Blue Sun Project Achieves Milestone

A key development milestone has been achieved by the collaborative project between Blue Sun Energy, ARA Inc. and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) in their 100 barrel/day (4,200 gallons/ per day) demonstration-scale Biofuels ISOCONVERSION (BIC) facility located in St. Joseph Missouri. The plant has now been commissioned and is producing biofuels.

“This is a key milestone toward commercial scale production, with initial results showing comparable system performance in the scale-up from our 4 barrel/day pilot system in Panama City, Florida to the 100 BBL/day demonstration system in St. Joseph,” said Rob Sues, CEO of ARA.

biofuel_demoAccording to press materials, the BIC process seamlessly processes renewable feedstocks such as plant oils, tallow, and waste vegetable oil into 100% drop-in diesel and jet fuels. The subsequent biofuels meet petroleum specs without blending. In addition, the naphtha produced during the process can be used as a gasoline blend stock.

Leigh Freeman, CEO of Blue Sun CEO said, “Operation of the demonstration system is critical in terms of scaling the process and technology and garnering the insights and experience needed to begin construction on our first commercial facility, which will truly be a landmark for the emerging next-generation biofuels industry.”

The team will continue to test the system with various feedstocks, including Resonance, an industrial oil feedstock from Agrisoma Biosciences as well as fatty acid distillate, distillers grain corn oil, and tallow to ensure reliable and cost effective operation. The demonstration system will be operated in campaigns to produce tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel and diesel for certification testing, endurance testing, and test flights through the end of this year.

“We are enthusiastic about the early success that Blue Sun, CLG, and ARA have achieved at the demonstration facility in St. Joseph. Production of completely fungible jet and diesel fuels from renewable industrial oils and waste oils is a game changer,” added Leon DeBruyn, Managing Director of CLG.

Scripps Research Develops Lower Cost Fuels

Researchers from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TRSI) have devised what they believe is a new and more efficient way to convert the major components of natural gas into useable fuels and chemicals. The research, led by TSRI Professor Roy Periana, uses chemistry and nontraditional materials to turn natural gas into liquid products at much lower temperatures than conventional methods.

“We uncovered a whole new class of inexpensive metals that allows us to process methane and the other alkanes contained in natural gas, ethane and propane, at about 180 degrees centigrade or lower, instead of the more than 500oC used in current Energy Diagramprocesses,” said Periana. “This creates the potential to produce fuels and chemicals at an extraordinarily lower cost.”

Methane, the most abundant compound in natural gas, is difficult and costly to convert into useable liquid products. With a need for lower carbon fuels, new processes are required to convert methane to fuel and chemicals in a way that is competitive with petroleum-based products.

Methane, ethane and propane, the major components in natural gas, belong to a class of molecules named alkanes that are the simplest hydrocarbons and one of the most abundant, cleanest sources of energy and materials. At the core of technologies for converting the alkanes in natural gas is the chemistry of the carbon-hydrogen. Because of the high strength of these bonds, current processes for converting these alkanes employ high temperatures (more than 500oC) that lead to high costs, high emissions and lower efficiencies.

Periana has been thinking about this type of problem for decades and has designed some of the most efficient systems for alkane conversion that operate at lower temperatures. However, when Periana and his team examined these first-generation systems they realized that the precious metals they used, such as platinum, palladium, rhodium, gold, were both too expensive and rare for widespread use.

“What we wanted were elements that are more abundant and much less expensive that can carry out the same chemistry under more practical conditions,” said Brian G. Hashiguchi, the first author of the study and a member of Periana’s lab. “We also wanted to find materials that could convert methane as well as the other major components in natural gas, ethane and propane.” Continue reading

Farm Bill Biofuel Benefits

BIOlogoJust as President Obama was preparing to sign the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law today, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) held a media conference to highlight how expansion of the new farm bill’s energy programs to include renewable chemical technologies can help advanced biofuel producers.

“Renewable chemicals are now defined in the farm bill, an important and long overdue change,” said Matt Carr, BIO Industrial and Environmental Director about that inclusion in the Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biomass Research and Development Program, which had been primarily for advanced biofuel projects.

dsm-welshOne of the participants in the call was Hugh Welsh, President of DSM North America, the Netherlands-based company that partnered with POET two years ago on cellulosic ethanol production. “We’ve made significant investments in the United States over the past three years,” said Welsh. “Some of that, in excess of $150 million, has been directly into the biofuels base and we’re encouraged by the inclusion of biochemicals in the farm bill.”

