Together with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Elevance announced today that we will be coming to southwest Mississippi to build our first North American manufacturing facility, located near Natchez, Miss.
Over the next five years, Elevance will be investing in a multi-phase project at the former Delta BioFuels facility to convert the operation into a world-class bio-refinery and derivatives operation based on Elevance’s metathesis technology. The operation will complement our Asian Joint Venture with Wilmar International and expand our global footprint.
By building biorefineries in multiple geographies, we are responding to our customers’ demands for innovative environmentally friendly products in a cost-effective and scalable way and bringing competitive manufacturing and high-value jobs back to the United States.
The Governor, State of Mississippi and community of Nachez have been very supportive partners to help facilitate this project. We appreciate their support and are pleased to now be a part of the Natchez community.
We announced yesterday the completion of a one million-pound production run of specialty chemicals made from renewable feedstocks. We have provided this production run as a response to the requests we are receiving from customers for larger volumes of the novel renewable products we will be making at the world-scale biorefinery we are building with Wilmar International in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The specialty chemicals produced by this run include alpha olefins and novel esters that will be used by our customers in applications such as surfactants for detergents and cleaners, personal care products, lubricants and additives for lubricants and fuels.
In ICIS Magazine’s September 28, “Seeking Cheap, Green Surfactants” piece, author Doris De Guzman explores the growing interest in green materials in the surfactants industry, specifically for use in personal care products and detergents.
De Guzman explains the problem manufacturers and formulators have experienced since the “green” movement hit mainstream — keeping price low and performance high — all while keeping up with demands of being green.
One challenge has been combining high performance with cheaper, renewable-based surfactants and the ability to “increase the level of green ingredients in formulations without compromising performance.”
To overcome these challenges, manufacturers and formulators have increasingly switched from petroleum to oleochemical-based surfactants. “High petroleum prices and growing supply of Asian palm oil has driven the replacement of petrochemical-based alcohols with oleochemical-derived ones for several years. Alcohol is a major raw material for surfactant manufacture.”
“Oleo alcohols accounted for 60% of the global detergent alcohols market five years ago, says Neil Burns, managing partner for US-based consultancy Neil A. Burns. Today it is almost 70% and the trend continues with planned investments in oleo alcohol production capacity.” However as De Guzman points out, this trend is as much about supply availability and costs as it is about increasing sustainability.
At Elevance, our efforts in the area of surfactants, like in the other areas we are targeting for development, are focused on generating cost-effective performance improvements from renewable feedstocks.
Our biorefinery produces oleochemicals that will compete in today’s oleo alcohol markets as well as novel specialty chemicals that can be utilized as building blocks for the next generation of surfactants. Our collaboration with Wilmar will help us address the needs of the oleo alcohol markets and the recently announced collaboration with Stepan Company is targeting performance enhancements from our specialty chemicals to enable a new level of performance and economics. This combination of possibilities inspired Burns in a second article to deem Elevance’s joint venture with Wilmar “revolutionary.” We tend to agree.
Elevance Enters Joint Development Agreement with Stepan to Commercialize Novel Surfactants & Antimicrobials
Elevance announced yesterday it entered into a joint development agreement with Stepan Company to evaluate and commercialize novel surfactants, antimicrobials and polyurethane polyols based on Elevance’s specialty feedstocks, including 9-decenoic ester and C18 di-basic ester.
Stepan’s joint development with Elevance represents a significant opportunity for both companies. It brings together complimentary capabilities and will accelerate development of high value specialty products needed in markets targeted by both companies.
Our business model is one of partnerships. We have established them in technology, feedstocks, manufacturing and markets. Each of these collaborations (whether publicly announced or still confidential) is creating opportunity for our partner in addition to helping to transforming the petrochemical industry to sustainable, renewable based products.
We are pleased to be working with Stepan to deliver value to their customers and achieve growth through innovation.
Crain’s Chicago Business featured Elevance in the August 2 issue, highlighting the company’s growth and innovation in the specialty chemicals industry.
Writer John Pletz noted, “While others struggle to turn a profit squeezing fuel out of corn, K’Lynne Johnson is turning crops into chemicals.”
The article declared that Elevance “may have hit on a formula that’s sustainable not just environmentally but also financially. Making agricultural feedstocks into chemicals costs about as much as producing ethanol, but the chemicals sell for twice as much. That makes the business profitable without the taxpayer subsidies that prop up the ethanol industry.”
