Recently, Elevance worked with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) on their new “What Can Biotech Do For You” project. The website is an excellent resource on the various ways biotechnology is being implemented into the daily aspects of our lives, and just posted the final part of its 4-part series on what the biotech community is doing to help reduce CO2 emissions.
The two-week series ran to promote the United Nations Climate Conference (COP15) Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen. According to BIO, the articles intend to profile “the important role biotech companies are playing in finding replacements for petroleum, as well as developing manufacturing processes that require less energy.”
Elevance contributed to a post about personal care products that contain bio-based emollients rather than petrolatum or petroleum derivatives that can be harmful to both the environment and your skin. The story details the various products we make and the various renewable feedstocks we use.
As stated in the post, “Elevance creates high-performing environmentally-friendly solutions across multiple product categories including cosmetics, cleaners and biofuels, all using locally-available renewable feedstocks such as soybeans. How do soybeans end up in your environmentally-friendly lotions and cleansers? Oil is removed from soybeans and the remaining protein in the soybeans goes into feed for livestock and cattle. Elevance then modifies the soybean oil into emollients, which are sold to major consumer product companies across the country.”
Each story in the series is an example of the fascinating work the biotechnology field is doing to preserve the environment. Included in the series is a story on Segetis, a company that makes cups, cars and building materials out of renewable raw materials; a story on sustainable fashion that profiled Genecor, a company that is revolutionizing the process of bleaching; and a story on Mirel bioplastic, an alternative to petroleum-based plastic created by Metabolix.
To see all these pieces and learn more about biotech, please visit http://www.whatcanbiotechdoforyou.com/.
Which natural personal care products do you like best, and what makes them your favorite? Leave your thoughts below.
Every morning, about 8:20AM or so, I get an email in my inbox from a news crawler service which, ahem, plucks relevant headlines from the web for my attention. For example, this past week, many of the headlines have been highlighting one aspect of our successful application for the Department of Energy to fund our demonstration plant. The articles have tended to emphasize that oil sourced from inedible poultry fat is one of the feedstocks which we plan to run in the unit. (Additionally, they thankfully avoided, er, laying an egg by ignoring obviously bad humor. For example, I was disappointed not to see: “Flightless bird to provide fuel for planes”, or, “Beak-through technology provides cheapcheapcheap path to renewable chemicals.”
That said, I wanted to take the chance to provide a fuller picture of our interest in different feedstocks. Using our planned demonstration unit in Newton, we intend to establish and illustrate the viability of our technology to work with a number of natural oils. These oils include emerging oils like jatropha, algae, and others as well traditional industrial oils like soy, palm, and canola. There are several characteristics which make different oils more or less attractive. These include:
- Composition of the oil, which has implications on the cost to process the oil as well as the mix of and value for the end products we would make
- The extent to which the oil is already produced at scale and consumed in industrial uses
- The proximity of supply sources to the various consumption hubs for our products
- The sustainability of the oil source
- Its market price
In the case of poultry fat, because of its composition, looks like it could be a very interesting feedstock to us because it allows us to make a slate of products with higher average value in the market. It is worth noting that this is an almost opposite reason to why biodiesel producers like animal fats, which they use because animal fats are less expensive to buy despite causing them product quality issues.
As additional context, the DoE grant framework focused on inedible, domestically produced, high impact feedstocks (meaning they will be produced in high volumes in the near term) and poultry fat is one of the only domestically produced oils which appears to meet this criteria today. Notably, besides projects whose aims were explicitly around growing and extracting oil from algae, ours appears to have been the only project funded emphasizing making chemical products from natural oils.
The US produces only about 1.4 billion pounds (roughly 200 million gallons) of poultry fat each year from which, using our technology, would give us roughly 250 million gallons of products such as high value specialty chemicals, jet fuel type kerosene, petroleum replacing waxes, and others. Though our DoE grant emphasized poultry fat for the reasons noted above, fundamentally, our technology can work on almost any natural oil. Our unit in Iowa will be useful in providing data for the commercial design of fully feedstock flexible commercial-scale units.
Guest post by Omar Abou-Sayed.
Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc. was selected as one of 19 companies to receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding from the Department of Energy to accelerate the construction and operation of pilot, demonstration, and commercial scale facilities. DOE also helped Elevance fund the initial research in 2004.
According to the DOE release, “The biofuels and bioproducts produced through these projects will displace petroleum and accelerate the industry’s ability to achieve production targets mandated by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). These investments will help close the gap between the production from the small number of biorefineries currently in operation and the aggressive Renewable Fuel Standard goals for cellulosic and advanced biofuels.”
