Conference Notes Events

Bio-Based Products and Chemicals – Amsterdam May 24-25, 2016

Summary of Day 1

Introduction speech: Dan Loosemore, co-founder Bio-based World News

Very grateful to the members of Bio-based World News advisory board who helped to put together the conference program. Theme of the first day : How can bio based help us move towards a circular economy? Chairman: Murya Mc Laughlin Executive Director Bioindustrial Innovation Canada

Sugar based chemistry is the future / Ava CO2 Thomas Klausli CMO

  • 2018 perspective: 5.6 million tons of bio-sourced and 1.1 tons of bio-sourced and biodegradable for a total of 6.7 million tons of sugar based chemicals
  • Ava CO2 is the specialist of 5 HMF production processes and products in crystalline form or water-based. 5 HMF is the building block to FDCA and ultimately PEF .
  • Also a building block  to Urea HMF resins in replacement of formaldehyde.
  • AVA Co2 are planning for a first commercial size plant of 30.000 tons. This will be done in collaborative partnership within a consortium that is reportedly still opened.
  • Raw material for AVA CO2´s 5 HMF is fructose that needs to be produced as a first step in the value chain.
  • AVA announce that they have developed several oxydation routes for  the production of FDCA from their 5HMF and thereby allow access to a spectrum of alternative process routes. They  are therefore calling for downstream partners

Greater sustainability to chemicals using bio-based /Rene Backes Global new business development BASF

  • BASF is fully integrated along the  petro-chemicals value chain and operate in “Production Verbund” fully integrated mega production site like the biggest one in Ludwigshaffen.
  • Renewables-based product are necessary to migrate to a sustainable chemical industry, to diversify the raw materials base and have access to new functionalities of molecules not available from fossil carbon.
  • Dual approach of BASF: direct use of bio-based feedstock to get 100% bio based products ( either drop in replacement like succunic acid and BDO or new molecules like PEF) AND the mass balance approach introducing bio-based raw materials into the petro-chem production veebund and getting partially bio-based products (call mass balanced products by BASF).
  • The cost gap between fossil based chemicals and bio-based is still the number one issue and stumbling block down the road. And this commands a gradual, step by step introduction of bio-based.
  • Partnering along the value chain is paramount to overcome the cost gap with step by step improvements and mutualized means.

The end-user view by Caroline Laurie, Head of Sustainability Kingfisher 

  • Kingfisher is dedicated to home improvement which in turns makes customers life better, living at home and working from home
  • Sustainability is a necessity to cope with the needed change to our global economy. Kingfisher has  learned the hard way through trials and errors. Clarification came from getting clear the “why we are here, what we are after and who we talk to and serve”. “Breathe life into sustainability by making it meaningful to our audience” is now their motto.
  • the magic combination to selling sustainability products is: it needs to be the same right price, the full safety and convenience to use of the historical product and , on top of it, to be sustainable  eg the biodegradable plant punnet or Diall * clean spirit/ white spirit)
  • Takeaways from Caroline: “Scientific speak is strangling sustainability”, “the pen  is mightier than the sword” and “why stop dreaming when you wake-up.”

Retail view: Pierre Royer Head of Sustainability At Castorama 

  • Sustainability requires a full new education process for the retail buyer. This notion was not part of the frontline process of procurement they are in charge of.
  • It requires to get to the people  behind the product on both sides : producer  and end user. Facilitators in the  organisation are paramount to trigger the paradigm shift : sustainability is first a growth opportunity, and the right  thing to do .
  • E.G eliminate peat in the  Castorama UK stores, only one of the 40,000 products in the range. Looking for more sustainable alternative to GHG emitting peat. Another example is Infinite worktop and Nods decking, both being part of the  Remade* range in France. Cost gap issue was finally offset by a change of finishing process. This required a lot of persistence from the team and management support. People is the number one ingredient for success.

