Company initiatives, Partnership, R&D

Evonik, LanzaTech bio-based chems activities

The blog is having trouble keeping up with so many news this month (and last month), and juggling with the Tecnon OrbiChem newsletter, so my apologies.  Tomorrow is officially my holiday vacation until January 2, but I will try to sneak in a couple of posts if I can before the year ends.

Here are some of the news this month that came out from Evonik and LanzaTech. I will write in a separate post on news from Renmatix, Deinove and Cellulac.

In the meantime, check out some of the highlights in our 46-page December Bio-Materials & Intermediates newsletter published yesterday. There are so much more information (including lots of interviews) that I wrote on the newsletter so hopefully that will entice some of you out there to subscribe for 2014. And yes, you read it right that JBF Industries has postponed its planned 500 ktpa bio-based MEG project in Araraquara, Brazil. That’s all I’m going to say about the subject for now 🙂

So let’s go first with LanzaTech’s news on its partnership with Evonik about specialty plastics from waste-derived synthesis gas.  The companies have signed a three-year research cooperation deal to combine Evonik’s existing biotechnology platforms with LanzaTech’s synthetic biology and gas fermentation expertise to develop a route for waste-based specialty plastics.

Synthesis gases comprised mainly of either carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and can come from a variety of gasified biomass waste streams including forestry and agricultural residues, and gasified municipal solid waste.  It can also come from steam reforming of natural gas or gasification of coal.  Using biotechnology route, microorganisms in fermenters convert syngas into chemical products and fuels.

There are a lot of activities going on in using syngas to produce chemicals and, hopefully, I will be able to post a separate news analysis on this.  There is not much further details on the Evonik, LanzaTech announcement unfortunately. LanzaTech, however, announced its partnership with Concord Blue USA for the use of Concord Blue’s closed-loop, commercially proven, non-incineration process that recycles nearly any form of waste including landfill waste and sewage sludge into energy.

LanzaTech will use the incineration process at its Freedom Pines facility in Soperton, Georgia, to convert waste biomass from regional forestry operations into syngas.  And I guess we can connect the dots here with LanzaTech having the upstream conversion of waste biomass into syngas using the Concord Blue technology, the produced syngas converted into chemical building blocks by LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process, and downstream, production of materials/chemicals from the syngas-based chemical feedstock with LanzaTech partners (e.g. specialty plastics).

In a recent news, Evonik said it has successfully converted syngas into pure 2-hydroxyisobutyric acid (2-HIBA) under industrial conditions (here’s another connection). 2-HIBA is a precursor used in the manufacture of PLEXIGLAS. 2-HIBA is currently produced via chemical synthesis and is converted to methyl methacrylate (MMA). Polymethyl methacrylate (PLEXIGLAS) is used for creating sheets, profiles, roofs, soundproof walls, molded components for auto engineering applications, backlight units for illuminating flatscreen monitors and televisions.  Evonik is one of the largest producers of MMA, and the chemical can also be used in paints, varnishes, anti-rust coatings, in contact lenses and dental implants.

Other products aside from 2-HIBA that the company could produce include derivatives for the cosmetics industry, or C4 alcohols for the pains and varnishes industry.

Evonik said it has been looking at bacteria from earth’s earliest history — to a time when oxygen was not yet present in earth’s atmosphere — and that certain microorganisms today contain the genetic information of these bacteria. Evonik used their enzymes to create a cell factory that generates specialty chemicals from syngas.

It is still a long way to go into large industrial scale, according to Evonik, and that it will take a couple of years until these bacteria are ready for the market.

Evonik has been dabbling on biotechnology research for thirty years mostly at its Halle-Kunsebeck site in Germany. In its Health & Nutrition business unit alone, the company expects sales of EUR 1 billion over the medium term for products made using biotechnology such as amino acids like L-lysine, DL-methionine, L-threonine and L-tryphtophan.  Evonik is expected to invest EUR 350 million next year to expand its Biolys fermentation-based L-lysine business that include construction of new plants in Brazil and Russia capable of producing 200 ktpa.  Evonik is also expanding its biotech-based lysine production at its Blair site, in Nebraska, to 280 ktpa.

In other recent Evonik bio-based chemical news, the company recently appointed bioplastic specialist FKuR Kunststoff GmbH to market, sell and distribute Evonik’s VESTAMID Terra line of biobased polyamide.  There are currently three products within this group of castor oil-based polyamides: Vestamid Terra HS (PA610), Vestamid Terra DS (PA1010) and Vestamid Terra DD (PA1012).

I have been communicating with Evonik for years when I was still with ICIS but mostly my focus was their specialty oleochemicals business. The company has also been investing in this area in South America such as construction of a 50 ktpa specialty oleochemicals production in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for use as raw materials for cosmetics, personal care and household care.  The portfolio will include specialty surfactants, conditioning agents, emollients, emulsifiers, thickeners, and fabric softening ingredients. Start-up of the oleochemical facility is scheduled next year.As for LanzaTech, recent activities include:

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


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