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 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.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 26, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of BRAG, announced that its Specialty Chemicals business issued in final the first in a series of application agreements for biobased polymers from its collaboration with Itaconix, a specialty chemicals company and U.S. subsidiary of Revolymer.  AkzoNobel develops Itaconix’s proprietary polymers from itaconic acid for commercial use in the coatings and construction industries.  Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Research, Development and Innovation Director for AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals business, stated that the collaboration fits closely with AkzoNobel’s Planet Possible sustainability agenda of doing more with less and its approach to embracing open innovation for more sustainable solutions.
 
AkzoNobel signed a framework joint development agreement with Itaconix to explore opportunities for biobased polymer production on January 27, 2017, as previously reported in the BRAG blog post AkzoNobel to Produce Biobased Polymers with Itaconix.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On June 6, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG, announced that it would direct a large amount of its resources to researching waste and waste raw materials.  In the future, Neste aims to produce biofuels and bioplastics from waste and residues, as well as utilize waste plastics as a raw material.  Currently, waste fats and residues from meat and fish processing industries, as well as used cooking oil, account for nearly 80 percent of the raw materials in Neste's renewable products.  The aim of investing in the research venture is to find increasingly lower grade waste and residue raw materials that have no other significant uses, such as residues from the forestry industry, algae, and waste plastics.  The same NEXBTL technology that allows Neste to refine low-quality waste fats into high-quality fully renewable fuel can be used to produce other renewable products, such as aviation fuel and raw materials for bioplastics.


 
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