By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On January 10, 2018, AkzoNobel, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced the challenges for its latest Imagine Chemistry program. AkzoNobel initiated the Imagine Chemistry program in 2017 to startup and scale-up firms and researchers for an opportunity to solve real industry challenges and create sustainable business opportunities in chemistry. Challenge winners receive joint development agreements with AkzoNobel to help bring their ideas to market. During the 2018 program, AkzoNobel is soliciting solutions to the following challenges;
- Development of a surfactant platform that is fully sustainable, specifically biobased, biodegradable, and zero footprint, and suitable for many applications;
- Organic-free wastewater treatment solutions;
- Smart technology to make chemical plants more intelligent, autonomous, and resource efficient;
- Production of chlorate using a more sustainable, energy efficient method that does not use hexavalent chromium;
- Technologies to increase the efficiency of the production of dry powder products; and
- Small particle technology to help drive performance and sustainability improvements.
Participants can submit ideas and solutions through the online challenge platform
. Finalists will be invited to an intensive three-day event in June
at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, where they will work with experts in finance and research to further develop their ideas.
On January 14, 2016, a report titled "Biobased Chemicals: The Iowa Opportunity" was released by Iowa's Cultivation Corridor and the Iowa Biotechnology Association at the Iowa Statehouse. This report is based on research by Iowa State University professors and outlines opportunities for Iowa to capitalize on bioprocessing developments in the United States. While Iowa has the advantage of a strong biofuel industry, there is still a need for the Iowa legislature to address the needs of the bio renewables industry beyond ethanol production to take full advantage of the $250 billion domestic chemical market.
On November 17, 2015, Steven Cohen, the Director of Catalyst and Chemicals Technology at Elevance Renewable Sciences, presented a new line of high performance, biobased specialty chemicals and intermediates at the 6th Biobased Chemicals: Commercialization & Partnering Conference. The new product line, called Renewicals™, has a variety of market applications including surfactant, lubricant, consumer ingredient, engineering polymer, and coating. Elevance, a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, produces the biobased chemicals using olefin metathesis technology, allowing for a smaller environmental footprint when compared to traditional petroleum based chemicals.
On May 8, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a direct final rule for 25 chemical substances that were the subject of premanufacture notices (PMN), including several biobased chemical substances. The rulemaking under Section 5, known as a significant new use rule or SNUR, requires persons who intend to manufacture (including import) or process any of these 25 chemical substances for an activity that is designated in the SNUR as a significant new use to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing that activity. The required notification provides EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit that activity before it occurs. The rule will be effective July 7, 2015.
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) has posted an analysis of the restrictions and testing included in the SNURs for the biobased chemicals.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.
On May 8, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated through a direct final rule significant new use rules (SNUR) for 25 chemical substances that were the subject of premanufacture notices (PMN). The SNURs require persons who intend to manufacture (including import) or process any of these 25 chemical substances for an activity that is designated in the SNUR as a significant new use to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing that activity. The required notification provides EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit that activity before it occurs. The rule will be effective July 7, 2015.
The draft final rule includes SNURs for several biobased chemicals. The SNURs for fatty acids, satd. and unsatd alkyl-, esters with polyol (generic) (PMN Number P-13-139) and fatty acids reaction products with polyethylenepolyamine and naphthenic acids (generic) (PMN Numbers P-14-616 and P-14-617) limit uses of those substances to those in the PMNs, but that aquatic toxicity testing could demonstrate lower hazard and obviate the need for the SNUR. A SNUR for 1,2,3-propanetriol, homopolymer, dodecanoate (PMN Number P-14-395), which could be a biobased chemical, limits “use of the substance that results in releases to surface waters exceeding 18 ppb.” Again, aquatic toxicity testing could demonstrate lower hazard and lead to a higher concentration limit or obviate the need for the SNUR. These SNURs demonstrate what we have stated many times, namely that biobased chemicals are “renewable,” but not necessarily non-toxic. Esters are a category that triggers concerns according to EPA’s New Chemicals Program Chemical Categories report, so regulations to limit releases of these substances to water should not be a surprise. When submitting PMNs to EPA for new biobased chemicals, companies should keep in mind that robust pollution prevention statements can offset possible concerns by putting the new biobased substance in a risk context with incumbent technologies that it may replace. EPA can make a reduced risk determination and forgo regulation if it has sufficient information to substantiate the relative risk of the new substance and the incumbent it will displace.
