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.
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).
The Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2017 (ABLC 2017) will be held March 1 - 3, 2017, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. ABLC is the gathering point for top leaders in the Advanced Bioeconomy -- bringing together the entire spectrum of advanced fuels, chemicals, and materials CEOs and senior executives, business developers, R&D leaders, strategic partners, financiers, equity analysts, policymakers, and industry suppliers. Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist for Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), and Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, are featured speakers. Register online.
ABLC 2017 is a connected series of five conferences on pressing issues in the Bioeconomy. These conferences are:
The 8th Annual Advanced Fuels Summit -- focused this year on Advanced Biomass Diesel and BioCrude, and Advanced Alcohols and Alternatives to gasoline;
The 7th Annual Renewable Chemicals Summit -- focused this year on Organic Acids and 1-Step to Higher Value Chemicals;
The 8th Annual Aviation Biofuels Summit;
The 3rd Annual ABLC Feedstocks Summit; and
The 1st ABLC Gas Conversion & Markets Summit.
On November 29, 2016, Green Biologics, Inc. (Green Biologics) announced that its high purity biobased n-butanol and acetone received certification under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred® program. Both products, which are produced through the fermentation of sugars from renewable feedstocks, were certified as 100 percent biobased. In the early stages of its first commercial production facility, Green Biologics aims to produce commercial n-butanol and acetone by late 2016. Additionally, Green Biologics states that the production of its renewable n-butanol results in 85 percent lower carbon emissions than alternative petroleum-based sources.
The BioPreferred program is a USDA initiative to increase the purchase and use of biobased products through mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and contractors, and voluntary product certification and labeling. The USDA Certified Biobased Product label is designed to help consumers identify biobased products containing a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients.
On May 11, 2016, the University of California, Riverside (UCR) provided more information about the project that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding with $1.3 million as part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). UCR received $1.3 million in funding to create biofuels and chemicals from waste plant materials. Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) and Chemical and Environmental Engineering Professor Charles Wyman, and CE-CERT Research Engineer and Adjunct Assistant Professor Charles Cai are running the project to convert poplar wood into ethanol and polyurethanes using novel pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis platforms. The team patented the method, called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF), as a versatile method to convert raw agricultural waste into renewable fuels and chemicals. "This project takes advantage of the unique ability of our novel CELF technology to effectively fractionate lignin from low-cost non-food sources of cellulosic biomass such as agricultural and forestry residues for conversion into polyurethanes that increase revenues for biorefineries while also enhancing ethanol yields," Wyman said. Eventually, this UCR project aims to increase revenue for bio-refineries while offsetting pretreatment costs to make biomass based fuels and chemicals more economically viable.