While DSM used its own funds for investment rather than taking advantage of the program, Welsh says it will help others. “We see the loan guarantee program now extended to biochemicals as something that offers greater opportunity for the development of this technology going forward,” in licensing the technology to others and “ultimately creating a true biorefinery.”

Welsh noted that the two technologies will work together. “We’re looking to grow both the advanced biofuels business and the biochemistry business,” he said.

Also participating in the call were Agriculture Energy Coalition co-director Lloyd Ritter, and Renmatix Senior VP Mark Schweiker.

Listen to or download the call here: BIO farm bill call

Elevance Moves Forward with Natchez Biorefinery

Elevance Renewable Sciences is moving forward with the development of its biorefinery in Natchez, Mississippi and has selected URS Corporation to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services. The company says it is on track to meet customer forecasts for its Inherent renewable building blocks in 2016.

Elevance Renewable Sciences logo“URS is a natural partner for us, and we’re looking forward to working together to advance our second biorefinery,” said Elevance CEO K’Lynne Johnson. “Just as our Inherent renewable building blocks are a breakthrough category of novel products that provide innovative solutions to multiple industries, URS brings an innovative approach to getting the job done.”

Under the contract, URS’ scope of work involves converting Elevance’s existing biodiesel plant into a new biorefinery.

“With our presence in Baton Rouge, near the site of the new biorefinery, URS is able to provide an EPC solution to Elevance that features a local, experienced team and proven construction delivery,” said Ken Martinez, URS Vice President and General Manager, Process Engineering. “URS’ expertise supporting clients worldwide with a variety of systems and processes makes us an ideal partner for Elevance’s latest biorefinery project.”

Elevance is a specialty chemicals company that will have two world-scale biorefineries in operation by 2016. The Natchez project will be the second biorefinery based on Elevance’s proprietary metathesis technology. Commercial production is already underway at the company’s first biorefinery, a 180,000 MT joint venture with Wilmar International Limited located in Gresik, Indonesia.

The commercial-scale manufacturing facility in Natchez will produce novel specialty chemicals, including multifunctional esters such as 9-decenoic methyl ester; a unique distribution of bio-based alpha and internal olefins including decene; and a premium mixture of oleochemicals. It will have a capacity of 280,000 MT (approximately 617 million pounds).

The high-value performance specialty chemicals, olefins and oleochemicals produced at the company’s biorefineries will be used in personal care products, detergents and cleaners, lubricants and additives, engineered polymers, and other specialty chemicals markets.

Amyris Increases Biodiesel Buses in Brazil

Amyris, Inc. has announced that the city of São Paulo is now operating 400 city buses using Amyris Renewable Diesel, which is branded locally as Diesel de Cana. In other news, Amyris announced it has successfully produced its first fragrance oil for its partner Firmenich SA.

“From fuels to consumer care products, we continue to make progress on our commercialization of No Compromise renewable products that meet our customers’ needs,” said John Melo, President & CEO at Amyris. “We are not only building on our Biodiesel Bus in Brazilexisting fuels market opportunities but also expanding our portfolio of renewable products, as we have shown with our successful production of a fragrance oil, the third molecule we have taken from lab to industrial scale following artemisinin and farnesene.”

The announcement regarding the expanded use of Diesel de Cana took place with the São Paulo Public Transportation Authority (SPTrans) and its industry partners. The diesel blend is produced from locally-grown sugarcane using Amryis fermentation technology. In addition a trial will begin in 2014 to pilot the use of 100 percent Amyris Renewable Diesel in several city buses.

“We are pleased to increase our supply of Diesel de Cana in São Paulo, helping bring the city closer to its goal of 100% renewable fuels in public transport while reducing air pollution,” said Adilson Liebsch, commercial director at Amyris Brasil. “Our drop-in renewable fuel has been used commercially at blends of 10-30% for two years and logged over 30 million kilometers to date. Working with Mercedes-Benz, MAN and Volvo on a 100% Diesel de Cana trial, we will build greater confidence in our fuel’s quality and performance, paving the way to expand our commercial efforts in other metropolitan areas globally.”

The city of São Paulo has more than 15,000 buses consuming about 450 million liters (118 million gallons) of diesel per year. Amyris’s sugarcane-based diesel is helping the city meet its goal of reducing fossil fuel use in the public transit system. Under city law, São Paulo is working to reduce fossil diesel use by 10 percent every year through 2018.

