BIO DAY 3 – Biobased auto parts growing

The last day of the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing event was as hectic as the previous two days, which unfortunately cut back my plans on a little bit of sightseeing trips (oh well, maybe next time).

I found myself attending a very interesting morning session about biobased chemicals being used by auto parts manufacturers such as Canadian General Tower (CGT), the Woodbridge Group, and Magna International’s Decoma business.

CGT talked about replacing petroleum-based phthalate plasticizers with natural oil-based platicizers (e.g. soybean oil and castor oil) in auto seats and liner products. Ontario-based CGT supplies seat major auto manufacturers seat coverings and covering of moldable inserts, door panels and instrument panels.

CGT’s Patrick Diebel presented their Vehreo coated fabric product that uses the bio-based plasticizers and a textile fabric made from 55% recycled PET water/soda bottles. Diebel said they are also looking at buying back their scraps, grind them to powder and reintroduce them to the foam layer of the seating products.

CGT said they expect their biobased products to be used in cars around 2010-2011. The company supplies to 85% of North American built vehicles including Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Mitsubishi.

Decoma’s William Harney talked about their development of a new light-weight load floor for SUV vans and cross-over vehicles using recycled honeycomb cardboard core sandwiched between two layers of natural fiber-reinforced soy-based polyurethane. Harney said the new light-weight load floor will help improve fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Decoma is looking to replace up to 50% of the petroleum-based polyol in load floor materials with soybean-based alternative. The company currently uses up to 20% of soy polyols in the materials. In terms of skins/mats for load floor, Harney said they are looking to replace the currently used fiber glass with natural fibers.

Woodbridge Group’s Hamdy Khalil said that they are developing a soy-based foam automotive headliner system that also uses natural fiber reinforcement (as opposed to fiber glass). The company has already been using soy polyol produced by US agribusiness major Cargill for their BioFoam products that are being applied in seat cushions, head-restraints, arm-rests and overhead systems inside automobiles.

Khalil noted that automakers these days are very amenable to accept biobased products for car interiors. Examples cited are headliner, headrest, armrest, coverstock foam, acoustical products, under the hood, sunshade, seat cushions, structural foam, carpet backing and elastomers.

All three companies emphasized the importance of price competitiveness for biobased auto parts compared to their petroleum-based counterparts. Woodbridge’s Khalil said bio-based materials are now in the blueprint for most auto makers.

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Other presentations for the rest of the day include bioplastics (which I will post tomorrow), updates about Bio-Isoprene from Genencor, updates about Genomatica’s 1,4 butanediol, and bits of information about the state of bioeconomy from Elevance Renewable Science.

An interesting new information from Genencor’s Richard LaDuca wasthat they are said to be developing their Bio-Isoprene product from aC5 chemical platform into C10 and C15 materials for fuel applicationsusing chemical catalysis.

“The development ofBioIsoFuel is still at pre-pilot stage and more research is needed,”said LaDuca. “Target application for BioIsoFuels is in transportationand jet fuels market and we plan to soon partner with big oil/fuelcompanies for its development.”

Genencor’s BioIsoprenecurrent applications include rubber tires, adhesives, elastomers andother styrene adhesives. The company targets commercial production ofBioIsoprene by 2013.

Not much new updates from Genomatica on their bio-BDO except thatthe company is seeking to commercialize its first plant in the next 3-4years. In terms of cost competitiveness, Genomatica said their bio-BDOshould have the advantage if crude oil cost should be greater or equalto $50/bbl.

“In a preliminary lifecycleanalysis, our bio-BDO also has the advantage of having around 131%reduction in GHG emissions as well as 84% reduction in energy usecompared to petroleum-based BDO,” said Genomatica’s Mark Burk.

Moreabout Genomatica’s business strategy and industry outlook when I postmy company Q&A sessions from the BIO event in the next few days.

Lastly, Elevance’s Andy Shafer talked about the importance ofcollaboration and partnership to accelerate the future of biobasedproducts.

Shafer cited as examples their partnership with TetramerTechnologies (development of high-performance biorenewable waxes),Materia (catalyst technology), United Soybean Board, Ag ProcessingInc., Cargill, POS Pilot Plant Corp., Dow Corning (functional oils forpersonal care), and the most recent was Saskatchewan DevelopmentCommission for the development of renewable-based chemicals from canola.

“Our collaborations enableus to efficiently delivering innovative products aligned with marketneeds; allows us to efficiently manufacture, expand product scale anddiversity, and access a global market; and accelerate marketpenetration and commercialization of our novel renewable basedproducts,” said Shafer.

Stay tune for more BIO updatesabout bioplastics as well as company interviews. Meanwhile, here aresome more news bits from the event as well as video coverage fromIambiotech.org. By the way, BIO said this year’s attendance stat wasaround 1,125 compared to last year’s 1050.

German Alliance for Industrial Biotechnology Debuts in Montreal

Record Number of Canadian Leaders Gather in Montreal for Global Industrial Biotechnology Summit

[Biobased auto parts chart from Woodbridge Group]

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