During a summit in Brussels on October 23-24, 2014, European Union (EU) leaders agreed to a blueprint to guide climate and energy policy through 2030. The overall goals of the blueprint are to achieve a 40 percent emissions reduction by 2030, relative to 1990 emissions levels, as well as a target of 27 percent for total energy consumption in the EU being provided by renewable sources by 2030. The EU already has a 20 percent emissions reduction target for 2020. The target is expected to help build and maintain momentum for the larger 2030 emissions goal. Individual countries will not be responsible for the 27 percent renewable energy goal, rather, the EU as a whole wants to reach that level of renewable energy. In order to assist countries in achieving this goal, the EU is increasing the current 300 million Emissions Trading System (ETS) allowances to 400 million to help fund low-carbon innovation. More information about the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework can be found in the EU's post-summit communique.
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (DMEA) has launched the first edition of a Biobased Packaging catalogue that was compiled by Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research. The catalogue came about as a result of companies becoming interested in the development and application of bioplastics, especially in the wake of products like the well-known "plant bottle" from Coca Cola. The Biobased Packaging catalogue, published in Dutch, presents a review of the options for using sustainable biobased packaging on a commercial basis, and DMEA plans to pair the catalogue with a pilot program for sustainable purchasing. More information about the catalogue can be found online.
Winery waste is composed of the skins, pulp, stalks, and seeds that are left over after grapes have been pressed. This waste cannot be used for animal feed or composted, so it typically ends up as toxic landfill. Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology have been investigating how to break down the grape waste and Ph.D. student Avinash Karpe has discovered four fungi, that when combined with a heat activated pre-treatment, successfully broke down grape waste biomass. This process resulted in the production of alcohols, acids, and simple sugars which could have industrial and medicinal uses. "We have demonstrated this technique in the laboratory, but this process can be scaled up to an industrial scale," stated Chair of Swinburne's Department of Chemistry and Biotechology, Professor Enzo Palombo. More information is available online.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the third annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report. The report provides forecasts for global biofuel and renewable energy growth. Within the report, the authors predict that the expansion of renewable energy will slow over the next five years unless policy certainty is diminished. For more information, see online.
In a July 9, 2014, press release, the European Union (EU) announced the launch of seven public-private partnerships, established under the EU's new research funding program Horizon 2020. They represent a total investment of € 19.5 billion into research and innovation over the next seven years, where the EU contribution of € 7.3 billion will unlock a € 12.2 billion investment from the private sector and the Member States. The press release is available online.
These partnerships work in a number of fields crucial for Europe's economic growth, creation of jobs, industrial competitiveness, and well-being of citizens, one of which is a partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The priorities of this new € 3.7 billion public-private partnership, the Bio-based Industries (BBI) program, include doubling of the share of biobased chemicals produced in Europe (from 10 percent to 20 percent); an increase of biomass mobilization by 10 percent as well as a reduction of imports of protein for feed by 15 percent and fertilizer components used for feedstock production by 10 percent; and meeting of the 15 percent target increase in waste and byproduct utilization by 2020.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, stated: "The bioeconomy has huge potential that is attracting investments all around the world. With this new partnership, we want to harness innovative technologies to convert Europe's untapped renewable resources and waste into greener everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels, all sourced and made in Europe."
Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, stated: "The BBI 2014 Call for Proposals is a first step in a long-term strategy that will deliver tangible social, economic and environmental results. It is the outcome of a year-long effort involving the European Commission and the industry following an extensive consultation of experts and stakeholders. It is a visionary call that lays the foundation for an increasingly ambitious and successful initiative." More details on BIC are available online.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently released its document "OECD Guidance for Characterising Oleochemical Substances for Assessment Purposes," which is available online. The document seeks to present a "harmonised approach" for characterizing UVCB (substances of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products or biological materials) oleochemical substances that are derivatives from animal and vegetable oils and fats.
In June 2012, the OECD Task Force on Hazard Assessment endorsed a pilot project to develop guidance on identifying UVCB using oleochemicals/oleoproducts as the pilot chemicals. The development of this guidance was, in part, in response to questions and concerns related to UVCB nomenclature that had been raised by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in response to some UVCB chemical registrations under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation.
Industry stakeholders, including U.S. chemical manufacturers, have expressed concern that if adopted under current regulatory regimes, the newly released OECD nomenclature guidance will require companies to obtain new chemical names for materials that they have used for many years. This, in turn, could trigger the need for new chemical review under EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
All stakeholders within the biobased chemical space -- even those not directly engaged in oleo-based products -- should carefully review the existing guidance and monitor future OECD work in this arena as it will have widespread ramifications. OECD has already indicated that it will focus on biofuels in upcoming UVCB nomenclature guidance, a development that will have significant implications for the biochemical industry.
On March 3, 2014, BASF announced the successful start-up of the first commercial production facility resulting from the joint venture between Corbion Purac and BASF (Succinity®) for the production and commercialization of biobased succinic acid. The plant, located at the Corbion Purac site in Montmeló, Spain, has an annual capacity of 10,000 metric tons and is producing commercial quantities of biobased succinic acid for the global market. In addition to this first facility, Succinity plans a second large-scale facility. The final investment decision for this facility will be made following a successful market introduction. A copy of BASF's press release is available online.
The EU has launched a new four-year research project called Bio-Qed, which will focus on developing biobased chemicals from renewable sources. The project has ten partners from Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Croatia, and Spain.
On February, 19, 2014, it was announced that BioAmber Sarnia, Inc. (BioAmber Sarnia) has received a $10 million loan from the Government of Canada to help the company build the largest commercial plant that will produce biobased succinic acid. Funding is being provided under the Canadian Government's AgriInnovation Program, which is an initiative designed to accelerate the pace of innovation by supporting research and development activities in agri-innovations. The BioAmber Sarnia project is expected to create 60 direct and 155 indirect jobs, and help corn farmers by requiring in the first year of production 1.5 million bushels of corn and in future years three million bushels per year. Succinic acid is used to produce a wide range of products, including paints, plastics, resins, and pharmaceuticals. A copy of BioAmber's news release on the announcement is available online.