly owned subsidiary Eastman Renewable Materials LLC. TetraVitae's core technology lies in a mutant, nongenetically modified organism, Clostridium Beijerinckii. TetraVitae personnel will be integrated into Eastman Renewable Materials as part of the acquisition of assets. Last December, TetraVitae successfully retrofitted an integrated corn dry-mill pilot facility at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for production trials of bio n-butanol. During the demonstration at NCERC, TetraVitae worked with the Separations Research Program at the University of Texas in Austin to refine production purification. To achieve this, the company took the raw chemical products produced at NCERC and manufactured purified n-butanol and acetone in a continuous distillation.

4. Longtime corn-ethanol process technology provider Vogelbusch USA Inc. has been awarded a contract to supply ethanol distillation and dehydration equipment for Ineos New Planet BioEnergy’s future demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol and renewable power biorefinery, dubbed the Indian River BioEnergy Center, currently under construction in Vero Beach, Fla. The foundations are set and work with vertical equipment is expected to take up the remainder of the fall and winter. The company says about 250 construction workers are busy on site to meet the project’s anticipated start-up in the second quarter 2012. The facility broke ground in February and, when operational, will use Ineos Bio’s patented anaerobic fermentation step, which involves a unique combination of gasification and fermentation technologies capable of converting a range of waste biomass feedstocks, including municipal solid waste, into 8 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts of renewable power annually. In September, Air Products and Chemicals Inc. provided the plant with onsite gaseous oxygen via a proprietary gas generation system and supplied bulk liquid oxygen and nitrogen by truck for the plant’s production process.

5. Missoula, Mont.-based Rivertop Renewables has received $1.5 million in a bridge round investment  from Cultivian Ventures, a venture fund focused on accelerating high technology in the food and agricultural sectors. The money will be used to continue commercialization of cost-competitive and high-performing biobased chemicals, expand its facilities for continued research, development and precommercial production through future contract manufacturing deals. The funding will also allow the company to grow its presence and become the anchor tenant at the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC), a business incubator for technology spin-outs from the University of Montana in Missoula. Kolstad said that Rivertop’s ongoing presence at MonTEC is expected to generate additional revenue, jobs and education opportunities for UM graduate chemistry students, adding that he anticipates doubling the company’s workforce over the next 18 months.

6. Algenol Biofuels Inc. announced in October that it has broken ground on its pilot-scale integrated biorefinery. This production facility will be the first large-scale deployment of Algenol's patented Direct To Ethanol technology, which produces ethanol directly from carbon dioxide, sunlight and salt water using blue-green algae in patented photobioreactors. With support from the U.S. DOE, Lee County, Fla., and Algenol's strategic partners, the 36-acre facility will contain 3,000 of Algenol's patented photobioreactors in a commercial module, Algenol's advanced Vapor Compression Steam Stripper ethanol concentration technology and new membrane-based ethanol dehydration technology. The plant will have a target capacity of approximately 100,000 gallons of fuel-grade ethanol per year. In addition, Algenol's joint development program with Dow Chemical Co. has come to an end, and the focus of the relationship will shift to purchasing specialty plastics and films developed during the program for use in Algenol's patented photobioreactors for the pilot-scale biorefinery. The efforts of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research will continue.

7. Envergent Technologies LLC, a Honeywell company, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Finland-based Green Fuel Nordic Oy. Under the agreement, the companies will collaborate on projects to convert biomass into renewable fuel for use in district heating systems. According to Envergent, the companies will evaluate the installation of new facilities to convert forest residue into liquid biofuel via Envergent’s Rapid Thermal Processing technology. The technology is a fast pyrolysis process, which generates higher yields of higher energy biofuel and less low-value char and gas coproducts when compared to other pyrolysis technologies, and it has been used in seven commercial facilities in North America for more than 20 years. Envergent will provide expertise and technical knowledge as the Finnish company develops plans for its proposed facilities.

8. Houston-based Waste Management Inc. has exchanged its equity interest in S4 Solutions LLC, formerly a joint venture between Waste Management and Bend, Ore.-based plasma arc gasification technology company InEnTec, for an equity position solely in InEnTec. S4 Solutions was formed by both companies in 2009 to design, build and operate a 25-ton-per-day waste gasification demonstration plant in Arlington, Ore., using InEnTec’s proprietary trademarked Plasma Enhanced Melter technology. The construction of the Arlington project was recently completed and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued all necessary permits to begin operation of the plant. In addition to InEnTec, Waste Management also holds investments in Enerkem, Terrabon and Agylix. The agreement is expected to help propel Waste Management toward meeting two of its sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production by 2020, and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste.

9. Mountain View, Calif.-based biobutanol developer Cobalt Technologies and international specialty chemical giant Rhodia have formed a strategic alliance to jointly develop biobased n-butanol biorefineries throughout Latin America. The facilities will deploy Cobalt’s technology for conversion of sugarcane bagasse into n-butanol for the chemicals and fuels markets. Under terms of the alliance, Cobalt and Rhodia will initially identify and develop options for deploying Cobalt’s technology at a sugar mill. Following this step, the partners will jointly develop a demonstration-scale facility that incorporates Cobalt’s technology at a to-be-determined location in Brazil. Following the demonstration plant project, the parties intend to build multiple biorefineries co-located with sugar mills, first in Brazil and then in other Latin American countries. These commercial-scale facilities will be designed to produce 40,000 metric tons of n-butanol a year.  The goal set as part of Cobalt’s alliance with Rhodia is to begin construction of the first demonstration facility by next year with construction of the first commercial-scale plant to begin in 2013, with commercial volumes of n-butanol anticipated for launch by 2014.

10. Two leading developers, BioAmber Inc. and Myriant Technologies, each formed partnerships with separate major chemical companies to further their strategies of delivering cost-competitive, high-performing biobased chemicals to market. BioAmber, through its subsidiary Bluewater Biochemicals, partnered with Mitsui & Co., a leading global trading company, to build and operate a biobased succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol production facility in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, a project that was announced in August. The initial phase of the project is expected to have an annual production capacity of 17,000 metric tons of biosuccinic acid and is anticipated to be commissioned for commercial operation in 2013. Permitting work for the facility began in June. The companies intend to subsequently expand capacity and produce 35,000 metric tons of succinic acid and 23,000 metric tons of 1,4 butanediol at the site. BioAmber and Mitsui also plan to build and operate a second plant in Thailand, which is projected to come online in 2014. Quincy, Mass.-based Myriant Technologies and Japanese global trading firm Sojitz Corp. formed a partnership to collaborate on the sales and marketing of biosuccinic acid in Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan for applications such as platicizers, polymers, urethanes and solvents. Sojitz, a $150 billion company, has a strong presence in chemical sales, marketing and distribution throughout Asia with more than 25 sales offices. According to Sojitz, the plan is to develop a biobased derivatives manufacturing plant somewhere in the Asia Pacific region that will consume 150 million pounds of Myriant’s biobased succinic acid annually.


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