On June 9, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2017 Green Chemistry Challenge Award (GCCA). We applaud this year’s winners. This is EPA’s 22nd year of using the GCCA to honor green chemistry technologies that spur economic growth, reduce costs, and decrease waste. We are saddened that this very successful voluntary program is slated to be defunded in the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget, which, of course, must be approved by Congress and is unlikely to be in its current form. Those who value the green chemistry program may wish to consider contacting their Senators and Representatives to encourage continued support of this highly successful and important program. It has had outsized benefits for such a modestly funded program.
This year's winners and technologies are:
- Merck & Co., Inc. in Greener Synthetic Pathways - Letermovir: A Case Study in State-of-the-Art Approaches to Sustainable Commercial Manufacturing Processes in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Merck’s approach was to design an efficient synthesis as early as possible in the drug Letermovir’s process development. Using “high-throughput” techniques, Merck was able to find a low-cost, stable, and easily recyclable catalyst along with other process improvements that increase the yield, and reduce the raw material costs by 93 percent, the water usage by 90 percent, and the carbon footprint by 89 percent.
- Amgen Inc. and Bachem in Greener Reaction Conditions - Green Process for Commercial Manufacture of Etelcalcetide Enabled by Improved Technology for Solid Phase Peptide Synthesis
Amgen Inc. worked with Bachem to improve the manufacturing process for the active ingredient in ParsabivTM, a drug that treats secondary hyperparathyroidism in adult patients with chronic kidney disease. By redesigning the peptide manufacturing process to use four optimized stages rather than the original five stages, Amgen and Bachem were able to achieve a 500 percent increase in manufacturing capacity while reducing chemical solvent use by 71 percent, manufacturing operating time by 56 percent, and manufacturing cost by 76 percent.
- The Dow Chemical Company and Papierfabrik August Koehler SE in Designing Greener Chemicals - Breakthrough Sustainable Imaging Technology for Thermal Paper
While there is still not a definitive answer as to whether the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper may present risk, Dow and Koehler sought an innovative alternative that not only avoids the need for BPA (or analogs that have similar toxicological properties), but also eliminates some of the drawbacks of thermal paper, notably that exposure to sunlight or other heat sources often destroys the image. Together they developed a three-layer paper. The top layer is an opaque, light-color.When heat is applied in the printing head, the hollow particles that make up that opaque layer collapse and become transparent, showing an underlying dark layer only at those points. The paper is designed to work in existing equipment, so there is no need for retailers to replace equipment.
- UniEnergy Technologies LLC in Small Business - The UniSystemTM: An Advanced Vanadium Redox Flow Battery for Grid-Scale Energy Storage
UniEnergy Technologies, LLC (UET) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed and commercialized an advanced vanadium redox flow battery that allows cities and businesses more access to stored energy. The vanadium electrolyte has double the energy density of prior chemistries, and a much broader operating temperature, allowing for a longer lasting battery that can be deployed in nearly any ambient environment on earth. Additionally, the electrolyte, with a chloride-based chemistry complex, is more stable than traditional sulfate-based chemistries, and because it is water-based and does not degrade, the batteries are non-flammable and recyclable.
- Professor Eric J. Schelter of the University of Pennsylvania in Academic - Simple and Efficient Recycling of Rare Earth Elements from Consumer Materials Using Tailored Metal Complexes
Professor Eric Schelter developed a simple, fast, and low-cost technology to help recycle mixtures of rare earth elements (La-Lu, Sc, and Y). These elements are integral to modern technologies, but have a highly energy intensive and waste generating mining, refining, and purification process. Currently, only one percent of these materials are recycled, but Professor Schelter’s group has developed tailored organic compounds that can simply and effectively separate mixtures of these metals. A recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant will support further development of this technology to turn these into industrial viable recycling processes.
The GCCA winners were honored on June 12, 2017, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the 21st Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On May 2, 2017, the Maine Senate approved a bill to support Maine’s emerging biobased products industry. An Act to Improve the Ability of Maine Companies to Manufacture and Market Bioplastics (LD 656) would provide the Maine Technology Institute with a $1.5 million grant to provide competitive grants for the development, production, and marketing of bioplastics. The bill was introduced by Senator Jim Dill (D-Old Town) and endorsed by Senator Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro), Senator Tom Saviello (R-Wilton), and 17 Democratic Senators. Following approval by the Senate, the bill will be introduced to the Maine House of Representatives for an initial vote.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On March 31, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of BRAG, announced the launch of an online tool that uses e-certification to monitor the biobased content of products. Companies that sign up to use the online platform will be able to exchange biobased material certificates for everything from base ingredients to finished products. The online tool eliminates the need for separate, external biobased certifications at various points along the supply chain by allowing companies to transfer the certificates electronically. According to AkzoNobel, tracking the exact amount of biobased raw materials used throughout the value chain will enable producers and consumers to purchase more sustainable products and move towards a more circular economy. AkzoNobel partnered with Advanced Biochemical (Thailand) Co., Ltd. (ABT) and EY on the project, which is currently in the pilot phase, to encourage transparency and sustainable chemistry.
On February 17, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is accepting applications for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. The Program provides guaranteed loans for projects developing, constructing, or retrofitting commercial scale biorefineries and biobased product manufacturing facilities. The developments must use eligible technology, including new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment. Applicants must submit a Letter of Intent by March 6, 2017, that identifies the Borrower, Lender, and Project sponsors, and describes the project, project location, proposed feedstock, primary technologies of the facility, primary products, loan amount, and total project cost estimate. Applications are due on April 3, 2017, at 4:30 pm (EDT).
On February 21, 2017, USDA announced in the Federal Register that the comment period for the Designation of Product Categories for Federal Procurement proposed rule had been extended. The proposed rule aims to amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement to add 12 product categories composed of intermediate ingredient and feedstock materials and to propose a minimum biobased content for each category. In addition to the product categories and biobased content, USDA is seeking comments on appropriate performance standards for each product category, the positive environmental and human health attributes of biobased products within the proposed categories, and how small businesses may be affected by the proposed rule. Comments are now due by April 13, 2017.
On February 9, 2017, Avantium announced a partnership with AkzoNobel (a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®)), Chemport Europe, RWE Generation, and Staatsbosbeheer to develop a reference plant at the Chemie Park Delfzijl in the Netherlands. The plant will use a new technology, referred to as the Zambezi process, for the cost-effective production of high-purity glucose from non-food biomass, including forestry residue, pulp, and agricultural byproducts. Once the woody biomass is converted into sugars and lignin, it can be used to produce a wide range of biobased chemicals and materials. The design of the plant includes an expansion-ready footprint to enable a rapid increase in capacity following the demonstration phase.
Each partner will contribute a unique strength to the overall project. The infrastructure, utilities, and expertise of the reference plant will be based on the AkzoNobel site in Delfzijl. The forestry residue feedstock will be sourced by Staatsbosbeheer. RWE Generation will generate renewable energy from the bio-lignin residue of the Zambezi process, and Chemport Europe will provide strategic support to the project through a range of initiatives.
On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act. The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources. The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent. According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department. The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.