PANEL: the role of sustainable chemicals in moving towards a circular economy

  • We should not communicate to much directly about sustainability . It is more like an embedded item in the company policy. Customer want to hear about product efficiency, convenience and safety and they expect on top the retailer they buy from to do the right thing. Same applies to global brand leaders  like Coca Cola with their plant bottle.
  • Enhanced performance of bio-based materials like PEF is key for the end-users to buy-in.
  • Bio-degradability is second to bio-sourced and bio-efficient as it is an even harder challenge to find the right metrics and the right products.(Castorama)
  • GMO origin of raw materials is an issue , specifically for cellulosic sugars (second gen bio-chemicals). Requires partner suppliers to be ready with the certification of origin (AVA).

Bio-based chemicals session day one a.m.: quantifying the opportunity.

The role of biobased chemicals in sustainable products by Henrike Gebhardt Senior project manager Evonik

  • Customer demand and safer process are the two most important drivers to move to renewables-based chemicals for producers.
  • Product performance is the number one driver  for users (converters or end users)
  • Evonik CAREtain* toolbox is based on the aforementioned principles. Eg : the Tego*  emulsifier or the Sophrolipid biosurfactants made from sugars and rapeseed oil via fermentation process.
  • Independent pilot plants are key to derisk the investment and minimize bad surprises at scale-up

Communicating sustainability by Molly Morse CEO Mango materials

  • The company’s purpose is to Use methane waste to produce bio polymers ( specifically PHA) via a microbial process.
  • Molly stresses rightly that PHA Is bio-based AND biodegradable . End of life options for PHA are home or industrial composting in the best cases , degradation in landfills and digestion by micro marine organism if incorrectly flushed to the oceans, in the worse cases .
  • Very focused on driving the cost down to make it competitive with fossil based plastics. Currently aiming at $ 1.1 per pound .
  • PHA is actually a bacterial fat produced when excess carbon is present or when a key nutrient is limiting .
  • Mango has partnered with a methane producer and is building a pilot plant due to start-up this year with a capacity of 500l. Next step is a 20,000l demo plant before going to 1 million liters commercial plant.
  • Attraction for methane producers is to sell methane around 1$ per pound versus 0.25$ per pound for electricity or heating

Biobased FDCA and PEF by Nathan Kemelling Direct or Business Development Avantium

  • Is the business model sustainable ? What is the strategy to compete with petroleum economies of scale? These are burning questions today.
  • Number one issue is the ability to build a commercial scale supply chain. Hence the JV with BASF announced last year. This gives Avantium access to world class scaling-up and market distribution expertise’
  • Avantium is a spin-off of Shell, actually their former catalysis lab. Currently employing 140 people. Recently secured funds to build the first commercial plant.
  • Raw material is currently first gen fructose . The polymerization process of FDCA to get PEF can be made in a classical polymerization plant.
  • Avantium’s proprietary  XYX technology will be licensed to the commercial facilities and Avantium will continue to focus on process enhancement and technology improvements.
  • PEF functionalities and performances are impressive: CO2 and O2 barrier and water barrier properties plus rigidity outperform PET. PEF is recyclable and easy to separate from PET in waste sorting plants . It is particularly well suited to small size bottles of carbonated beverages for which the CO2 shelf life is reportedly six times what a PET bottle can achieve eg for beer bottles. True also for O2 sensitive beverages like orange juice.
  • Mitsui is now a partner of Avantium for bottles and films in Asia.
  • Coca Cola, Danone and Opla have been partner end users and shareholders of Avantium from the start.

Evolving towards biobased sustainable chemistry Brendan Hill Commercial Manager Braskem Netherlands 

  • Has actioned synergies between commodity petro-chemicals and first gen bio-sourced commodity chemicals.
  • Reportedly 4 kg of GHG avoided for each kg of biobased  PE produced by Braskem. Biobased PE is drop-in, recyclable but of course not biodegradable just like petro based PE .
  • Land use for sugar cane  PE : 1 ha produced 3 tons of PE. Braskem actually use 2.4% of the surface planted with sugar cane in Brazil for their PE production. The sugar cane ethanol is actually produced with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th crush of the cane to make ethanol whilst the first crush is used for sugar.

