News and Events

Renewable chems accelerate

Renewable chemicals are electrifying lately, and becoming more mainstream.  Like skydiving, you take a leap of faith. You prepare. You have a parachute. You check your buckles, straps, pulls, and go through all the necessary safety procedures. You check and double check and triple check. And you don’t go alone.

That’s just what today’s renewable companies are doing. As announced at ABLC NEXT last week by opening speaker, Christophe Schilling, Genomatica made a multi-year agreement with Daicel Corporation to be the exclusive distributor of its award-winning Brontide butylene glycol in the Asia-Pacific region.

Also last week, Avantium announced that it is partnering with R&F Chemical to market high-value PEF applications in Korea. Avantium’s PEF is a 100% plant-based and fully recyclable performance polymer based on their proprietary YXY plants-to-plastics technology.

Here’s the latest details on Genomatica, Avantium and other renewable chemicals news that make for a thrilling ride.

Avantium’s PEF

In the Netherlands, Avantium Renewable Polymers and R&F Chemical announced their marketing and development partnership for high-value markets for plant-based PEF in electronics and smart packaging in Korea. This partnership is a further validation of Avantium’s strategy to focus on high-value applications for PEF (polyethylene furanoate) for its 5 kilotons Flagship Plant with a planned opening in 2023, announced on the Technology & Markets Day of Avantium in June 2019.

The Catalysis business unit of Avantium already joined forces with R&F Chemical in 2018 to boost its Catalysis business in South Korea. Through R&F Chemical, Avantium Renewable Polymers expects to enter this market for high-value applications such as electronics and smart packaging.

Marcel Lubben, Managing Director of Avantium Renewable Polymers, comments: “Avantium Renewable Polymers sees fast-growing interest for PEF in high-value markets across the globe. R&F Chemical is highly respected as a leader in the development and marketing of high-performance sustainable plastics. The South Korean industry is deeply committed to innovation. We are therefore very pleased to enter into a partnership with R&F Chemical who brings us access to important market players in South Korea.”

Peter Park, CEO of R&F Chemical, adds: “We are honoured to work together with Avantium to make Avantium’s PEF available to high-value performance products in South Korea. PEF has the capacity to significantly improve the performance and sustainability of our customers’ end products.”

As reported in The Digest earlier in October, Avantium also joined the Paper Bottle Project for the fully plant-based and recyclable Paper Bottle. A thin layer of Avantium’s PEF (polyethylene furanoate) will provide the Paper Bottle with the high barrier properties (the ability to withstand gas permeability through the bottle) needed for beverages such as beer and carbonated soft drinks.

Genomatica’s Brontide

In California, Genomatica is targeting the natural cosmetics and personal care sectors with the Daicel partnerhsup for Brontide – Genomatica’s Brontide butylene glycol made using a direct fermentation process that starts with renewable, plant-derived sugars instead of crude oil. The target? Not that big circle on the ground that you see as you parachute from an airplane, but thousands of tons of Brontide butylene glycol per year.

Daicel identified hundreds of potential Brontide butylene glycol customers during an initial marketing partnership between the companies and serviced over 100 inquiries and/or sample requests, confirming the high interest in natural ingredients.

“Brontide is the first widely-available product that allows personal care manufacturers to use butylene glycol in natural or plant-based formulations,” said Hitoshi Hayashi, Daicel’s executive officer, company president of Organic Chemical Products Company. “Brontide natural butylene glycol complements our existing butylene glycol products and gives our customers a new way to increase the performance of their natural personal care formulations. Daicel anticipates that bio-based and naturally-sourced products will be increasingly important.”

“Our partnership with Daicel paves the way for rapid growth of Brontide in this key geographic market,” said Damien Perriman, Genomatica’s senior vice president, Specialty Chemicals. “Daicel’s expertise in the personal care and butylene glycol markets enables us to immediately help manufacturers meet rising consumer demand for natural products in Asia Pacific.”

Amyris’s squalene

As reported in The Digest in September, Amyris’s proprietary sugarcane-derived squalene is making mainstream media as well by taking it straight to consumers via their baby brand and Pipette products. Squalene used to be derived from sharks, not too ethical of a way, so it now is being sourced via olive oil, but according to Amyris, that is too unstable, which is why Amyris uses Brazilian sugarcane instead.

Versalis’s transition from biotech to biochem

Another example is Versalis, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eni, and while their history lies with traditional chemicals, they now have strategic guidelines for chemistry from renewables. Their biotech business unit is one of the ways they are integrating renewable chemicals into products like biofuels, biochemicals, bioherbicides, cosmetic products, intermediates for bioplastic and biofibers, and more. Check out Biotech to Biochem: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Versalis’ Chemistry from Renewables here.

Seawater-based bacteria chemicals

It’s not just big companies that are working on renewable chemicals either these days. Researchers have been working on this stuff for many, many years, but one latest development is from the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology and supported by the Office of Naval Research Global (ONR), as reported a few weeks ago in The Digest.

Researchers there were able to reengineer Halomonas, a bacteria species, which grows in seawater, provides a viable “microbial chassis” to create different types of high value chemical compounds which could be renewable alternatives to crude oil. Dr. Benjamin Harvey and his team of researchers at the world-leading Naval research facilities in China Lake, California, U.S., have pioneered this exciting work on converting biological precursors to relevant jet fuels. Following on from this research, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology director Nigel Scrutton explained, “Effective biofuels strategies require the economic production of fuels derived from a robust microbial host on a very large scale—usually cultivated on renewable waste biomass or industrial waste streams—but also with minimal downstream processing and avoids use of fresh water.

Even the government sees the importance of renewable chemicals with the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service solicitation of applications for funds available under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program to provide guaranteed loans to fund the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial scale biorefineries using eligible technology and of Biobased product manufacturing facilities that use technologically new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products, on a commercial scale.

Bottom Line

We could go on about the latest news in renewable chemicals just from the last month or so but that’s the point…there are so many people and organizations now working on renewable chemicals that we see not one person parachuting from the airplane, but many.

Some are newbies still trying it out and experimenting for the first time, holding onto those parachute pull cords for dear life but enjoying the exhilarating ride. Some are professionals having done it for years who are testing their limits to see how far they can go, how accurate they can hit their target, how many flips and cool maneuvers they can do on the way. But one thing is certain, while jumping out of an airplane may never become mainstream, renewable chemistry is certainly on the way there.

Helena Tavares Kennedy

IBC Finland ry
c/o Clic Innovation Ltd
Eteläranta 10, 5th floor
FI-00130 Helsinki

IBC Finland builds novel biotechnology solutions and products through project cooperation between companies and research institutes. We offer industry the opportunity to achieve sustainable processing and production of biobased products, chemicals, materials and fuels, from renewable raw materials using biotechnology.

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