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 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.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On June 2, 2017, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the availability of Project Peer Review 2017 presentations.  The biennial event provides an opportunity for external stakeholders to evaluate rigorously the technical approach, progress, relevance, and overall merit of all the projects in the BETO portfolio.  The review was conducted across nine technology areas, including:

  • Feedstock Supply and Logistics;
  • Advanced Algal Systems;
  • Thermochemical Conversion;
  • Biochemical Conversion;
  • Waste to Energy;
  • Analysis and Sustainability;
  • Demonstration and Market Transformation;
  • Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines; and
  • Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortium.  

The peer reviewers, which consisted of 47 experienced and knowledgeable bioenergy experts from industry, academia, nonprofit organizations, and government, will provide an assessment of the focus and scope of each technology area, as well as recommendations for strategic direction.  The publicly available 2017 Peer Review Final Report will be prepared in time for the Program Management Review on July 13, 2017.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting a Workshop on Moving Beyond Drop-In Replacements:  Performance Advantaged Bio-Based Chemicals on June 1, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.  The purpose of the workshop is to solicit stakeholder feedback on what research and development is necessary for writing a functional replacements and novel biobased compounds strategic plan.  The discussion, which will be restricted to polymers, small molecules, and other building block chemicals, will center on the following questions:‚Äč

  • Would a strategy document for bio-based novel compounds and functional replacements be useful? What would it look like?
  • What is the best strategy for developing a bio-based novel compounds and functional replacements guiding document?
  • What are the biggest challenges in identifying novel compounds and functional replacements?  
  • What are the most critical properties to screen for when developing screening protocols?
  • How can BETO best bridge the gap between those producing novel bio-based compounds and those who need novel compounds or replacements for their formulations?

Registration is available online.


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 21, 2017, AkzoNobel announced the 20 finalists for its Imagine Chemistry initiative.  The initiative, which was launched earlier this year as reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post “AkzoNobel Launches Global Chemicals Start-Up Challenge,” aims to help solve real-life chemistry-related challenges and uncover sustainable opportunities for the Company's Specialty Chemicals business.  Of the 20 projects selected, four focus on cellulose-based alternatives to synthetics, three focus on biobased and biodegradable surfactants and thickeners, and two focus on biobased sources of ethylene and ethylene oxides.  All finalists will participate in a three-day event at AkzoNobel’s research facility to further develop their business ideas and concepts.  A brief description of each project is available on AkzoNobel’s website.


 
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