February 2011 Archives
This week is going to be tough given that a) it is a short week, b)I have two feature articles that I'm working on with deadline next week, c) I have two school exams this week.
I am also preparing for next week's Green Chemistry Panel Discussion on March 3, which I will be co-moderating. Before my brain shuts down from overloaded information, let me post this "better-late-than-never" videos that I took from the recent American Cleaning Institute (ACI) meeting.
The first video is from my interview with Seventh Generation's Martin Wolf, director of product and environmental technology. The company's long-term goal is to ultimately use100% renewable-based chemicals and materials for its products. But of course, that is easier said than done especially when it comes to laundry detergents. Seventh Generation is using 100% renewable materials for its spray cleaners (which are easier to formulate as their ingredients are not as complex).
Wolf actually noted that the company does not have any problem using petroleum-based chemicals except for the fact that petroleum is being used unsustainably in the fuel industry.
"If they are not burned, there'll be plenty of supply of these materials," he said.For renewable-based surfactants, Wolf is giving credits to companies such as Cognis, Clariant, Croda, AkzoNobel, Evonik, etc., who are continuously developing these alternatives.
Seventh Generation also credits itself as well as consumer products companies who are forcing the chemical supply chain to rethink their profitability strategy and put sustainability in this equation. Wolf cited an example where eight years ago, the company is looking for palm-based surfactants that do not contain certain levels of 1,4 dioxane, a byproduct that can form in trace or miniscule amounts within sulfation process of alcohol ethoxylates.
"It is becoming easier for us to increase the use of chemicals with renewable content with the same performance, properties and at a right price," said Wolf.
"There were only two companies that met our specification - one in India and the other in the US. Today we have our choice of half a dozen. Our success has forced the supply chain to take a harder look at what they're doing and to increase the sustainability and reduce the hazardous ingredients of their products," said Wolf.
Seventh Generation said it is still a challenge for them to find availability of renewable-based surfactants. The company currently does not use phosphates, chlorine, dyes, optical brighteners and chemicals with VOCs in their cleaning products.
More information from my video interview below:
By the way, here is also an interview I did talking to American Cleaning Institute's VP of communications Brian Sansoni. The organization has been very active last year in Congress on their stand about the EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and California's Green Chemistry Initiative, among other pending government/state rules and regulations that will affect their industry. You can read more about it on ICB's recent interview article with ACI president Ernie Rosenberg.
As mentioned before, there had been several news announcements last week from companies that the blog has been covering quite frequently. For ICIS Chemical Business (ICB) subscribers, I am actually writing a few on them for the magazine (and already wrote some articles for ICIS News last week). But you can access them freely from each of the companies' media sites. Read on...
Lanxess extends Gevo deal
Lanxess has invested $17m and increased its stake to 9.1% in US bio-isobutanol producer Gevo. Lanxess is also giving Gevo exclusive first right to supply the company with specified quantities of bio-isobutanol for a 10-year period. Lanxess is developing a dehydration process to convert the bio-based isobutanol to isobutene, a raw material for making butyl rubber. Gevo is currently retrofitting a 22m gal/year ethanol capacity in Luverne, Minnesota, to produce 18m gal/year isobutanol in the first half of 2012.
Myriant in BDO partnership
Bio-succinic acid producer Myriant Technologies and UK-based engineering firm Davy Process Technology formed a partnership in the use of bio-succinic acid as a feedstock for the production of butanediol (BDO), tetrahydrofuran and gamma-butyrolactone. Davy plans to integrate Myriant's bio-succinic acid process technology to its BDO technology to minimize cost of recovery and purification of the succinic acid for bio-BDO production. Davy is expected to license this new production technology to current and future customers.
Comment: I am planning on writing a related bio-BDO article for ICB and will get more information soon. During the Infocast Biobased Chemicals conference last week, Myriant's COO noted that Davy's BDO process technology of using maleic anhydride currently accounts for half of the world's BDO production. Myriant did not disclose how much they expect to profit from this partnership.
Segetis partners with Method
Segetis has partnered with Method Products for the use of Segetis' biobased materials in a variety of cleaning products, the first of which are tub and tile cleaners that will hit store shelves in March. Segetis' bio-based molecules centers on its levulinic acid technology under the brand Javelin. The company is currently expanding production capacity for its levulinic ketal-based solvent and non-phthalate plasticizer products in the Upper Midwest.