Elevance will use the $2.5 million grant to fund preliminary engineering design for a demonstration scale integrated biorefinery aimed at the production of high value specialty chemicals and advanced biofuels from plant oils and poultry fat. The Elevance Biorefinery is a profitable asset at $45/barrel crude oil and delivers improved profitability of $300-900 per metric ton compared to traditional biodiesel plants.
We also intend to use the funding to research and understand the effect of feedstocks and recycle streams and produce platform chemicals and fuels for market development and performance testing. Elevance anticipates the creation of 40 – 50 construction jobs on-site at the pilot biorefinery, and up to seven jobs as the biorefinery becomes operational.
Pleas check-back here as we continue work on this project, and announce more details.
Each week, I highlight important industry news stories and trends.
Here is some industry news that has caught my eye for this week:
Technological ‘Breakthroughs’ Will Drive Economic Recovery, Innovation, American Chemical Society CEO Says
PR Newswire, December 2, 2009
At the Innovation Economy Conference, Madeleine Jacobs, the Executive Director & CEO of the American Chemical Society, predicted that technological advances will be one of the major factors to drive the American economy. Jacobs further emphasized the importance of science to the U.S.’s recovery declaring, “we must revitalize our commitment to strengthen the pillars of American innovation and competitiveness — education, basic research, and a business environment to drive innovation.”
We agree that scientific research will be a key driver in the nation’s recovery and future growth. Thanks to the ACS and Jacobs for her emphasizing this message last week.
Solar Plant in Space Gets Go-Ahead
New York Times, December 3, 2009
The New York Times reported that California regulators approved a utility contract for the first space-based solar power plant in the U.S. “The 200-megawatt orbiting solar farm would convert solar energy collected in space into radio frequency waves… which would be transformed back into electricity and fed into the power grid.” Although this is very early stage, I enjoyed the interesting prospect of accessing renewable energy using a very novel method
As the field of renewable chemistry continues to expand, some universities have begun using their vast amount of resources to aid in researching and educating on the importance of renewable chemistry. As we embark on our new collaboration with the research labs at Trent University, I thought I would explore another great example of this at the University of Florida.
To aid in this process of education and research, the University of Florida created the Florida Center for Renewable Chemicals and Fuels in 2002. According to the Florida Center, it provides “a vehicle to solve new technological challenges, serves as a forum to foster productive interactions among faculty and students, assists faculty in the development of competitive research grants, and increases the visibility of this important activity at the state and national levels.”
The Center currently has 14 professors on the faculty, with between one and four students training at the center each year. They also host a variety of visiting scientists and engineers across eight different labs.
The Center awards graduate research fellowships to students interested in the field and research in Microbial Biotechnology, Microbial Genetics and Biochemistry, and Plant Metabolic Engineering. The program includes training in a full range of experimental techniques including molecular genetics, gene array analysis, bioinformatics, enzymology, metabolic engineering, preservation and culturing methods, various types of fermentation, and industrial interactions.
Check out the Center to learn more, and access their various publications, reports and journal articles.
Do you have any great examples of education in the field of renewable chemistry? Share them with us below…
Associated Press, November 17, 2009
According to agriculture industry officials, demand for science graduates outstrips supply. Schools have seen record enrollment this past year as students flock to these programs, which present promising job prospects to recent graduates. At Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spokesman Bill Gibbs said that last year each graduate received about five job offers after leaving their poultry science program. With the number of farms continuing to decline, students are studying sciences that can land them jobs at companies producing seeds and chemicals for farmers or in still-forming industries like biofuels.
Alibaba News Channel, November 19, 2009
Dow Corning will provide silicon-based materials to the Middle East with a new headquarter established in Manama, Bahrain, according to a report from Alibaba News Channel. Dow Corning is currently providing construction materials to build the world’s tallest building in Dubai. Through their expanded operations, Dow Corning will “provide the region’s vibrant construction, textiles, petrochemical and oil and gas industries with silicon-based materials and solutions.”
Each week, I highlight important industry news stories and trends. Here is some interesting industry news for this week:
EU and US join forces to boost energy cooperation
Energy Efficiency News, November 5, 2009
Energy Efficiency News reports that the E.U. and U.S. are collaborating on a new energy council to meet common goals on energy issues including new technologies, low-carbon sources and security of supply. The creation of the new council was decided on November 4th during the inaugural meeting of the EU-US Energy Council. Sweden’s Enterprise and Energy Minister Maud Olofsson led the meeting, with EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, his research counterpart Janez Potonik and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu acting as participants.
According to EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, “the Energy Council is a timely initiative in the context of growing global concerns on energy security and the important role that the energy sector has in climate change.”
Although there are currently very few details on specific goals, we’ll continue to watch for further developments and its impact on low-carbon alternatives.
