The country’s first zero-waste biochemical refinery is now up and running in Missoula, Montana. The facility is owned and operated by Blue Marble Biomaterials and uses a combination of clean technologies to produce specialty biochemicals that can be used in the food, cosmetics and personal care markets. Each year the biorefinery will produce 72 tons of biochemicals, and its only “waste” is purified water and pellet fuel for wood boilers.
“This biorefinery is an excellent example of how the U.S. can ensure global leadership in advanced manufacturing: we have developed cutting edge technology which combine the fields of biology, chemistry, and industrial manufacturing to produce petroleum replacing chemicals,” said Blue Marble CEO Kelly Ogilvie. “These products will reinvigorate the meaning of Made in America: more lean, more clean and sourced from our abundant renewable natural resources.”
Last week, President Obama announced intentions to invest $500 million in U.S.-based advanced manufacturing technologies via an Advanced Manufacturing Program. The Blue Marble co-founders, Ogilvie and James Stephens, served on the council that worked with the president in forming the program.
The system uses a range of plant feedstocks to produce the biochemicals. The facility uses a photo-bioreactor containing algae to purify wastewater and waste gas from the fermentation system. In addition, the solid waste generated during the production process is pelletized for use in wood-burning furnaces and stoves. In the future, the company intends to power its facility with the waste gas and pellets created during the process in onsite gasifiers.
“Natural systems are the inspiration for our processes. Just as in nature, we see waste as nutritional; in this case, wastewater, waste gas and waste solids are industrial nutrients for both our system and the surrounding economy,” added Stephens. “We believe this principal is key to reducing not only environmental impact but also operational cost.”