Elevance licenses catalyst
Elevance Renewable Sciences expands its technology portfolio by licensing from Swiss technology company XiMo new metathesis catalysts molybdenum and tungsten in the field of natural oils. XiMo will work exclusively with Elevance in the natural oils field during the term of a collaborative research program between the parties.
OPXBIO further lowers bioacrylic price
OPX Biotechnologies has achieved the commercial bioprocess performance and cost goals for its bio-acrylic acid product by producing corn sugar-based product at 70 cents/lb or sugarcane-based product by 55 cents/lb. Production cost for petroleum-based acrylic acid is estimated at a current 75 cents/lb. The company expects to further improve its bioacrylic process toward the ultimate manufacturing cost target of 50 cents/lb using corn sugar and less than 40 cents/lb using cane sugar.
Comment: My interview with OPXBIO's CEO Chas Eggert during the Infocast Biobased Chemicals Summit will be posted in the blog soon...
LanzaTech signs with Korean Steel plant
LanzaTEch has partnered with Korean steel producer Posco to convert the steel maker's flue gases to ethanol and other value added products. The company noted that Posco's licensing of their patented microbe and fermentation process fits their growth strategy in Asia.
Tangshan Risun Chemical builds glycerine-to-ECH plant
Tangshan Risun Chemical Co. has purchased an epichlorohydrin via glycerol process technology from Italy-based COnSER S.p.A-Rome. Risun Chemical will use the technology at a planned 100,000 ton/year plant to be built in Tangshan, Hebei Province.
First is Bayer which just started its pilot plant in Chempark Leverkusen, Germany, producing polyurethanes using carbon dioxide as feedstock. As I've mentioned before, there are other companies that are looking into CO2-based polymers such as Novomer, which is currently working with DSM on CO2-based polycarbonate resins.
The blog first mentioned Bayer's CO-based PU project last year. The company's pilot plant produces kilogram-scale polyether polycarbonate polyols (PPPs) that will be processed into polyurethanes and will involve the chemical bonding of CO2. The key technology for the process is catalysis.
Bayer is working on the project with the energy company RWE, which supplies the CO2 used in the process. According to the company, an industrial production of CO2-based plastics could start in 2015 if everything goes will with the pilot production.
Bayer MaterialScience is currently testing the materials, which are used primarily to produce soft and rigid foams, at one of its existing plants.
In another news, BASF said this week that the company and its partners JGC Corporation and INPEX Corporation both based in Japan have successfully completed a test of removing carbon dioxide from natural gas under high pressure. The new gas treatment technology enables a reduction of 25-35% in the cost of CO2 recovery and compression.
The "High Pressure Acid gas Capture Technology" (HiPACT) was developed by JGC and BASF. The technology was tested at INPEX' natural gast plant in Koshijihara.
BASF has been working in other CO2 projects such as its partnership with RTI International (research group based in North Carolina,USA) and industrial gas company Linde Group. BASF and RTI have been working to develop a new, cost-effective CO2 carbon capture technology while BASF's partnership with Linde aims to market licenses and plants for the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from flue gases in the future.
Another interesting news that came into my attention this January via email is a development by US engineering company GEA Niro on converting CO2 into fuel alcohol and proteins for animal feed and fertilizer.
GEA Niro said their process converts CO2 by feeding it to algae and transforming the algae to alcohol by fermentation and the residual bio matter to fertiliser. The exhausted yeast cells are then spray dried into protein powder for animal feed.
The company said the payback period for this type of installation is not yet determined and would largely depend on tax rates and other government penalties impose on CO2 emissions.
"The payback time on a process like this depends largely on how much the plant is paying in emissions taxes and to a lesser extent on the sales price of the produced fertilizer, alcohol and protein for animal feed. Ultimately though, reducing the cost for the plant will reduce the cost for the client and therefore the product's consumer," said Robert Djernaes, Food Sales Group Manager of GEA Niro.
The process is, as yet, experimental. Currently there are extended tests running in Spain for growing algaes in connection with a cement plant.
Other companies working on converting CO2 into useful products include Alcoa, Touchstone Research Laboratory, Phycal, LLC, Skyonic Corporation, Calera Corporation. These companies as well as Novomer have been awarded a total of $106 million grants by the US Department of Energy (DOE).
Before I start posting news from BASF, Lanxess, Segetis, Elevance, OPXBio, Myriant, Rivertop Renewables (and the list goes on and on...), here's an interesting development from GE Appliances & Lighting, which became the first appliance manufacturer to partner with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program.
According to GE, 9m refrigerators are disposed in the US annually and only a fraction has the insulating foam in their walls and doors recycled. Under the RAD Program, GE will supply used appliance volume to the Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA), where the organization will also recover 95% of the insulating foam in refrigerators.
