2011 Green Chemistry awardees

The green blogger is back from vacation and hopefully did not miss a lot of important news from the past two weeks (such as Gevo’s announcement of its isobutanol-paraxylene collaboration with Toray).

Before anything else, the blog congratulates this year’s EPA Presidential Green Chemistry awardees  – BioAmber, Genomatica, Kraton Performance Polymers and Sherwin Williams as well as Professor Bruce Lipshutz of University of California, Santa Barbara.

The US EPA (Environment Protection Agency) has been giving out the awards for the past 16 years recognizing innovative chemical technologies developed that are making significant contribution to pollution prevention in the US. The EPA says the Green Chemistry Challenge program promotes research and development of less-hazardous alternatives to existing technologies that reduce or eliminate waste, particularly hazardous waste, in industrial production.

I’m sure the blog’s readers are already very familiar with bio-succinic acid producer BioAmber and bio-1,4 butanediol (BDO) producer Genomatica as the blog covered and monitored the companies’ progress for several years now.

BioAmber was given the Small Business Award for its “Integrated Production and Downstream Applications of Biobased Succinic Acid.” BioAmber’s technology produces succinic acid at a cost 40% below that of petroleum-based succinic acid and can even compete when oil prices are below $40 per barrel. The technology also sequesters carbon dioxide rather than emitting it. Here is the blog’s latest post last May on BioAmber’s activities.

Succinic acid, commonly referred to as amber acid, is a key building block for a wide range of secondary chemicals used in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food and agricultural industries (I copied this statement from BIO’s press release). BioAmber’s biosuccinic acid can also substitute for other chemicals like adipic acid in traditional polymers and serve as the starting material for the production of chemicals such as BDO and tetrahydrofuran (THF).

Genomatica, on the other hand, has been recognized for its production of high volume basic chemicals from renewable feedstocks at lower cost under the “Greener Synthetic Pathways Award.” BDO, with a 2.8 billion pound, $3 billion worldwide market, is a high-volume chemical building block used to make many common polymers, such as spandex and in automotive plastics.

Genomatica expects its production expenses for bio-BDO should be 15-30% less than petroleum-based BDO and be competitive at oil prices of $45 per barrel or at natural gas prices of $3.50 per million Btu. Here is the blog’s latest post on Genomatica.

Kraton is already well known in the chemical industry and the company received this year’s “Greener Reaction Conditions Award.” for its NEXAR™ Polymer Membrane Technology. The technology is a family of halogen-free, high-flow, polymer membranes made using up to 50% less hydrocarbon solvent. The NEXAR™ membranes can purify hundreds of times more water than one using traditional membranes. The EPA noted that Kraton’s technology also save 70% in membrane costs, and 50% in energy costs.

The NEXAR polymers are reportedly made from block copolymers with separate regions that provide strength (poly(t-butyl styrene)), toughness and flexibility (poly(ethylene-propylene)), and water or ion transport (styrene-sulfonated styrene).

The blog is actually very interested in Sherwin-William’s water-based acrylic alkyd technology which was given the “Designing Greener Chemicals Award.” Sherwin-Williams is said to have developed its water-based paints (sold under ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd, ProMar 200 Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd, and ProIndustrial Waterborne Enamel) made from recycled soda plastic bottle (PET), acrylics and soybean oil.

Sherwin-Williams has used 320,000 pounds of soybean oil, 250,000 pounds of recycled PET, and eliminated 1,000 barrels of oil use as well as over 800,000 pounds of VOCs in 2010.

For the Academic Award, Professor Lipshutz was recognized for development of a novel, second-generation designer surfactant called TPGS-750-M made from inexpensive ingredients: tocopherol (vitamin E), succinic acid, and methoxy poly(ethylene glycol) (a common, degradable hydrophilic group also called MPEG-750).

TPGS-750-M forms “nanomicelles” in water that are lipophilic on the inside and hydrophilic on the outside. The technology is said to offer opportunities for industrial processes to replace large amounts of organic solvents with very small amounts of a benign surfactant nanodispersed in water only. These reactions can even be run in seawater. Sigma-Aldrich is currently offering TPGS-750-M for sale, making it broadly available to research laboratories.

As a background finale to this post, Pike Research recently published its Green Chemistry study noting that the industry is expected to grow from $2.89bn in 2011 to $98.5bn by 2020.

“Green chemistry markets are currently nascent, with many technologies still at laboratory or pilot scale,” says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock, “and many production-scale green chemical plants are not expected to be running at capacity for several more years. However, most green chemical companies are targeting large, existing chemical markets, so adoption of these products is limited less by market development issues than by the ability to feed extant markets at required levels of cost and performance.”

While Pike Research anticipates dramatic growth rates for green chemicals during the coming decade, these emerging markets represent a drop in the bucket compared to the $4 trillion global chemical industry. By 2020, the firm expects that the total chemical industry will expand to $5.3 trillion in annual revenues.

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