New Facility to Turn Ethanol Byproduct into Bio-Resin

bio-res1A Nebraska-based company has expanded its operation to turn an ethanol byproduct into a bio-based resin additive. Composites World reports Laurel BioComposite LLC held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony for its new 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which will crank out 7 million pounds annually of its trademarked Bio-Res PE.

Tim Bearnes, CEO of Laurel BioComposite, was on hand to welcome special guests Gov. Dave Heineman, Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, USDA Rural Development and Mayor Mark Patefield. “We held the event to celebrate some important milestones,” says Bearnes. “It also gave us the chance to thank a lot of people that supported our project from its inception and believe in our future.”

Laurel BioComposite’s mission Bearnes explains is to produce Bio-Res PE products from a renewable resource. “Our product replaces a portion of traditional plastic resins and creates a positive environmental impact by reducing the industry’s reliance on crude oil,” he says. “It remains our goal to cost-effectively manufacture a quality bio-based product. We don’t make the plastic. We make the plastic greener.”

The new production line converts feedstock into a powder for thermoset applications or master batch pellets for use in thermoplastics applications such as injection molding.

A second phase currently underway will expand the company’s annual output to 48 million pounds. The products made from Bio-Res include shipping materials, lawn and garden, agricultural and automotive products.

Fungus & Bacteria Join Forces for Better Biofuels

Several University of Michigan researchers have joined together a fungus and E. coli bacteria to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol – a product that can be converted into biochemicals and biofuels. A paper based on this research, “Design and characterization of synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for direct production of isobutanol from cellulosic biomass,” was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Xiaoxia “Nina” Lin, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and leader of the research said her team used corn stalks and leaves to produce the isobutanol. Focused on creating a super team of microbial specialists, the team landed on the fungus Trichoderma reesei, an up and coming  star when its comes breaking down tough plant material into sugars. Escherichia coli, meanwhile, is relatively easy for researchers to genetically modify and the team used a strain developed by James Liao’s lab at the University of California – Los Angeles that had been engineered to convert sugars into isobutanol.

The Lin group put both microbe species into a bioreactor and served up corn stalks and leaves. Colleagues at Michigan State University had pre-treated the roughage to make it easier to digest. “If you’ve ever had puffed rice cereal, it’s somewhat analogous,” said Jeremy Minty, first author of the paper and a recent doctoral graduate in Lin’s lab.

The fungi turned the roughage into sugars that fed both microbe species with enough left over to produce isobutanol. The team managed to get 1.88 grams of isobutanol per liter of fluid in the ecosystem, the highest concentration reported to date for turning tough plant materials into biofuels. They also converted a large proportion of the energy locked in the corn stalks and leaves to isobutanol – 62 percent of the theoretical maximum. Continue reading

Senator Michael Bennet Visits Gevo

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) recently toured and met with Colorado-based Gevo to discuss renewable fuels and chemicals for Colorado and the U.S. economy. Senator Bennet met with Gevo executives including chief executive officer Patrick Gruber, Ph.D. to discuss energy policy and see first-hand the research and development Gevo has done on creating isobutanol to be converted to biochemicals and renewable fuels.

photoIsobutanol is a drop-in product that can be used in existing infrastructure. Gevo’s isobutanol has successfully cleared registration with the U.S. EPA as a fuel additive, is the first isobutanol to be listed in the EPA’s Fuel Registration Directory, making it approved for blending with gasoline. Last June Gevo worked with the United States Air Force (USAF) to provide fuel for the first successful “alcohol-to-jet” (ATJ) fuel test flight in an A-10 Thunderbolt II.

“We applaud Senator Bennet’s support for the renewable energy industry and appreciate his visit to our headquarters to learn about the technology that makes Gevo a leading renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company,” said Gruber.

Senator Bennet remarked that he very much enjoyed his visit to Gevo and said, “Colorado has a strong reputation as a hub for innovation and firms like Gevo are leading the way. By developing innovative techniques for converting biomass to fuel, Gevo is a critical part of developing a balanced national energy portfolio.”

Amyris Signs $60M Funding Agreement

Amyris, Inc. has announced they have entered into an agreement for the sale of convertible notes in a private placement for up to $60 million in cash proceeds.

Amyris-logoUnder the terms of the agreement, one of Amyris’s largest stockholders, Temasek, agreed to purchase $35 million of the notes in an initial tranche and, at Amyris’s election, up to $25 million in a second tranche. Both tranches are subject to Amyris’s satisfaction of closing conditions, including stockholder approval of the transaction at an upcoming special meeting of stockholders.

