Ecochem Basel

Ecochem Basel: CEO’s and global leaders from the world’s elite brands and chemical companies gather in the Swiss city two months ahead of the Davos summit.

Ecochem Basel is a sustainable chemistry & engineering event which took place at Congress Center Basel in Switzerland on  November 19-21 2013. Ecochem offers a conference programme ideally suited to C-level strategists and senior directors looking for innovative ways to transform their business, taking advantage of progress in the field of plant based and sustainable chemistry.

ecochem basel

Is Ecochem on track to become the equivalent of Davos for sustainable chemistry? Future events will confirm. Next is November 11-13 2014. This first edition was undoubtedly a success in terms of international reach and the level of the attendees and of the presentations.

Delegates from leading brands such as Dow, BASF, Clariant, Evonik, DuPont, INEOS, Nestle, Nike, Volkswagen, P&G, Coca-Cola and L’Oreal flocked in Basel to refuel  innovative ideas and business perspectives.

Worth mentioning is that Coca Cola, Danone, Ford, Heinz, Nestlé, P&G and Unilever joined the WWF in November 2013 to launch the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA).

Special report below from the editor on the “bio-based chemicals and materials stream” of the conference:

  • BioAmber (Canada) – Presentation by Babette Pettersen Chief Commercial Officer

Bioamber has developed a process to produce bio-based succinic acid in JV with Champagne based ARD (Agro-Industrie Recherches et Développements), the R&D arm of the French agricultural cooperative group Vivescia. BioAmber was established in 2008 as a result of a spin off from New York-based Diversified Natural Products (DNP). The company was originally named DNP Green Technology. In 2010, DNP Green Technology acquired 100 percent of the joint venture from ARD and changed its corporate name to BioAmber. The demo plant of Bioamber is on the site of ARD-Siclae in Pomacle near Reims and supplies samples and pre-commercial quantities to BioAmber clients and partners.  The first industrial size plant of BioAmber is being built in Sarnia Ontario Canada and is planned to start production by end of 2014.

BioAmber has signed an impressive number of license and partnership agreements. The company uses proprietary yeast that it has exclusively licensed from Cargill BioAmber has licensed from DuPont a catalyst technology that can converts bio-based succinic acid into bio-based 1,4-Butanediol. The technology involves the liquid phase hydrogenation of succinic acid into 1,4-Butanediol (BDO), Tetrahydrofuran (THF) and Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL). Succinic acid and 1,4-Butanediol (BDO) are key buiding blocks for the manufacturing of bioplastics such as polybutylene succinate (PBS) , tetrahydrofuran (THF) and polybutylene terephthalate, ( PBT) . THF is used to produce spandex fibers and other performance polymers, resins, solvents and printing inks for plastics. PBT is an engineering-grade thermoplastic that combines excellent mechanical and electrical properties with robust chemical resistance. The automotive and electronics industries heavily rely on PBT to produce connectors, insulators, wheel covers, gearshift knobs and reinforcing beams.

Main downstream partners of BioAmber are: French automotive parts manufacturer Faurecia for PP replacement, German specialty chemicals group Lanxess for phtalate free plastics, US  Inolex for cosmetics and Japan Mitsubishi for composites. Lanxess became an investor in BioAmber in 2012.

  • Amyris California – Joël Cherry President  R&D- From lab to market with no compromise

Mission of Amyris: to produce synthetic biology to enable novel affordable healthcare solutions. Amyris pathway starts from C6 sugars ( e.g. glucose) to produce  yeast cells like isoprenoide, farnosene or other building blocks of diverse chemistry. The applications of Amyris technology spans from synthetic biology to biofuels and synthetic rubber. They supply artemisinic acid to French Sanofi to cure malaria.Amyris, have a partnership with French Total on jet fuel and lubricants, with Japanese Kuraray and French Michelin in Liquid farnosene rubber (LFR).

Amyris als produce  2 million liters cane sugar diesel in Brazil . Amyris is focusing on the reengineeeing of natural metabolism in fermentation processes. In order to shorten the usually long time to market and costly R&D  effort in this specific field, they apply the engineering cycle to biology to build and test strains and processes. This is called Automated Strain Engineering (ASE).

Thumper software turns ideas into strains with DNA fragments that would fit the purpose . This software multiplies R&D output by a factor of fifty from an artisanal level and keeps all intermediate findings in a database. Screening is also fully robotized. It allows to screen 80000 strains per month to find a champion able to maximize yield potential. Doing this a 2 liter lab experience is predictive of a 200 cubic meter production in the fermenter.

  • Novomer Inc.US – Presentation by Peter Shepard, Executive VP- High performance polyols from waste CO2

There has been in the past few years much interest in the use of carbon dioxide as a chemical starting material, both to provide an alternative feedstock to fossil fuels and to help to mitigate global warming. One reaction attracting significant attention in this respect is the 100% atom-economical synthesis of cyclic carbonates by the insertion of carbon dioxide into an epoxide.

Novomer has developed a proprietary catalysts technology for CO2 based polyols like polycarbonate polyols. It can use standard industrial grade of CO2 and of epoxides. The value proposition of Novomer is a unique combination of competitive costs , performance and sustainability for distinctive performance polyols eg Novomer PPC 20-30% less costly than petrochemical PPT (polyether). Commercial quantities of such polyols are reported to be available in 2014. Precise poly carbonates polyols enhance the strengths of polyurethane coatings, foam and thermoset adhesives, elastomers, TPUs.

  • Yulex (USA) – Presentation by CEO Jeff Martin – Natural high performance bio-materials

Yulex have licensed a patent from USDA to make rubber from guayule, a plant indigenous to Mexico growing on sandy soils with low water usage. Guayule crop is annual as of the second year post plantation. Guayule produces 1MT of resin per acre per year. Rubber is extracted from the bark off the plant using an aquaeous solution. Guayule bio rubber has premium performance characteristics.

Residual materials ( 90% after rubber extraction) can be fractioned to extract cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin as for other ligno-cellulosic biomass .

Demo plant off 500 MT has been commissioned in  2012 after a SKIS unit (<1MT) in 2001 and a pilot plant in 2008. A JV with Italian ENI -Versalis has been signed in 2013 to go full scale to the market and cross the so called “valley of death”. Yulex and Patagonia have developed and sell the first guayule wet suite made of farmed Isoprene.

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