GE and ARCA plans to vastly improve appliance recycling and refrigerator foam recovery in the US given that the the US appliance recycling industry is said to be very fragmented. ARCA expects to open and start its regional recycling center in Pennsylvania in the first quarter of 2011.
In terms of recycling and foam recovery, ARCA will use technology from UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT). The company's recycling system includes capability to automatically capture blowing agents such as chorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and cyclopentane from the insulating foam in refrigerators and freezers.
"The potential of this technology is tremendous," said Brian Conners, President and COO of ARCA Advanced Processing. "If the foam from the 9 million refrigerators disposed of annually in the U.S. were processed through this recycling technology, the greenhouse gas emissions avoided would be equivalent to the annual CO2-e emissions of more than 2.4 million cars on U.S. roads."
A lot of biofuel news as well so I have separated them from the Weekly News Roundup. Big announcements include the finalization of Shell and Cosan's sugar ethanol joint venture and ADM's palm production investment in Brazil.
Royal Dutch Shell and Brazilian sugar company Cosan formally introduced its ethanol joint venture Raizen. The new company plans to produce over 2.2bn liters/year of sugarcane ethanol from 23 ethanol plants, and to market 20bn liters of fuels to various transportation and industry markets and to its network of over 4.500 service stations. Raizen also owns 16.3% of Codexis' shares.
ADM's sustainable palm production in Brazil
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is investing in a 12,000 hectares of sustainable palm production in the state of Para, Brazil, which will also include construction of a palm processing plant to support ADM's biodiesel production in the region. Construction of the palm processing plant will start in 2013 and operation is expected to commence in 2016.
Solazyme partners with Qantas for biojet fuel
Solazyme is collaborating with Australia-based airline Qantas for potential production of Solazyme's microbial algae-derived jet fuel Solajet. Current demand for aviation fuel in Australia is estimated by the companies at 6bn liter/year.
Miss me? ;-). The blog had a very fruitful week attending the 2nd annual Biobased Chemicals Summit in San Diego, California, hosted by Infocast. I even brought a milder weather to New York today from San Diego!
There were soooo many green chemical news and announcements this week, I'll try to post them as much as I could but first here are last week's news roundup (better late than never).
Korea Gas to build DME plant
Korea Gas Technology plans to build a 300,000 tons/year dimethyl ether (DME) plant. DME is said to be an ideal drop in and additive for liquefied petroleum gas as well as direct replacement for diesel. The chemical is reportedly more environment-friendly in terms of sulfur, soot, particulates and greenhouse gas emissions.
Blue Marble raises $1.3m in SEC filing
Blue Marble Energy, parent company of Blue Marble Biomaterials, raised $1.3m in an A-1 convertible note financing filed with the SEC (US Security Exchange Commission). The company uses a proprietary process to convert biomass into renewable chemicals for fragrance, flavor and personal care manufacturers.
Dyadic files lignocellulose patent
Biotechnology company Dyadic International has been issued US patent 7,883,872 which covers enzymatic conversion of lignocellulosic-containing biomass into glucose using a beta-glucosidase gene incorporated in proprietary C1 fungus. Glucose is a key feedstock for biofuels and bio-chemicals.
Malaysia's Sime Darby Plantation plans to expand its global palm cultivation in 2011 to address southeast Asia's palm oil shortage.
Domestic prices for European fuel ethanol are close to breaching recent record highs due to an increase in the cost of wheat, its main feedstock.
From trash to treasure is the motto here as Genomatica announced its joint development deal with Waste Management to produce intermediate and basic chemicals from syngas made from municipal solid waste.
Under the deal, Genomatica will create proprietary, specially-designed organisms and complete manufacturing processes to efficiently and economically convert syngas produced from locally-available waste with varying characteristics into chemical products. Not sure though what type of chemicals the companies are looking into.
As defined by the companies, syngas is produced throughout the world from natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons, and through the gasification of coal, biomass, and waste materials.
"Prior to Genomatica, converting syngas to chemicals was primarily done through chemical processing techniques, which were generally energy-intensive and limited in their ability to produce specific chemical products. Supported by the new joint development agreement, Genomatica is working to enable the conversion of syngas into desired, major- market intermediate and basic chemicals." - Genomatica
According to a February 4 press release, BASF received a license from Metabolix under U.S. Patent No. 5,883,199, titled "Polylactic Acid-Based Blends," to produce and market PLA and PBAT (a biodegradable poly-butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) co-polyester compounds under the BASF trade name Ecovio®.