Iowa Senate bill SF 350: the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program was introduced in March 2015, and is awaiting review in the Ways & Means Committee. If passed, the legislation will allow producers of renewable chemicals in Iowa to claim a five cent per pound tax credit, with a maximum credit of $1 million for businesses operating in Iowa for five years or less, and a maximum credit of $500,000 for businesses operating in Iowa for more than five years. Chemicals must have at least a 50 percent biobased content to qualify as renewable chemicals under the bill, and must also be sold and used for purposes other than food, feed, or fuel.
FOR ABLC 2015
Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2015 (ABLC 2015), to be held March 11-13, 2015, at
the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., 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
development, R&D leaders, strategic partners, financiers, equity analysts,
policymakers, and industry suppliers.
M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, will share her insights
regarding the current regulatory landscape for biobased products during the
opening panel of the conference, "ABLC Policy Outlook," alongside
directors of the Advanced Biofuels Association, BIO, Algal Biomass
Organization, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the National Biodiesel Board, and
the American Council on Renewable Energy.
E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor for Bergeson &
Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), will speak during the "Government
Agency Outlook and Updates" session. Dr. Engler recently joined B&C
after 17 years as senior staff scientist and leader of the Green Chemistry
Program in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Pollution
Prevention and Toxics (OPPT). Dr. Engler's co-panelists include speakers from
DOE, USDA, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) members BASF Corporation (BASF) and Nozoymes announced another milestone in their development of acrylic acid production from renewable raw materials. According to the September 15, 2014, announcement, these two BRAG members, along with Cargill, have successfully converted 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) to glacial acrylic acid and superabsorbent polymers. This work is a result of the August 2012 joint agreement between BASF, Novozymes, and Cargill to develop renewable raw materials into biobased acrylic acid. The group has now selected the process for further scale-up of this work. More information is available online.
On August 20, 2014, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced a new NREL study demonstrating a potentially more economical way to use lignin to make renewable fuels and products. NREL states in the study that "[o]verall, this work demonstrates that the use of aromatic catabolic pathways enables an approach to valorize lignin by overcoming its inherent heterogeneity to produce fuels, chemicals, and materials."
A copy of the announcement is available online. A copy of the full study is available online.
As lignin supplies rise on the back of growing cellulosic feedstock utilization, commercialization opportunities of up to $242 billion are emerging in 13 select chemicals, according to a July 10, 2014, news release from Lux Research. Lignin, a component of lignocellulosic biomass and a common byproduct stream from cellulosic conversion processes, has a potential market worth of $242 billion across 13 select products alone, but commercialization of these lignin-derived chemicals such as BTX (a mixture of benzene, toluene, and xylene), and cyclohexanol lags growing feedstock supplies.
Today, the commercial sale of lignin is limited. Even though the pulp and paper industry produces about 50 million metric tons (MT), most is burned for power with only one million MT reaching the chemicals market. The supply of lignin from other sources is set to grow, however. Growing production of fuels from lignocellulosic feedstocks alone is projected to process up to 2.9 million MT in 2017, creating huge opportunities for the creation of higher-value chemicals.
"Lignin is capable of producing a variety of straight chain, cyclic and aromatic chemicals, each with market sizes ranging from the tens of millions of dollars up to the hundred-billion-dollar range," stated Julia Allen, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, "Finding Untapped Value: Converting Lignin to Higher Value Chemicals."
"But creating higher-value chemicals requires technology development to balance feedstock variability, lignin separation effects, depolymerization, and product separation challenges, which still has significant work ahead," she added.
The news release is available online.