Business Briefs

By Staff | April 27, 2012

Volkswagen of America Inc. is partnering with Amyris Inc. and Solazyme Inc. to evaluate emissions reductions and demonstrate the performance of Volkswagen’s TDI Clean Diesel technology. Volkswagen will provide each company with two products—a new 2012 Passat TDI and a 2012 Jetta TDI—in order to closely examine the effects that the fuels produced by Amyris and Solazyme will have on Volkswagen clean diesel technology and the environment. Amyris has developed a synthetic biology platform that converts plant sugars into hydrocarbon compounds called isoprenoids. Amyris is currently focused on commercializing a 15-carbon hydrocarbon called beta-farnesene, which can be further converted into fuels like renewable diesel and specialty chemicals. Solayzme employs a proprietary biotechnology platform to produce algal oils which, through various finishing steps, can be further refined into algal-derived fatty acid methyl esters, Soladiesel BD, and renewable diesel, Soladiesel RD.

Avantium announced its second major partnership for its YXY technology to produce PEF bottles. Danone Research and Avantium have entered into a joint agreement for development of PEF bottles for Danone, No. 2 worldwide in bottled water business. YXY is used as an efficient chemical-catalytic technology to convert carbohydrates produced from plants, grains, energy crops, lignocellulosic matter, waste streams, waste paper or agricultural residues, into a wide variety of biopolymers. Avantium recently opened its pilot plant in Geleen, Netherlands, with the capacity of producing 40 tons of PEF for application development. Avantium also has a major agreement with The Coca-Cola Co.

Dedicated energy crop developer Mendel Biotechnology Inc., with its wholly owned subsidiary Mendel Bioenergy Seeds, and BP Biofuels have signed a four-year agreement to conduct a demonstration field trial of Mendel’s trademarked PowerCane Miscanthus and evaluate its performance as feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production at BP Biofuels’ 1.4 MMgy demonstration-scale production plant in Jennings, La. A total of 100 acres of PowerCane Miscanthus is expected to be planted early this year near the Jennings cellulosic ethanol demo facility, and the first biomass harvest from these fields is expected to occur next year. While BP Biofuels controls 1.4 MMgy of production at its Jennings cellulosic ethanol demonstration-scale facility, the company’s priority this year is developing a $400 million, 36 MMgy cellulosic commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol project in Highlands County, Fla., which is expected to begin production by next year.

Germany-based BASF Venture Capital has led a $13.5 million investment round that raised a total of $18.2 million for San Diego, Calif.-based renewable specialty chemical developer Allylix Inc. Also participating in the financing round were existing investors Tate & Lyle Ventures, Avrio Ventures and Cultivian Ventures. Allylix has developed a multifaceted yeast fermentation-based technology platform derived from glucose for the biosynthesis, discovery and production of renewable specialty chemicals, primarily terpenes and their derivatives. The core technology platform involves gene cloning and expression, metabolic engineering, protein engineering, fermentation development, recovery and purification and synthetic organic chemistry.
Seattle-based biorefining firm Blue Marble Biomaterials and Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC have signed a memorandum of understanding for Blue Marble to begin development of a pilot biorefinery to be co-located at a North American Anheuser-Busch brewery. A specific location of the Anheuser-Busch site wasn’t disclosed. The project will initially focus on converting spent brewery grains and biogas derived from the brewing process into high-value biobased chemicals that can be readily used in the food, flavoring and fragrance industries using Blue Marble’s proprietary Acid, Gas and Ammonia Targeted Extraction process technology.

California-based Genomatica and Japan-based global chemical manufacturer Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. have signed a memorandum of understanding to exclusively negotiate definitive agreements for a joint commercial operation in Asia for the production of biobased butanediol (BDO) using Genomatica’s process technology. Mitsubishi made an upfront payment to Genomatica of $3.5 million while the companies continue to work toward completing their definitive agreements. The agreement builds on a previously announced MOU between the companies signed last April and an equity investment by Mitsubishi into Genomatica in December 2010, strengthening the partnership between the two. Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. is the eighth largest chemical maker in the world.