Recent news exemplifies progress in the advanced space

Let's move away from the tired phrase "beakers to barrels" and go from barrels to shiploads.
By Ron Kotrba | January 26, 2012

Three interesting news items came out this week that when combined speak volumes about progress made in the advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals space. I’m not one to use the tired cliché of “beakers to barrels,” but this would be as good a time as any for it.

On the advanced biofuels side, one of the biggest shipping companies in the world, Maersk Line, completed a one-month, 6,500 nautical mile voyage from Northern Europe to India fueled on Solazyme’s 100 percent algae-based renewable diesel. The run, as part of an integrated testing and certification program with the U.S. Navy, consumed about 30 tons of the algae-derived biofuel, called ‘SoladieselRD.’

Performed in collaboration with the Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command was the first time a Maersk Line vessel has used Solazyme’s algae-based renewable diesel. Maersk’s Kalmar had a dedicated auxiliary test engine in which blends ranging from 7 to 100 percent.

"The results of this collaboration will better inform the Navy's test plan as we prepare to demonstrate a Green Strike Group of ships this summer operating with a 50/50 renewable fuel blend," stated Glen Sturtevant, director for Science and Technology at the Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships. "The results of this test build on the Navy's ongoing efforts to test the use of biofuels in our ships, boats and craft."

Solazyme has successfully completed the delivery of over 360,000 liters of the in-specification fuel to the U.S. Navy, what the company says is the largest delivery of microbially-derived advanced biofuels in history. Solazyme’s renewable diesel and jet fuels meet all of the EU, ASTM and Military specifications for fuel.

On the biobased chemicals side, Showa Denko K.K and Myriant Corp. announced that SDK selected Myriant as its global supplier of biosuccinic acid. Under the terms of the supply agreement, SDK will utilize Myriant’s biosuccinic acid for the production of high-performance biodegradable polybutylene succinate (PBS), a key polymer used in the production of bioplastics.

Forecasts project that more than 1 million metric tons of bioplastics will be used by 2015. SDK’s PBS, trademarked Bionolle and Starcla, are key components used in the production of bioplastic products that include biodegradable mulch films and compostable bag applications. 

Its Bionolle family of biodegradable plastics has received numerous green certifications from associations across the globe including the GreenPla label by the Japanese BioPlastics Association and the OK Compost mark by AIB-Vincotte, the Belgian based certification and screening body, for its capacity to completely biodegrade.  

Myriant broke ground on its 30 million pound commercial succinic acid facility in Lake Providence, La., December 2010. The company’s D(-) lactic acid started production at commercial scale in June 2008 for use in polylactic acid. Myriant has agreements with Uhde GmbH for engineering, Davy Process Technology for the integration of Myriant’s succinic acid process with the Davy butanediol process for the production of biobased butanediol, and PTT Chemical for the commercialization of Myriant’s technology in South East Asia.

For both advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals, see the USDA release in the accompanying newsletter.