Seth Snyder, a biofuels researcher at Argonne National Laboratory in Darien said that Elevance is “extremely vital to the area.” For an area that is familiar with the agriculture and petrochemicals industries, Pletz writes “renewable chemicals offer not only the prospect of new jobs for local workers but also a new market for Illinois farmers.”
As Elevance strives to be a leader in the space, Johnson acknowledges that customers are “skeptical that there are very many technologies that can deliver cost and performance, and they’re right. There have not been very many technologies that have been able to deliver. We believe we can.”
Read the full article, available for viewing by subscription or free-trial.
Guest Blogger Andy Shafer, Executive VP Sales and Market Development, Discusses Natural Candles For Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is this weekend and at Elevance, we develop unique ingredients used to make a popular gift for moms all over the world — candles.
The $2.3 billion candle market has traditionally been sourced with paraffin wax, a by-product of petroleum processing. In recent years, the supply of paraffin waxes has declined, leading to higher prices. Retailers and candle manufacturers have begun looking to renewable waxes to control costs and for innovative product ideas to attract new customers and expand sales.
At Elevance, our NatureWax product line offers one of the best selections of premium natural waxes available to the candle industry, including high-performance votive, container and pillar blends. NatureWax allows for the same performance and often even better fragrance compared to paraffin candles, but uses natural oils instead of petroleum as our feedstock.
Elevance modifies the structure of natural oils such as soybean and palm to provide new functionality and enable new performance options for candles. Our key ingredients — soybeans and vegetable oils — are grown by farmers in the U.S. and around the world. Both are renewable resources that can be replenished, posing less of a threat to the environment than petroleum based paraffin alternatives.
With paraffin wax prices becoming seemingly unpredictable, agriculturally produced vegetable and soy waxes are attractive alternatives. Soy wax also tends to have a more opaque appearance than paraffin, allowing some colors to appear more bold and vibrant.
Elevance encourages consumers to be environmentally conscious and shop for candles that contain natural ingredients such as soy and vegetables waxes. Your mom and Mother Earth will appreciate the thoughtfulness!
The green technology industry is growing by leaps and bounds as more consumers and investors realize the potential of products produced using cleaner innovations. Credit for this success can in large part be attributed to the new technologies that companies like Elevance bring to the table. But as CBS News points out in its list of, “40 Who Paved the Way for a Green Revolution,” our industry has received a great deal of support from early environmental pioneers who sought renewable solutions.
CBS ‘s list includes scientists, politicians and theorists from ancient Rome to modern day who have had a significant impact the “green” movement. The list is also divided it into areas of interest: solar, transportation & oil, grid, electronics, alternative energy, scientists & politicians, and food & water. The result was a broad range of contributors to clean technology.
For example, Archimedes in the third century B.C., made the list for proposing setting ships on fire by transferring solar heat with bronze shields. Arnold Schwarzenegger was selected for being pivotal in making the green tech debate an economic issue instead of an environmental one.
This list will continue to grow as the industry grows, but it does highlight the many different types of people that have contributed to the green industry. I encourage you to take a look and learn more about green technology innovators of the past and present.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) recently issued a report titled, “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” a study exploring women’s role in science and engineering. The study concluded that although significant progress has been made, women are still underrepresented in the fields of science and math and stereotypes and cultural biases continue to impede women’s success.
The study found beliefs about women’s intelligence, stereotypes, self-assessment, spatial skills, the college student experience, university and college faculty, implicit bias and workplace bias explain the social and environmental barriers preventing participation in science and technology field.
To encourage women to consider scientific and engineering fields, families, schools, and communities can create an environment of that dispels negative stereotypes around these industries. One example would be to institute programs supporting the development of girls’ confidence in their ability to learn math and science.
As a woman CEO of a technology company with a strong basis in the science and chemicals industry, I am very pleased to see studies like this one taking place. Not only does this study take into account the “unspoken” thoughts of many people in the industry, it provides solutions for future women scientists, executives and engineers. Throughout my 18-year career in the oil and petrochemicals industry, I have seen a significant change in the number of women active in the field and believe more positive change can happen.
At Elevance, we have multiple women who are leading the charge to create positive change. Mary Bjorklund is one of our key process engineers and has been instrumental in advancing our biorefinery engineering. Donde Anderson is one of our key catalyst chemists. Her expertise has deepened our knowledge of effectively converting different natural oils enabling a significant reduction in our manufacturing costs. Both Donde and Mary’s interest and belief in Elevance’s successful technology make them strong contributors on our team. They have strong backgrounds in the chemicals and energy industry and have seen firsthand the value of science and technology.
