Update: OPX Biotechnologies

CharlesEggert.jpgI apologize for the late posts coming from my BIO interviews. The blog still has 6 more to go…

This one is an update from Colorado-based OPX Biotechnologies concerning their bio-acrylic acid project as well as their recent $6m grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) in converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen to biodiesel (pretty cool!) — both of which utilize the company’s EDGE™ (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering) technology.

Talking to Chas Eggert, OPXBIO’s president and CEO,the company is said to be well on its way in its bio-acrylic production goal after reducing their bioacrylic production cost by 92% now toward the commercial target of 50c./lb.

FYI, the market for acrylic acid has been very tight this year and ICIS estimated June contract price for glacial acrylic acid at around $1.16/lb compared to last year’s 60c./lb!

Anyway, Eggert said they are currently raising additional funds in the equity market to support their planned demonstration facility to be constructed around mid-2011. A commercial plant is expected to start up in January 2014.

OPXBIO has already moved from bench pilot reactor (1-10 liter fermenter) for its bio-acrylic production into a 200-liter fermenter. The company is producing acrylic acid via the 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HPA) route.

For the biodiesel project, Eggert said this development will take about 3 years before it reaches a pilot plant stage and additional 1-3 years before the biodiesel product could be commercially available.

OPXBIO aims to produce biodiesel that would cost $2.50 a gallon or less. Eggert said they already have proof of concept for an organism that could convert waste carbon dioxide and hydrogen to fatty acid methyl ester.

“All we need to do is improve it or optimize it enough so the transformation is economic where our biodiesel can compete with traditional plant oil-based diesel. It would take between 4-6 years from today when our biodiesel would be commercially available,” said Eggert.

By the way, OPXBIO as well as bio-succinic acid producer Myriant were the first pure-play bio-based chemical companies to recently join the American Chemistry Council (ACC). When I asked why, Eggert said this is a start for the chemical industry in general to start supporting the activities within this growing bio-based chemical sector.

“BIO does a superior job of advocating for biobased products, fuels and chemicals and a partnership between the two organizations would be a good idea. By participating in the ACC, we can get support and inside knowledge about issues emerging within the chemical industry that can influence our area and vice versa with BIO on the biotechnology front,” said Eggert.

He noted that big ACC members such as Dow, BASF, DuPont and DSM are already participating in the bio industry through BIO. Eggert was previously on the board of ACC during his stint at the former UK-based chemical company ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries).

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