Ecovio biodegradable polymer is a blend of Ecoflex® biodegradable aliphatic-aromatic copolyester and polylactic acid on the basis of corn. The University of Massachusetts is the owner of the '199 patent, and Metabolix, Inc. is its exclusive licensee in the relevant field.
No other information was disclosed. The blog's colleague, however, had a recent scoop posted on ICIS news (subscription only) stating that BASF is considering further bioplastic expansion following the Metabolix license acquisition.
BASF said a new green field plants would be required to produce the compounds but did not disclose any potential locations.
In another Eco news, BASF said it has launched its SELECT™ (Sustainability, Eco-Labeling and Environmental Certification Tracking) Eco-Label Manager, a database created to strategically manage the abundance of eco-labels, environmental claims, directories and ratings systems by allowing the user to search, analyze and compare these programs in a structured and consistent format.
Currently, the tool includes 100 programs for review, primarily associated with North America, although BASF said it is continuously adding programs from all over the world.
Examples include Built Green™ Canada, a residential construction checklist and energy rating system; USGBC LEED® programs, and the Green Guides, a set of guidelines established by the Federal Trade Commission to help manufacturers make clear and substantiated marketing claims.
By the way, don't forget that Cognis still has its green ingredients guide launched in late 2007 that let customers identify how green their products could be.
And last but not the least, BASF also recently announced its investment intention within the area of green mobility such as advanced batteries for electric vehicles.
According to BASF, it will invest a 3-digit million sum for battery-related activities in the next five years, which will include R&D programs devoted to optimizing lithium-ion technology and developing completely new battery concepts, and cooperations with partners.
BASF is currently building a production plant for advanced cathode materials in Elyria, Ohio, US, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The new $50m (plus) facility is scheduled to supply the market with cathode materials for the production of high-performance lithium-ion batteries from mid-2012.
The company is also collaborating with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)for a joint development of innovative battery materials via a new laboratory built in Karlsruhe. The aim of the cooperation is to focus on increasing the lifetime of batteries, the use of high storage capacity materials and the safety of battery systems.
The partners will be jointly investing about €12 million into these activities in the next five years. In initial projects scientists are, for example, developing ceramic ion conductors for use as protective layers in future battery generations.
Bio-isobutanol producer Gevo finally announced the pricing of its initial public offering (IPO) of 7.15m shares at $15/share for a total of $95.7m after deduction of underwriting and other expenses . The common stock will trade on the NASDAQ global market under the symbol GEVO.
As of this writing, shares of the company are up at $16.75/share.
The company previously hoped to get $150m when it filed in August last year but has since then scaled back to between targeted price range of $13-$15/share. Gevo's goal is to deploy their isobutanol technology by using a "capital light" business model, which involves retrofitting existing ethanol manufacturing plants.
"We currently intend to use all or a portion of the net proceeds of this offering, together with existing cash and cash equivalents, to acquire access to ethanol facilities through direct acquisition and joint ventures, and retrofit those facilities to produce isobutanol." - GevoThe projected retrofit cost for a 100 million gallon per year capacity plant is $40-$45 million, according to industry analysts. Gevo plans to expand production capacity to produce and sell over 500 million gallons of isobutanol in 2014.
According to analysis from the Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), Gevo projected a $40bn market for their products, approximately the size of today's corn ethanol market based on the price of oil at $90/bbl and corn at $6/bushel. Gevo forecastes that their products - which include solvents, specialty lubricants and fuel blendstocks - could sell for $3.20-$3.50/gal in 2012, and $2.95-$3.40/gal in 2015.
"Economics are often the most challenging aspects of commodity producers' business models. It seems that Gevo's business model depends on high oil and low corn prices for their products to be economically viable." - GLGAnother risk to the company, if readers recalled, is when the blog also recently mentioned a lawsuit filed against Gevo by another bio-butanol player, Butamax Advanced Biofuels - a joint venture company between DuPont and BP. Butamax accused Gevo of infringing its patent 7851188, which covers biocatalysts developed by the company to produce isobutanol.
With activities (and challenges) like these, the field of advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals is definitely getting to be more interesting this year!
I guess I have to eventually show my non-caricature face to the public and get out more from my glorious blogging anonymity. I am excited to announce (although I am also nervous to do this for the first time) that I will be co-moderating a Green Chemistry Panel Discussion/Webcast on March 3 hosted by the American Chemical Society's Chemical Marketing & Economics (CM&E) group - NY chapter.
