On February 10, 2014, Monsanto issued a press release announcing that Monsanto and Novozymes are closing The BioAg Alliance. According to the release, "[t]he announcement follows the satisfaction of relevant closing conditions and the receipt of required regulatory approvals. Both companies will now focus on implementing the long-term strategic alliance. The BioAg Alliance is unique in the industry, bringing together Novozymes' commercial BioAg operations and capabilities within microbial discovery, development and production with Monsanto's microbial discovery, advanced biology, field testing and commercial capabilities. The result will be a comprehensive research, development, and commercial collaboration for sustainable microbial products to help farmers globally meet the challenge of producing more with less -- for the benefit of agriculture, consumers, the environment and society at large." A copy of Monsanto's press release is available online.
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.
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 January 23, 2014, 13 industry groups sent a letter to President Obama and the Interagency Working Group on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security (Working Group) urging the exclusion of any "federal requirement to assess or implement so-called Inherently Safer Technologies (IST)." A copy of the letter is available online. In response to the West Texas fertilizer distributor explosion last year, the Working Group has been tasked with carrying out Executive Order 13650 -- on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.
In the letter, the industry groups express concern with a focus in a recent Working Group report on "safer alternatives." They argue that sufficient safeguards and incentives exist to promote IST where possible, and caution against a federal requirement for IST.
On January 27, 2014, Arkema introduced biobased Pebax® for ski boot production. According to the company's press release, Pebax® Rnew 80R53 is 50% more rigid than existing Pebax® grades, already well-known for several years as reference materials for both alpine touring and cross-country ski boots. A copy of the press release is available online.
Mercedes-Benz is collaborating on a pilot cellulosic ethanol project with specialty chemical companies Clariant and Haltermann. According to the press release issued by Clariant, "[o]ver the next twelve months, test fleet vehicles can be refilled with the new [E20 cellulosic ethanol] fuel at a specially equipped gas station on the Mercedes-Benz site in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. The cellulosic ethanol comes from Clariant's sunliquid® demonstration plant in Straubing, where approximately 4500 tons of agricultural residues such as grain straw or corn stover are converted into cellulosic ethanol each year. At the Haltermann plant in Hamburg the bioethanol is mixed with selected components to form the innovative fuel, the specifications of which reflect potential European E20 fuel quality." A copy of the press release is available online.
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.
It is reported that Research and Development non-profit Battelle, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, has a pilot project in which an 18-wheel tractor trailer would be used to convert biomass onsite using a catalytic pyrolysis into oil that could be used to produce renewable chemicals or biofuels. This model could be used throughout the country to help facilitate the conversion of myriad types of biomass into oils for renewable chemicals and biofuels production in a cost effective manner. It would eliminate the cost of transporting massive amounts of biomass to production facilities and reduce the need for much more expensive commercial production facilities.
On January 22, 2014, there were reports of two explosions at the JNS Biodiesel LCC biodiesel plant in northern Mississippi. No one was injured. The plant is designed to use poultry fat as the feedstock to produce eight million gallons of biodiesel each year. The news comes as the biodiesel industry is advocating its potential production beyond EPA's proposed 2014 and 2015 requirements.