On September 26, 2013, cellulosic biofuels company KiOR, Inc. announced that it intends to build a second cellulosic biorefinery near its existing plant in Columbus, Mississippi. This second plant, or "Columbus II," is expected to cost $225 million and the Company intends to build it in 18 months after it raises sufficient capital. This announcement is significant, especially as it comes at a time when federal RFS opponents are strong and have waged a campaign to dismantle the law in part by arguing about the lack of development in the cellulosic biofuels space. KiOR's press release on Columbus II is available online.
California-based renewable chemical company Rennovia, Inc. announced on October 1, 2013, that it has "produced, and shipped to a prospective partner, samples of what it believes to be the world's first 100% bio-based nylon-6,6 polymer, under Rennovia's RENNLON brand, made from Rennovia's renewable monomers, RENNLON adipic acid (AA) and RENNLON hexamethylenediamine (HMD)." The Company estimates this production will cost 20-25 percent less than conventional AA and HMB, and will result in approximately 85 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. A copy of the Company's press release is available online.
Improved utility of data, transparent supply chains, and transformative innovation were just some of the topics discussed by regulators, researchers, and industry at the 3rd Safer Consumer Products Summit: National Policy Outlook held in Washington, D.C. this week. Summit Chair Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C, opened the main summit by noting the dramatic shift in environmental law from the regulation of discharges of chemical substances into the environment (and their subsequent cleanup) to a more proactive focus on the regulation of chemicals in products -- especially consumer products. She then walked the room through the current efforts at TSCA reform, most notably CSIA and gave her insider's analysis of what to expect from Capitol Hill regarding CSIA.
Keynote speaker Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), highlighted the great strides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made in increasing access to data, especially with the debut last week of the ChemView searchable database and the positive impact programs such as Design for the Environment and the Green Chemistry Awards have in stimulating the safer chemical market.
In a luncheon keynote, sponsored by BRAG, the "father of green chemistry" Dr. Paul Anastas, Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale, exhorted the gathered companies, researchers, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to set a goal of transformative innovation rather than incremental improvements: instead of just looking for safer dyes, develop fiber plants that grow in colors; rather than making a small improvement in paint and waterproofing formulations, mimic the action of waterproof plants to achieve the goal.
A panel discussion with safer product groups and brands, moderated by BRAG's Executive Director Kathleen M. Roberts, included spirited exchanges on the perceived value of "green" to consumers, the need for extreme transparency of ingredients throughout the supply chain, and the question of whether NGOs can engage in recognizing and encouraging good corporate actions in addition to their focus on thwarting the bad. Ms. Roberts made the point that BRAG is actively engaged in helping to level the regulatory playing field between petroleum-based products and their greener alternative biobased products.
On September 16, 2013, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based renewable chemicals company, Metabolix, announced the development of Mvera B5010, which is a compostable film grade resin to be used for global compostable bag and film markets. Mvera B5010 meets international industrial standards for compostability and will be featured during K 2013 in Düsseldorf, Germany, October 16-23, 2013. A copy of Metabolix's press release on the announcement is available online.
Unilever announced this week its new partnership with the University of Liverpool for a three-year research project designed to develop renewable chemicals "from the surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes, creating a cent[er] of excellence in the identification of sustainably sourced ingredients that it is hoped will end up in the production of some of the world's most familiar brands." The company's press release on the partnership is available online.
Renewable fuel and chemical company Aemetis, Inc. announced this week that EPA has approved its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) pathway to produce ethanol using grain sorghum and biogas with the Company's existing Combined Heat & Power system to generate D5 Advanced Biofuels Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN). This announcement means that additional fuel will qualify to fulfill the annual renewable volumetric targets under the federal RFS statute. It comes as EPA is preparing its proposed RFS volumes for 2014, which the Agency indicated it would likely reduce from those set in the statute to adjust for supply and the impending ethanol blendwall.
Aemetis' press release on the announcement is available online.
On August 26, 2013, bio-isobutanol producer, Gevo, Inc., supported by Coca-Cola and Japanese chemical producer Toray Industries, Inc., held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open its new demonstration-scale paraxylene plant adjacent to Gevo's existing renewable jet fuel plant in Silsbee, Texas. Paraxylene is a key building block to renewable PET beverage bottles and packaging, among other things. Gevo's press release announcing this new facility is available online.
This week, it is reported that shareholders of leading U.S. cellulosic biofuels company, KiOR, sued the company, its Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, alleging that they reported misleading information on production projections, which artificially inflated the stock price paid. Last year, the company completed construction of its biorefinery in Columbus, Mississippi, which has the capacity to produce up to 13 million gallons per year of cellulosic biofuels made from woody biomass. The company stated that it expected to ship its first commercial quantities of the fuel last fall, but did not do so until June 2013. In addition, the quantity shipped reportedly was less than the company projected in public statements.
This lawsuit comes at a time when the oil industry has repeatedly criticized EPA for setting its annual mandated cellulosic RVOs under the federal RFS too high compared to the actual available supply of that fuel. EPA just issued its 2013 cellulosic RVO at 6 million gallons, the majority of which EPA expects to be met by supply from KiOR, based in part on stated expectations of the company.
This week, Brazilian biotechnology company GranBio and Solvay Group company Rhodia announced they have signed an agreement to partner to produce bio n-butanol, used to manufacture renewable chemicals and biobased products, including paint. Under the agreement, the companies intend to build the first biomass-based n-butanol plant in Brazil, with operations planned to come online in 2015. The press release is available online.
Beta Renewables, a joint venture between chemical company Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi and investment company TPG, announced that it had begun commercial production at its cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy, at a price competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline. Novozymes, the leading producer of enzymes used for biofuels production, has invested in Beta Renewables. Beta Renewables expects to export the technology to develop about 20 new plants by 2017.