Monsanto Opens First Biotechnology Research Center in China
Reuters, November 4, 2009
According to Reuters, the Monsanto Company is opening its first research center in Beijing, China. The agricultural biotech company will use the facility to research crop sustainability and productivity. Vice president of biotechnology for Monsanto Stephen Padgette said, “Monsanto has made a commitment to develop advanced biotech and breeding technology to China. The establishment of the center will give Chinese researchers access to our global research network and to our industry-leading product development pipeline.”
By expanding to China, the Missouri-based company will have the opportunity to take advantage of the resources in the country, including the research already being conducted in China. With a growing worldwide population and multiple obstacles, including energy sources and climate change, hindering crop supply, it’s important that biotech companies thoughtfully explore every possible resource to improve sustainability.
Each week, I highlight important industry news stories and trends. Here is some industry news that has caught my eye for this week:
Reuters, October 27, 2009
An interesting and informative new index was reported in Reuters on October 27. The Green Confidence Index was launched to track “Americans’ attitudes about and confidence in their leaders and institutions, nationally and locally, on the subject of environmental responsibility, as well as in their own understanding of issues and their willingness to make green purchasing choices.” GreenBiz.com created the index in conjunction with Earthsense and Survey Sampling International.
While the monthly survey that included 2,500 adults had some good results, I was specifically intrigued by the number of adults who chose to buy green in the past year. Half of the surveyed said they’ve bought a green product before, with 19 percent answering that they’ve increased their green purchasing in the last year. I look forward to the seeing the development of the Green Confidence Index in the future and the results of the way Americans feel toward green products.
Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, October 28, 2009
Our partner Cargill Inc. should be celebrated for donating $58.2 million to charitable causes this year. Despite the economic downturn, the company increased its giving by 24 percent.
According to the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, the company “focused its 2009 giving on nutrition and health, education, and environmental stewardship — targeting programs that provide long-term solutions, engage employees and leverage their expertise, and provide opportunities to collaborate with others.”
The donations were made to various causes and organizations, including $5.5 million for emergency hunger relief and $1 million to The Nature Conservancy for programs in China, Brazil and the United States.
This week, Elevance announced that we are investing $1 million in a partnership with Trent University Biomaterials Research Laboratories, based in Peterborough, Ontario. Mel Luetkens, a member of our team, participated in a press conference at Trent University with Dr. Steven Franklin, President of Trent, Dr. Roberta Bondar, former chancellor of the university, Dr. Suresh Narine, who is leading the Biomaterials research initiative, and other key stakeholders.
This partnership will combine our expertise in commercializing bio-based products with the findings of Trent University’s talented team of researchers, led by Dr. Suresh Narine. Trent is a leader in environmental research and Dr. Narine brings proven experience in research and science to this effort. Together, we will be able to take scientific findings out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. Below are photos from the event and information on Trent University
The collaboration with the Biomaterials Research Laboratory is the latest in a growing list of partnerships that Elevance has formed. Cargill, Materia, Cal-Tech, Tetramer Technologies, SaskCanola, Unites Soybean Board and Dow Corning have all joined us to help us live our vision of transforming the petrochemical industry.
Through these collaborations, we continue to accelerate the growth, development and commercialization of new products by leveraging the technical expertise of these energized and motivated partners. With access to this intellectual talent, I feel confident that we will be able to impact the local economy and enhance commercial success of renewable products.
Trent University is renowned for striking a unique balance between outstanding teaching and leading-edge research. The University is consistently recognized nationally for faculty who maintain a high level of innovative research activity and a deep commitment to the individual student. Distinguished by excellence in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and increasingly popular professional and graduate programs, Trent is dedicated to providing its students with an exceptional world-view, producing graduates who are ready to succeed and make a difference in the world.
Here is some industry news that has caught my eye this week:
Algae may be secret weapon in climate change war
American Free Press, October 22, 2009
In an article by the American Free Press, algae is touted as a promising new organism due to “its ability to gobble up carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, while living happily in places that aren’t needed for food crops.” The article also noted that the race has begun to mass produce cheap fuel from algae, saying “over the summer, the first mega-corporation joined in, when ExxonMobil said it would sink 600 million dollars into algae research in a partnership with a California biotechnology company.”
Southwest Testing “Green Plane”
Environmental Leader, October 16, 2009
According the Environmental leader, Southwest Airlines is undergoing testing of a new “green plane” that they estimate will save the company around $10 million a year in fuel cost, and will reduce emissions. The article states “the plane, which is a modified Boeing 737-700, features reduced weight, as well as environmentally friendly features, including the carpet and seat covers, as well as life vest pouches, according to a press release. All combined, the new features amount to a weight savings of about five pounds per seat, or about 472 pounds per plane. The reduced weight equates to about 9,500 fewer gallons of jet fuel per plane, per year.”