The panel will include Bill Barclay, chief technology officer at Martek Biosciences (which you will recall, the company is being acquired by DSM); Chris Cerimele, head of chemicals practice at Houlihan Lokey; and Peter Shepard, executive vice president at Novomer.
My co-moderator is the green blog's esteemed colleague (and a blogger of his own right), Neil Burns, managing partner of Neil A Burns LLC. I'm hoping he'll do more of the talking actually so I can write down notes (haha!).
Here are further information for the event. I hope to see you there!
You can click here for registration.
Sooo many news this week and I have so many things to tie up first before my trip to San Diego attending the Biobased Chemicals Summit. Big ticker news are from LS9 and BASF but I'll separate the BASF news in another post. Still on the line-up are my interviews with Carbon Sciences, Seventh Generation and probably something from my interview with Procter & Gamble Chemicals. Stay tune!
Here are this week's news roundup:
Epoxy resin systems with up to 70% plant-based content could be just a few years away for the composites industry, according to manufacturer Entropy Resins.
European recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) prices have equaled or breached record highs across all grades, because of tight supply and strong demand.
My ICIS colleague John Baker noted on its Chemicals and Innovation blog the start-up of BASF's newly expanded Ecoflex biodegradable plastic plant in Ludwigshafen. The plant's production capacity has increased from 14,000 to 74,000 tonnes/year (got a nice photo of the plant too!).
More analysis from John about the Ecoflex resin.
Jim Lunt & Associates (who's currently holding a bioplastic conference in Las Vegas this week) estimated the price of Ecoflex-blended plastics at around $2/lb.
Minnesota-based Segetis announced yesterday that it is expanding its production capacity for its levulinic ketal-based solvent and non-phthalate plasticizer products - which will be under their green chemical platform trademarked as Javelin technology.
Segetis chose a contract manufacturer somewhere in the Upper Midwest (location and name undisclosed of course) to build a new facility that will produce several million pounds of the green solvents and plasticizer products.
The company is currently producing 250,00 lb/year of their chemicals and chemical building blocks at its semi-works production plant in Minneapolis, which started operation in early 2009.
As I've said not much information was given regarding the new capacity. Segetis said the investment followed notification from the US EPA of a successful registration clearance and TSCA listing eligibility for five of the company's products. Out of those five products, three biodegradable products (already listed under TSCA inventory) are now being manufactured for commercial use.
For further background, Segetis has actually been developing levulinic ketal-based plasticizers with US resin company PolyOne. I wonder if PolyOne is one of those companies that are already marketing (or will soon market) Segetis' non-phthalate plasticizer products.
Also as another backgrounder, major chemical player DSM has a stake as well in Segetis.
In less than two weeks, we'll be covering Infocast's Biobased Chemicals Summit. The blog is hoping to meet new people and add new companies on my list.
I'm hoping to post some of my coverage on last week's American Cleaning Institute annual meeting on the blog soon. For now here are this week's news roundup:
Arkema establishes polymers for PV research
Arkema and CEA teams from INES (Institut National de l'Energie Solaire) have joined forces to create in France the first private/public mixed research laboratory dedicated to the development of polymer materials for the various photovoltaic module technologies. This cooperation venture will be in place for an initial 4-year period.
Metabolix Oilseeds gets funding
Metabolix Oilseeds, Inc., has been awarded $203,000 in research funding by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture through its Agriculture Development Fund (ADF). The company will use the funding to accelerate its ongoing research and development of oilseed crops, specifically Camelina sativa, as a potential source for bioplastics and other petroleum substitutes.
Cereplast enters Italy/Slovenia
Cereplast has entered into a distribution agreement with Italy-based ColorTec S.r.l. to supply bioplastic resin to the Southern Italian and Slovenian markets. Cereplast will provide ColorTec with its patented Compostable 3000 film grade for use in its masterbatch process for the production of shopping and garbage bags.
Dow in nature collaboration
Dow Chemical is collaborating with The Nature Conservancy group to
help Dow and other companies recognize, value and incorporate nature into global business goals,decisions and strategies. Dow and its foundation are committing $10 million to this collaboration over the next five years.
Biobent Polymers launches bio-composite
Biobent Polymers™, a new division of global plastics manufacturer Univenture, launched its Panacea™ family of bioplastics developed by Battelle Memorial Institute with funding from the Ohio Soybean Council, and licensed exclusively to Univenture. The new bio-composite maintains the characteristics of the base plastic material while replacing up to 40% of the petroleum normally used in plastics manufacturing.
