These raw materials will bring a new purpose for agricultural production

March 2015 has been an interesting month for agriculture. It seems that an increasing number of companies are currently looking into valorisation possibilities of agricultural waste streams (e.g. production of biobased chemicals and materials). Only in the last week, 4 different meetings with 4 different companies were held, all focusing on biobased production from agricultural waste materials. Interesting products were polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), methanol, hydrogen, butanol, polylactate (PLA), et cetera. It has been like this for the last month: every week, new projects are discussed and started. It is not only a trend at universities (we have seen that for a while now), but SME’s as well as larger companies come up with interesting developing plans. If I’m not mistaking, this will bring a whole new purpose for agricultural production. It might even be an opportunity for agriculture in developing countries to develop faster, as waste materials also gains more value.

Genetically engineered bacteria

In the first week of March, while our team received guests from Canada for more than a week (they were here for the market introduction of biobased, non-toxic and biodegradable lubricants and paint removers), a chemical giant BASF announced their commercial production of polytetrahydrofuran (polyTHF) derived entirely from biomass feedstocks. The process hinges on a microbial fermentation of sugars to produce 1,4-butanediol (BDO), which is purified and polymerized. The company uses genetically engineered bacteria to produce and excrete BDO in sufficient quantity and purity. [GMO? Really? Yes. The modified bacteria are separated from the liquid containing the chemical. After purification, no bacteria is present anymore in the product. This way of processing is used in the chemical industries for quite some time now].

Ski boots and skateboards made from agricultural waste?

PolyTHF is primarily used as a component in polyester and polyurethane materials. According to BASF, the bio-based PolyTHF is identical in quality to the petrochemical-based product. The product is mainly applied as a chemical building block for thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is used to make for example parts of ski boots and cable sheathing. Other applications include cast elastomers, which are used, for example, for the production of wheels for skateboards and inline skates. According to BASF, the opportunity to expand the range of products and applications made from renewable raw materials allows them and their partners to further explore the long-term market acceptance of this biobased technology.

Opportunity for renewable raw materials

In the second week of March, in the Dutch province of Limburg, Letters of Intent were signed between a number of SMEs that intent to collaborate with each other in terms of raw materials and waste products. Fermentation of agricultural and food processing waste was also recognized as a possibility for valorization of these streams or reduction of costs.

The collaboration between the companies takes place in the context of the SILVER project, using a methodology that aims to accelerate innovation in the industry. SILVER stands for: Symbiosis in Limburg and Accelerating Realization. The process is in principle very simple: companies from all sectors are brought together in informal workshops with the aim of sharing as much information as possible about raw materials, waste, energy, services, knowledge and other innovative ideas. This provides new forms of cooperation between businesses and institutions.

5 million in savings

The basic idea is simple: to use raw materials and waste products/residual streams that are produced within a company as smart and responsible as possible (and working together on this issue with other entrepreneurs). This will not only contribute to a sustainable future, but also increases profits. Innovation is the foundation for growth: over the past year and a half, the SILVER partnerships already yielded over 5 million in savings. The project started in 2013 and already 70 companies have signed up. A recent workshop floor was good for a whopping 298 matches. Team members of are helping the participants to find solutions for the many hurdles they encounter.

Last week, I saw the same kind of opportunities during those 4 meetings. Locals are working with locals on efficient production of food, feed, chemicals, fuels, energy and biomaterials. This should result in more profitable production chains. I wonder how long it will take before the first benefits of more profitable production chains will start to show an increase of efficient food/energy production in the countries that really need it… don’t you?

Finalists of bio-based material award named

The six finalists of the Bio-based Material of the Year award, presented by the nova-Institute for Ecology and Innovation to those developing new applications and markets for bio-based products (those derived from living organisms), have been named.

The competition focuses on new developments in these areas, which have had (or will have) a market launch in 2014 or 2015.

Six candidates from companies in the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany have been chosen by a jury consisting of representatives of the nova-Institute, the advisory board, and sponsors and partners of the International Conference on Bio-based Materials (which will be held in Cologne between 13-15 April) from 24 submissions, and one winner and two runners up will go on to be awarded a certificate and receive a directory listing on the nova-Institute website.

