The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On December 4, 2017, Bio-on, a leading Italian biotechnology company in the bioplastic sector, announced the continuation of its collaborative agreement with AkzoNobel, a member of BRAG.  Following the close of a successful collaboration on the 2014 Synergistic Fouling Control Technologies-SEAFRONT project, International Paint Ltd., a business unit of AkzoNobel, and Bio-on have agreed to investigate the use of Bio-on’s biodegradable and biobased polymers in fouling control coatings developed by AkzoNobel.  The coatings are designed to prevent the accumulation of marine organisms on boats, ships, tidal power plants, and other aquatic installations.  According to David Williams, Research and Devolopment Director, Marine Coatings at AkzoNobel, the “collaboration is strategically attractive to AkzoNobel as it offers the potential to develop new biobased products which will strengthen our position as world leaders in high performance and sustainable coatings.”


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) resulted in the successful modification of a microorganism to produce a versatile fermentation intermediate that can be upgraded into valuable biobased fuels and chemicals.  NREL’s cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism (Zymomonas mobilis), is capable of exclusively producing 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO), which can be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products.  Techno-economic modeling was performed to study the potential of producing hydrocarbon fuel precursors and co-products in a cost effective manner.  The first breakthrough occurred with genetic modifications to eliminate the ethanol pathways to ensure that sugar metabolism pathways also produced 2,3-BDO.  ORNL continues to explore modifications to its catalytic upgrading system to achieve further process simplifications and cost savings.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its final rule establishing exemptions for a tolerance limit to use tall oil fatty acids (TOFA) as an inert ingredient “[‌i]n pesticide formulations applied to growing crops and raw agricultural commodities after harvest; in pesticides applied in/on animals, and in antimicrobial formulations for food contact surfaces.”  Pursuant to Section 408(c)(2)(A)(i) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), EPA has the authority to establish exemptions from the requirement of a tolerance only when it can be demonstrated clearly that the risks from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures, particularly to infants and children, for which there is reliable information, will pose no appreciable risks to human health.  In analyzing the risk, EPA considers both the toxicity of the inert ingredient and the reasonably foreseeable circumstances for exposure to the substance.  Following its evaluation and consideration of the validity, completeness, and reliability of available toxicity data, EPA determined that sufficient data were available to conclude that TOFA do not have a toxic mechanism and will not pose a risk to the U.S. population. 
 
EPA established the final rulemaking following a petition by Spring Trading Company on behalf of Ingevity Corporation requesting that 40 C.F.R. Sections 180.910, 180.930, and 180.940(a) be amended to establish the exemptions.  The regulation is effective immediately and eliminates the need to establish maximum permissible levels for residues of TOFA that are consistent with the conditions of these exemptions.  Objections and requests for hearings regarding the regulation are due by December 11, 2017.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Researchers at DOE’s Ames Laboratory are experimenting with chemical reactions that will provide an economical method of deconstructing lignin into stable, readily useful components.  Lignin is the second largest renewable carbon source on the planet, making it of interest to researchers focused on developing biofuels and bioproducts.  Currently, lignin is processed via pyrolysis or the use of an acid and high heat.  Both processes are inefficient and require high energy consumption.  Igor Slowing, an expert in heterogeneous catalysis, and his team are focused on developing a method of processing lignin at low temperature and pressure.  To achieve this goal, the team combined the decomposition and stabilization process into a single step using mild conditions and a multi-functional catalyst, specifically phosphate-modified ceria.  According to Slowing, the two processes appear to work synergistically at a lower temperature.  Following the promising results, the team aims to achieve lignin deconstruction using hydrogen from a renewable source.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

A collaboration between researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington State University (WSU) has led to the development of a method for converting hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater into a usable and valuable commodity.  The method utilizes the byproduct wastewater stream from the continuous thermo-chemical process that PNNL researchers developed to produce biocrude from algae.  The wastewater contains a variety of different chemicals in small concentrations, such as carbon and nutrients from the algae, and accounts for approximately 90 percent of the output.  Researchers at WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory have developed a method to process the wastewater using anaerobic microbes.  The microbes break down the components of the wastewater to produce bionatural gas and a solid byproduct that can be recycled back into the hydrothermal liquefaction process or used as a fertilizer.  Following the success of the partnership, PNNL and WSU researchers are collaborating on the conversion of sewage sludge to biofuel, bionatural gas, and nutrients using a similar strategy.


 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected an additional four Productivity Enhanced Algae and Toolkits (PEAK) projects to receive up to $8.8 million.  The projects aim to develop high-impact tools and techniques that will increase the productivity of algae organisms to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.  In total, DOE has awarded over $16 million in funding to the initiative. 
 
The project winners include:

  • Colorado School of Mines, in partnership with Global Algae Innovations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Colorado State University, which will use advanced directed evolution approaches in combination with high-performance, custom-built, solar simulation bioreactors to improve the productivity of robust wild algal strains;
  • University of California, San Diego, which will work with Triton Health and Nutrition, Algenesis Materials, and Global Algae Innovations on the development of genetic tools, high-throughput screening methods, and breeding strategies for green algae and cyanobacteria, targeting robust production strains;
  • University of Toledo, in partnership with Montana State University and the University of North Carolina, which will cultivate microalgae in high-salinity and high-alkalinity media to achieve productivities without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide, and deliver molecular toolkits, including metabolic modeling combined with targeted genome editing; and
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which will ecologically engineer algae to encourage growth of bacteria that efficiently remineralize dissolved organic matter to improve carbon dioxide uptake and simultaneously remove excess oxygen.

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 5, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that its Specialty Chemicals business signed an application agreement with Itaconix to develop innovative biobased chelates for consumer and industrial detergents and cleaners.  According to Peter Kuijpers, AkzoNobel General Manager of Chelates and Micronutrients, biobased chelates are replacements for the phosphate compounds that are being phased out of consumer and commercial cleaning products due to environmental concerns.  This is the second partnership to emerge since the companies signed a joint development agreement in January to explore opportunities for biobased polymer production.  The first application agreement focused on the development of Itaconix’s proprietary polymers for use in the coatings and construction industries, as reported by the BRAG blog post, AkzoNobel Announces First Biobased Polymer Application Agreement With Itaconix.  All products stemming from the collaboration will be marketed under AkzoNobel’s Dissolvine® brand.


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) is investigating whether algae can be used to transform the Salton Sea, one of California’s largest and most polluted lakes, into a productive and profitable resource.  The Salton Sea Biomass Remediation project (SABRE), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), aims to use algae to rid the lake of pollutants while creating a renewable, domestic source of fuel and other chemicals.   Algae are known to thrive in environments like the Salton Sea, which contains elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus due to agricultural runoff. 
 
In the first phase of the project, Sandia partnered with Texas A&M AgriLife Research to investigate the efficacy of a new algal farming method, known as the “Algal Turf Scrubber” floway system.  The algae consume the nitrogen and phosphorus from the polluted water that is pumped into the system using solar-powered pumps.  Clean water is then deposited back into the lake.  
 
The second phase began in May and the initial results indicate that the system can produce a quantity of algae comparable to raceways, the traditional algal farming method.  The algae being grown are native to the area which makes it more resistant to attacks from local pathogens and predators.  By helping to clean polluted water, Sandia researchers have overcome a major criticism of algae as a biofuel source, specifically that farming algae requires too much water.  Additionally, the removal of pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and other fertilizer components, is expected to provide a model of remediation for algae blooms.


 
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