The bio-chemical industry is growing and needs the contributions of bright, passionate men AND women. With all of the possibilities, Elevance encourages women and girls to explore educational and employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
A few weeks ago, Exxon announced a $600 million dollar research collaboration investment with Synthetic Genomics, a leader in genetic engineering founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., who, along with rival scientist Francis Collins of the National Institute of Health, first decoded the human genome.
The partnership is aimed at developing strains of algae, which can produce oil at high volumes and low cost so that they can be suitable for use as a feedstock for biofuels.
The funding announcement is notable for two reasons: it marks Exxon’s first major move into biofuels, and it is the strongest signal yet of algal oil’s promise as a petroleum replacement. At the same time, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog, the EPA announced its intent to “measure the greenhouse gas impacts of algae-based biofuels in its final rule to implement the renewable fuels standard.”
The EPA action is notable in that, previously, the EPA’s much discussed revised Renewable Fuels Standard (RFSII) would have lumped algae based biodiesel in the same category of fuels as biodiesel from edible oil’s like soybean oil and ethanol from corn. Given that the stated mandate of RFS II is to create a market for advanced biofuels beyond corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, having algal fuels in the same category would have put them at a significant disadvantage.
As Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pointed out in a July 13 piece for Politico “some exciting new technologies and feedstocks that could ultimately be better solutions for land use, climate change and our transportation sector are not included in any of the carve-out mandates. Algae-based fuels are the most obvious example, which, despite having characteristics superior to any renewable fuels in commercial production today, have no home in the RFS.”
Many words have already been penned (actually, I suppose they’ve been typed) about the history of the interest in algae as a potential biofuels feedstock, which began most significantly with the US Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program, which was launched as a response to the high oil prices caused oil embargo of the 1970’s. A link to the study is here.
At Elevance, we have been interested in algae oil for a while now because of algae’s twin abilities to (a) grow at prolific rates (b) in areas like deserts and oceans, which are unsuitable for agriculture or industry. (As an aside, algal oil is also highly prized for its “nutriceutical” uses, although these are applications for which there is a limited market. I mention it mostly because I really like the word “nutriceutical”).
And though Elevance is interested in algae, conversely, we think that “algae” should be interested in us. As I mentioned in this post, our process can make high value specialty chemicals like functional oils, antimicrobials, high performance waxes, lubricants, additives and others, along with making advanced biofuels (sometimes called second generation biofuels because they are drop in replacements for petroleum derived diesel and jet fuel). The combination of specialty chemicals and advanced fuels makes our process more profitable than fuels-only processes like transesterification (which is used to make biodiesel from natural oils).
Moreover, should the EPS implementation of RFSII insufficiently reward algal fuels as an advanced feedstock, Elevance’s ability to make qualifying advanced fuels from algae, like hydrocarbon diesel and jet fuel (rather than just biodiesel or ethanol) will make Elevance an attractive partner. As algae companies work to “domesticate” different strains of algae, they will seek applications and partners which help them get to scale while making profitable products, and Elevance, with its Noble Prize winning technology, its strong competence in working with different natural oils, and its unique biorefining process, fits the bill.
By Omar Abou-Sayed
Last week, Newsweek published an interesting article in which psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything, gave his opinion of Wal-Mart’s new initiative to rate the environmental impact of the items they sell. Wal-Mart announced that it intends to provide this information right on the tag, next to the price.
This concept brings many things to mind as Elevance continues to provide more companies with green chemical ingredients for everyday consumer products such as candles, haircare, and skincare products. While seen by many as a radical move on Wal-Mart’s part, this idea adds a new layer to the competition for consumers’ buying power. In addition to price and quality, there may now be a gauge of “environmental impact.”
Wal-Mart’s announcement is another indication that the trend toward incorporating a product’s sustainability into the equation continues to increase in importance, and as Goleman points out, may someday become a “standard.” But, performance, cost and value are the “standards” that consumers already demand. They must remain top of mind.
For us at Elevance, one of our primary initiatives is to give the marketplace more options when it comes to green products. But, we still believe that performance and economics weigh most heavily in consumers’ choices. You cannot have a successful, sustainable product if it isn’t affordable or doesn’t perform well. All three elements go hand-in-hand. I applaud Wal-Mart’s leadership in helping to make the topic of environmental footprint and sustainability consistent and more meaningful for the consumer.
As this story unfolds, we look forward to seeing how mainstream companies will continue to build these green concepts into their overall business plans, and what sort of opportunities and partnerships it will bring to Elevance. We believe performance,, cost and sustainability are mutually compatible and look forward to working with others to make it happen for all of us.
By Andy Shafer, Executive VP Sales and Market Development