The six nominated companies and products are:

Bayer MaterialScience ‘Desmodur eco N’

A bio-based polyurethane (made from polyisocyanate based on pentamethylene diisocyanate) cross-linker for high-performance automotive coatings. It enables the production of bio-based polyurethanes for the coating of cars, providing weather resistance, the ‘self-healing’ of superficial scratches and ‘great optical properties’.

EcoTechnilin ‘FibriRock’

A bio-sourced composite for aircraft applications. The lightweight, fast-curing composite is made from flax, basalt yarns, and sugar-based bioresin and is suitable for aircraft and rail applications and will go into production this year in a lightweight galley cart.

Evonik Industries

A bio-based polyamide 12 made from kernel oil 12 – This material can be used in high-performance products such as motor vehicles and large-volume pipes.

HIB Trip Part Solutions ‘Nature 50’

A hemp-based reinforced plastic. The granulate can be used in injection moulding for a range of applications, including those in the automotive sector.

Invista ‘Lycra T 162R Fibre’

A bio-derived spandex made using renewable butanediol. Approximately 70 per cent comes from the renewable resource meaning fabrics and garments can be made with reduced carbon and fossil fuel footprints.

twoBEars ‘bioFila’

A biodegradable polymer based on lignin. The biopolymer compound has optic and haptic properties and can be used for 3D printing.

Each of the six companies will now give a short presentation at the International Conference on Bio-based Materials, and the three winners will be decided by a vote of those attending the conference.


Shale gas boom creates impulse for bio based chemicals

Bio based chemicals are the unexpected beneficiaries of the North American shale gas boom, says a special report from IHS Inc., a leading global source of critical information and insight.

Sugars, glycerin and other plant-derived feedstocks are emerging as economically competitive starting materials for a range of commodity chemicals, in part, the report says, because of tight supplies of conventional feedstocks such as propylene, isobutylene, butadiene and isoprene.

The shortfall is due to the shale gas boom: North American ethylene producers have switched from petroleum-derived naphtha to lighter, natural gas-based feedstocks, reducing the output of valuable C3, C4, C5 and pygas co-products. These co-products, in turn, are the starting materials for a variety of chemical intermediates and polymers. Examples include synthetic rubber, an essential material for tire production, as well as nylon 6.6, used for fiber production and automotive parts, according to the IHS Chemical Special Report: Chemical Building Blocks from Renewables.


EU and Bio-Based Industry Partners Launch €3.7 Billion Investments

EU and industry leaders have today launched a new European Joint Undertaking on Bio-based Industries (BBI). The aim is to trigger investments and create a competitive market for bio-based products and materials sourced locally and “Made in Europe”, tackling some of Europe’s biggest societal challenges.

€3.7 billion will be injected into the European economy between 2014 and 2024 – €975 million from the European Commission and €2.7 billion from the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) – to develop an emerging bioeconomy sector. Through financing of research and innovation projects, the BBI will create new and novel partnerships across sectors, such as agriculture, agro-food, technology providers, forestry/pulp and paper, chemicals and energy.

The aim of the BBI is to use Europe’s untapped biomass and wastes as feedstock to make fossil-free and greener everyday products. At the heart of it are advanced biorefineries and innovative technologies that will convert renewable resources into sustainable bio-based chemicals, materials and fuels.

Organised in five value chains – that range from primary production to consumer markets – the BBI will help fill the innovation gap between technology development and commercialisation, sustainably realising the potential of bio-based industries in Europe.

Bio-Based Industry increases sustainable economic growth

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: “The bioeconomy has huge potential that is attracting investments all around the world. With this new partnership, we want to harness innovative technologies to convert Europe’s untapped renewable resources and waste into greener everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels, all sourced and made in Europe.”

Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, added on behalf of industry partner, the Bio-based Industries Consortium: “The BBI is an unprecedented public-private commitment because of its focus on bringing bio-based solutions to the market. It is an opportunity to deliver sustainable growth in European regions and to reverse the investment trend currently going to other regions of the world.”

The BBI is a shift from a fossil- and imports-based society to increase Europe’s share of sustainable economic growth, and is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs (80% in rural areas), revitalise industries, diversify farmers’ incomes, and reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% in comparison to fossil-based applications.

The BBI will manage the investments in the form of research and innovation projects that are defined in annual Calls for Proposals and implemented across European regions. In line with Horizon 2020 rules, all stakeholders are invited to submit innovative proposals and demonstrate progress beyond state-of-the-art.

Source: Bio-Based Industries

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