“This financing agreement is an affirmation of our largest stockholders’ continued support for our strategy. This funding will provide us with financial flexibility to help us achieve our business objectives,” said John Melo, Amyris President & CEO.

“Our progress to date developing and manufacturing molecules developed under our proprietary synthetic biology platform, including ramp up of our new industrial fermentation facility for the production of farnesene in Brazil, continues to demonstrate our leadership in the sector,” Melo concluded.

Abengoa Inaugurates First Waste-to-Biofuels Plant

Abengoa has inaugurated its demonstration plant that uses Waste-to-Biofuels (W2B) technology. The plant has a capacity to treat 25,000 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) from which it will obtain up to 1.5 million liters of bioethanol for use as fuel.

The demonstration plant located in Babilafuente (Salamanca, Spain) and uses W2B technology developed by Abengoa to produce second-generation biofuels from MSW using a fermentation and enzymatic Abengoa Salamanca-1-large_300hydrolysis treatment. During the transformation process, the organic matter is treated in various ways to produce organic fiber that is rich in cellulose and hemicellulose, which is subsequently converted into bioethanol.

Abengoa says the the production of bioethanol from municipal solid waste is a major technological breakthrough in the waste management model, since it increases the recovery rate, minimizes the carbon footprint and generates major benefits for society. The company says the fuel produced from its plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions per kilometer travelled by 70 percent. In addition, Abengoa’s technology maximizes the recovery of the organic fraction of the MSW and  prevents more than 80 percent of the waste ending up in landfill.

During the opening, Manuel Sánchez Ortega, CEO of Abengoa said, “This plant once again highlights Abengoa’s commitment to technological research and innovation, which has enabled it to maintain a competitive advantage in its sectors, leading projects with huge technological potential and programs that involve world-leading research centers and strategic partners.”

The bioethanol produced at the W2B plant has multiple uses such as an additive for gasoline, increasing its octane rating; as fuel for cars; for use in the chemicals and pharmaceutical industry (in solvents or cosmetics, for example), and even as an intermediate product in producing jet fuel.

Renmatix, UPM Ink Biochemicals Deal

renmatix-upmProvider of sugars for biofuels Renmatix teams up with European pulp and paper giant UPM in an agreement to develop biochemicals. This Renmatix news release says the companies will use Renmatix’s water-based Plantrose™ process to convert woody biomass into low-cost sugar intermediates for subsequent downstream processing into biochemicals.

“We are very excited about this truly collaborative endeavor. It combines UPM’s core competencies in sustainable sourcing and efficient industrial processing of wood, with Renmatix’s unique conversion technology,” noted Michael Duetsch, Director of Biochemicals, at UPM. “Access to second generation, lignocellulosic, sugars through a process that uses almost no consumables is a crucial factor in Plantrose technology’s attractiveness.”

The Plantrose process employs water at very high temperatures and pressures to breakdown biomass through supercritical hydrolysis. Under such conditions water can act as both a powerful solvent and catalyst, creating rapid reactions.

“We believe this pioneering approach leads to real cost advantages over conventional methods. Our growing relationship with UPM gives Renmatix an opportunity to support them expanding the Biofore story,” commented Mike Hamilton, CEO of Renmatix. “Renmatix, as a U.S. based technology provider, takes great pride in working with global companies across the emerging bio-value chains. It reinforces the demand that exists for licensing Plantrose technology as the bridge between sustainable sources of upstream biomass, and downstream manufacturing of biochemicals and fuels.”

The deal is seen as part of the growing interest among forestry players to diversify their product portfolio and enter into the growing biochemical and biofuels markets.

LS9 Expands Demonstration Facility

LS9 has announced plans to expand its operations at their Okeechobee, Florida demonstration facility with a successful customer trial. The Florida facility was initially designed, and has been used, to scale-up LS9′s fermentation technology and generate large commercial samples for testing and product qualification by key partners and prospective customers. Since the company’s initial run at 135,000 liter scale in the third quarter of last year, LS9 has made several additional fatty alcohol runs of this size as well as smaller production runs of fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel).

LS9In addition, LS9 has successfully completed a pilot production run at its Florida plant for another advanced bioproducts company, Cobalt Technologies. According to LS9, fermentation scale-up is an expensive proposition and requires the proper facilities and expertise to make an effective run. The need to run trials is also intermittent so it is not cost-effective for many companies in the industry to make the investment in a larger plant.

