The 5th Annual Bio-Based and Sustainable Chemicals Summit, held last week in San Diego, California, brought together nearly 200 industry leaders to discuss and debate the critical developments the industry is currently facing, including innovative feedstocks, end-user applications, and progress of established and new chemical production platforms and applications. Session topics included "Feedstocks for the Future -- Availability and Selection," "Direct Conversion of Biomass to Sugars or Other Products," "C3 – C6: Biobased Building Block Chemicals," "Emerging Biobased Polymers and Monomers," and "Spurring Market Adoption -- Brand Owner and Chemical Major Perspectives." In addition, there were case studies presented on biobased acrylic acid, biobased succinic acid, and licensing efforts in cellulosic biofuels.
Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG and Chair of the Summit, commented that "It was exciting to hear of the remarkable progress this innovative industry has made over the last few years. As a young industry, there is tremendous value in the larger community coming together to collaborate and compare notes on the science, business, and regulatory successes, as well as setbacks. I was very impressed with the in-depth case study presentations, the frank panel discussions, and the thought-provoking question and answer sessions. It was an honor to be among this gathering of the best and brightest in the sector."
Lawrence D. Sloan, President of SOCMA, added that "This conference brought together true start-ups, advanced start-ups ready to license their technologies to big chemical companies, industry consultants, non-profits, government agencies, and financing professionals, offering attendees four days of excellent networking opportunities. The case studies helped highlight the fact that industrial biotechnology has the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while utilizing waste agricultural products that would otherwise be discarded. For the most part, the so called 'green premium' does not exist, and the early innovators must compete ever harder against the incumbent players."
Those who did not attend are encouraged to watch for news of the 6th Summit, tentatively scheduled for February 2015. There are a number of excellent upcoming conferences at which BRAG will present and/or lead panels, including the BIO World Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in May 2014, and the 18th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Bethesda, Maryland, in June 2014. See the "Seminars and Conferences" page of BRAG's website for details.
AVA Biochem has announced that "commercial scale production of the high-purity renewable platform chemical 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) has started at the Biochem-1 facility operated by AVA Biochem in Muttenz, Switzerland." This renewable 5-HMF will be used in a variety of applications, including chemicals and products. A copy of AVA Biochem's press release is available online.
President Obama is expected to sign H.R. 2642, the Agriculture Act of 2014 (the new five-year Farm Bill), into law on Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He is scheduled to speak there about the importance of the legislation.
The Farm Bill is critically significant to the biofuels and renewable chemicals and products industries because the new Farm Bill continues and expands on the majority of the energy programs covered under the 2008 Farm Bill and provides $881 million in mandatory funding to carry them out. For instance, the new Farm Bill continues the Biobased Markets and Biorefinery Assistance programs, as well as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which helps encourage and facilitate the growth of purpose grown energy crops to be used for energy production. It modifies the existing Biorefinery Assistance Program to create the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program and extend funding eligibility to producers of renewable chemicals and biobased products. The mandatory funding under this program and expanded eligibility marks a big victory for the biofuels and renewable chemicals and products industries.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2642 by a bi-partisan vote of 251-166 on January 29, 2014. The Senate followed suit on February 4, 2014, by a bi-partisan vote of 68-32.
The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) sponsored the 5th Annual Next Generation Bio-Based and Sustainable Chemicals Summit, which took place February 4-7, 2014, in San Diego, California. The Summit is considered one of the premier biobased and sustainable chemicals information and networking events for biobased start-ups, global chemical majors, brand owners, feedstock providers, venture capitalists, and academics. This year's Summit provided a detailed overview of the critical developments the industry is currently facing, including innovative feedstocks, end-user applications, and progress of established and new chemical production platforms and applications.
Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. and Of Counsel to BRAG, chaired the pre-Summit Business Strategy Conference. During the Summit's Strategic Business Forum to explore policy, economics, investment, and global partnering to support the growth of the biobased industry, Ms. Bergeson gave a presentation that focused on key regulatory issues pertinent to renewable, biobased chemical feedstocks that manufacturers must anticipate and address to ensure scaling-up manufacturing operations proceed as planned. In addition, Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, gave opening remarks on the first day of the Summit and moderated a panel discussion on "Spurring Market Adoption: Brand Owner and Chemical Major Perspectives." More information is available online.