P&G expands renewable energy use
Procter & Gamble started using wind turbine for energy source at P&G's pet care plant in Coevorden, Netherlands and has installed solar panels at its Beauty & Grooming plant in Cologne, Germany. The Coevorden turbine which will supply 17% of the plant's annual energy consumption is P&G's first investment in wind energy.
And in ICIS News (requires subscription):
Finnish biochemicals producer Chempolis signed an agreement with paper maker Henan Yinge Industrial Investment to jointly build a 160,000 tonne/year biorefinery in China's Henan province.
Plastics converters complain to EU over Italy bag ban.
VIDEO: American Chemistry Council (ACC) calls for a better regulatory environment
Too many biofuel news last week!! I'm still working on the weekly news roundup....
As you've read from the blog from time to time, there had been increasing investment developments in biofuels for military use. Here are some examples:
- U.S. Navy to develop technology for the conversion of biobutanol into full performance jet and diesel fuels in collaboration with Cobalt Technologies.
- US Navy and the Department of Defense collaborating with Solazyme for algae-based fuel.
- US Navy and Air Force developing camelina-based jet fuel via collaboration with Sustainable Oils.
Here's some of the reasons according to RAND why biofuels do not benefit the military:
"Providing war fighters with more energy-efficient equipment such as aircraft or combat vehicles improves operational effectiveness, saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions," said James Bartis, lead author of the study and a senior policy researcher at RAND.
- Too much emphasis is focused on seed-derived oils that displace food production, have very limited production potential and may cause greenhouse gas emissions well above those of conventional petroleum fuels
- Algae-derived fuel is a research topic and not an emerging option that the military can use to supply its operations
- Uncertainties remain regarding their commercial viability -- namely, how much these fuels will cost and what effect they may have on the environment, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions
- Military fuel demand is only a very small fraction of civilian demand, and civilian demand is what drives competition, innovation and production
Here are other recommendations proposed from the study:
- The Department of Defense should complete testing and certification of Fischer-Tropsch liquids for use in 50/50 fuel blends, but testing at higher concentrations is not appropriate considering the very limited commercial production anticipated over at least the next decade.
- Minimize resources directed at testing and certification of hydrotreated renewable oils, including oils derived from seed crops (e.g., camelina) and algae. Testing and certifying these fuels in high-performance propulsion systems used by the military is simply not on the critical path for resolving the uncertainties associated with these fuels.
- Considering the absence of military benefits, the Department of Defense and Congress should reconsider whether defense appropriations should continue to support the development of advanced alternative fuel technologies.
- If the Department of Defense is to continue to support alternative fuels, its role and the Department of Energy's role need to be clarified.
- For technical, logistical and security reasons, research directed at advanced concepts for forward-based production of energy should focus on electric power as opposed to specification-grade military fuels for use in weapon systems.
Is algae losing its green bubbling allure? Shell seems to think so as it sold its stake in algae biofuel developer Cellana to its joint venture partner HR BioPetroleum (HRBP).
Cellana was formed by Shell and HRBP in 2007 to build and operate a demonstration facility to grow and produce oil from algae for biofuel application. The company's demonstration facilities are said to be the most advanced among algae-to-biofuel companies in the US.
Other oil companies currently in the algae game include ExxonMobil with its collaboration with Synthetic Genomics; BP with its collaboration with Martek Biosciences (being acquired by DSM); Chevron with its collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and Valero with its collaboration with Algenol.
According to Pike Research, algae biofuels production could reach 61m gal/year over the next decade with a market value of $1.3bn, representing a growth rate of 72% on par with the early development in the biodiesel industry.
That is if developers could soon produce commercial proof that it can be done economically.
"On paper, algae could displace worldwide petroleum use altogether, however, the industry has yet to produce a drop of oil for commercial production," says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock. "Although the algae-based biofuels market will grow rapidly once key cost hurdles are overcome, widespread scale-up will be hampered by a number of difficult challenges including access to nutrients, water, and private capital."Wheelock adds that with the cost of production still a key obstacle to widespread production, many companies are refocusing production efforts on low-volume, high-value co-products to develop revenue streams over the next decade.
Around 50% of all algae activity is in the United States with pilot- and demonstration-scale facilities beginning to break ground across the country, according to the consultancy. The European Union (EU) market, which is home to about 30% of algae activity, will reportedly be limited initially by the industry's focus on university research, and later by insufficient access to water, land, and nutrient sources.