LS9 says its Florida demonstration plant was designed to manage a multitude of processes, and with this successful customer run, they have proven they can leverage their state-of-the-art facility and the expertise of its operations staff to work with partners to commercialize renewable products. Given the success of the initial production run, says LS9, Cobalt is considering future work at LS9′s Florida facility.

“The capability to transition from the lab to 135,000 liter scale is a key milestone on our road to commercial success, and we know we are not alone in this requirement,” said Tjerk de Ruiter, President and Chief Executive Officer of LS9. “Our ability to support other companies’ technology scale-up activities is not only an example of the flexibility and the capabilities of our team, it is also an excellent example of how, as an industry, we can work together to make a renewable future a reality. This new revenue source, together with a recent $6 million investment from our current investors, positions LS9 to enter into new partnerships with our technology and advance our own products.”

Green Biologics Wins Biobutanol Funding

Green Biologics has received funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), based in UK, to engineer a bacterial host for biobutanol production. The project is in collaboration with the Clostridia Research Group (CRG) at the University of Nottingham which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

137_clostridiumThe goal of the 18 month project is to develop a novel bacterial host for the production of 1-butanol from renewable feedstocks. The strategy focuses on the modification of a clostridium species (Clostridium pasteurianum) for the fast growing renewable chemicals market. According to Green Biologics, this microbe has many desirable features that make it an attractive fermentation host including fast growth rates, robustness and good butanol tolerance, but suffers from technical limitations.

In this project, the partners will deploy advanced molecular biology tools for clostridia and introduce synthetic metabolic pathways that increase the range of feedstocks and also improve butanol production. The deliverable will be a novel engineered strain C. pasteurianum that ferments starch to butanol in high yield.

Sean Sutcliffe, CEO at Green Biologics (GBL), said, ”We are extremely pleased to receive grant funding from the TSB. This award recognises GBL’s leading technical and commercialisation leadership position and also facilitates collaboration with the CRG led by Professor Nigel Minton from the University of Nottingham, a world expert in clostridial gene technologies.”

The CRG, one of the largest labs at Nottingham, develops and patents advanced gene tools for the modification and manipulation of clostridial genomes focused on strain enhancements.

“Green Biologics is developing next generation products using clostridia as production hosts. This project builds on GBL’s extensive industrial strain collection and opens up longer term market opportunities,” added Dr. Edward Green, CSO at GBL. “We are greatly encouraged by the recent alignment between the TSB and the research councils for Industrial Biotechnology which enables meaningful collaboration between academics and SME’s. Funding initiatives are essential to maintain a UK leadership position.”

Amyris Ships First Product

240617Amyris has shipped it first commercial product from its plant in Brazil. The facility was the company’s first purpose-built industrial fermentation facility and produces Biofene, the company’s brand of renewable farnesene, to be used in a range of specialty chemical and fuel applications.

“This initial shipment marks the successful completion of our start-up activities. We have operated multiple tanks without contamination or surprises through several production runs during the first month of operation,” said John Melo, President and CEO of Amyris.

“We are now focused on ramping up Biofene production and delivering product to our customers, from renewable diesel for bus fleets in Brazil to squalane emollient globally and soon a range of specialty chemical applications,” Melo concluded.

Amyris’s Biofene plant in Brotas, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, sources its sugarcane feedstock locally from the Paraíso mill. Prior to the start-up of this facility, Amyris relied solely on contract manufacturing for commercial production.

Amyris Begins Biofene Production in Brazil

Amyris-logo (1)Amyris has announced that it has completed a $42.25 million private placement of its common stock. The company has also begun production of its industrial fermentation facility in Brazil and is producing Biofene, its brand of renewable farnesene, a fragrant oil chemical. When adding a hydrogen molecule to farnesene, you get farnesane, which is the foundation molecule for renewable diesel.

“We are encouraged by the continued, strong commitment from our major investors, particularly as we start up our new industrial fermentation facility for the production of our renewable hydrocarbons in Brazil,” said John Melo, Amyris President & CEO. “Our own farnesene plant at Paraiso has been successfully commissioned, with initial farnesene production underway. We anticipate sales from this facility during the first quarter of 2013.”

The Company sold 14,177,849 shares of common stock in a private placement to existing Amyris investors. The transaction included $37.25 million in cash proceeds and the conversion by Total Gas & Power USA, SAS of $5 million from an outstanding senior unsecured convertible promissory note.