Kia Motors Corporation announced this week that "the company's new Soul EV (electric vehicle), which will have its world premiere at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show starting later this week, has achieved UL Environment validation for bio-based organic carbon content for 10% of its interior materials. UL Environment is the environmental business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a global independent safety science company." The Company explained that "[v]arious bio-based materials have been applied to the Soul EV, such as bio degradable plastic, bio-foam and bio-fabric. Unlike previous plastic materials that are based from oils, bio-based materials are derived from biomass, which is a photosynthate. Such modern biochemical technologies have replaced the majority of the existing chemistry industry by offering an alternative through development of new bio-materials." A copy of the Company's press release is available online.
On Monday, the 41 member bicameral Farm Bill Conference Committee announced that it had reached agreement on a compromise Farm Bill, the Agriculture Act of 2014. A copy of the legislation is available online. The Conference Committee was led by House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS). A copy of the Senate Agriculture Committee press release on the compromise legislation is available online.
The bill includes $881 million in mandatory funding for renewable energy programs over the next ten years, and extends eligibility to renewable chemicals for the first time. It continues the majority of the energy programs covered under the 2008 Farm Bill, including the Biobased Markets and Biorefinery Assistance Programs, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program to help encourage and facilitate the growth of purpose grown energy crops to be used for energy production. The legislation will modify the existing Biorefinery Assistance Program to create the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program that would expand funding eligibility to producers of renewable chemicals and biobased products. This mandatory funding and expanded eligibility marks a big victory for the biofuels and renewable chemicals and products industries.
The House of Representatives passed this compromise Farm Bill on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. The Senate is expected to take it up for consideration and potentially vote on it as early as the end of this week. The President is expected to sign it.
On January 28, 2014, the pro-safer chemicals coalition Safer States released a report in which it found that "at least 33 states are considering policies [to enhance chemical safety]. Some would change disclosure rules for manufacturers, so that concerned consumers will know what chemicals are in their products. Some would phase out the use of chemicals like bisphenol A, formaldehyde and toxic flame retardants." The report is available online.
There is increased momentum for chemical safety legislation in the wake of the January 9, 2014, chemical spill in West Virginia. Several bills have also been introduced at the federal level to increase chemical safety and security. In particular, the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 was introduced this week (see above). The bill will strengthen states' ability to prevent chemical spills. Additionally, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) was introduced last year to reform TSCA. CSIA has been criticized for having weak state preemption provisions. B&C has issued a summary of both bills, which are available here and here.
In an article appearing in the January/February 2014 issue of The Environmental Forum, a publication of the Environmental Law Institute, the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG™) Lynn L. Bergeson and Kathleen M. Roberts discuss the latest developments in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approach under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to biobased chemicals, and offer strategies on how biobased chemical manufacturers can best navigate current TSCA requirements.
"Sustainability is a watchword for many brand owners, especially those that market to consumers, and renewable chemicals can facilitate the marking off of many boxes on the 'environmentally preferred' checklist. One big box that remains unchecked and curiously sometimes unnoticed altogether is an understanding of the application of TSCA to renewable chemicals. We discuss here TSCA's requirements and restrictions, offer a few thoughts for stakeholders to assure the successful marketing of these chemical products, and explain why there is an urgent need for an even playing field within TSCA and its implementing regulations that will promote and not discourage the development of new, greener chemical substances."
The full article can be found here.
On January 22, 2014, the largest U.S. biodiesel producer, the Renewable Energy Group, Inc.® (REG), headquartered in Ames, Iowa, announced that it has acquired renewable chemical producer LS9, Inc. for over $61 million. LS9 will be renamed REG Life Sciences LLC and will produce renewable chemicals and products. A copy of REG's press release is available online.
A research team from the University of Wisconsin at Madison reportedly has developed a promising process using a renewable chemical for biofuels production. Under the process, the researchers used biobased gamma valerolactone (GVL) to break down plants and produce sugars for the production of biofuels. The use of the biobased material could make the process more sustainable and affordable. The findings are published in the January 17, 2014, issue of the journal Science.