Plastics for the future: the view of Neste by Tomi Numan Manager strategy and new ventures

  • Neste now operates a significant capacity of plant based oil chemicals.
  • Once totally dedicated to petro-chemicals, Neste has now started its journey to sustainable chemicals and plastics. They also want to ” do the right thing” .
  • Neste came up with a solution to make a biopolymer from plant oil  ( later specifically referred to as palm oil) that is identical to the polymer  from’fossil.
  • Takeaways: performance, sustainability and reliable source are the three drivers of market development and these are what Neste report they are already able to guarantee their customers for biochemicals as for petrochemicals.

PANEL: how to increase adoption?

  • Can regulations help? Mixed feelings on this one. Regulations can help get awareness and facilitate access to public markets. Issue is that they change overtime and distort the market conditions down the road whilst business and new ventures primarily need stability to survive.
  • LCA data are available but issue is to communicate about if . The different tools and benchmarks makes it more confusing than helping unless a great deal of consistency is reached on a global basis.
  • How does small scale  decentralized models ( methane reuse to make PHA) fit with  market demand and economies of scale? Big scale through partnerships is essential especially for processes like polymerization for which economies of scale are huge. Decentralized model is only viable if you can use raw material and the specific output product on the spot or in the immediate vicinity and offset production upcosts with logistic savings.
  • Partnerships with brand owners are paramount to get the message through to the end consumer in an efficient way , leveraging their brand reputation. Neste confirms selection of early adopters is a critical phase in the process.

Bio-based products session day one p.m.: generating value and minimizing risks

The impact of bio-based chemicals vs traditional products by François Court Bostik CIO

  • Bostik is now part of Arkema, the biggest chemicals company in France, committed to create innovative solutions to address the environmental challenge.
  • Human beings have been using bio sourced adhesives for centuries like caseine for the labels on grandma’ jam jars. The same was used for gluing parts of airplanes before epoxy resins replaced caseine.
  • Again additional functionalities and pérformances are paramount to the success of biobased adhesives eg floor  adhesives , solventless label adhesives.
  • Challenges: cost, access to and quality consistency of the feedstock, compliance with regulations.
  • 13% of Arkema’s 7.7 billion euro  turnover is made with bio-based raw materials.
  • Interesting initiative:  the smart house, a scale one lab for sustainable construction technology

Creating value with biobased products from the start in cosmetics by Marianna Ralli Korres Natural Products 

  • A 20 year old bio-based cosmetics company based in Athens.
  • Pilars: herbs, extractions, research, cooperation.
  • Biodiversity conservation, efficient extraction processes , use of by products from other activities (wine, spices), Collaborative partnerships with greek and european universities (>50) are in the genes of Korres. Primary research budget is 6% of sales. Eg : chestnut based antiageing product range launched in 2016 was the result of intensive collaborative work.
  • Consumer communication is fully transparent and the content of each formula is described on each products.

Explaining the value of sustainability and of biobased alternatives by Christian Bolck Programme manager materials Wageningen UR Food and biobased research

  • Purpose is to make use of functionalities and unique structures available in the biomass . A full list of examples follows.
  • Use micro organisms to produce chemicals in one step
  • Use cyanobacteria to produce building blocks from sunlight and CO2
  • Make biobased aromatics from lignin or other sources like C5 / hemicellulose
  • Make polymers from 2,4 and 2,5 FDCA
  • Make polymers fit to be alternative sources to natural rubber eg dandelion and guayule shrub tree.
  • Make durable roofing materials from lignin.
  • Make rail fastering system based on oleo chemistry.
  • Make a 100% biobased Reed fiber board, glue included .
  • Produce Pulp trays made from tomato leaves and stems and apply the same to beetroots.

Turning CO2 into valuable bioproducts in a single step process by Ross Gordon Photanol, a company based in Amsterdam

  • This is 4th generation chemistry using photo fermentation ie light +H2O + CO2 and cyanobacterias to obtain organic acids  as building blocks like eg lactic acid, and biomass as a residue.
  • The cyano platform can be seen as the next generation of agriculture with 5 to 25 times more product per surface area without requiring any arable land and with a closed loop of water and nutrients.
  • Photanol has been partnering with Akzo Nobel since 2014. It is currently in pilot production and plan to move to demo production in 2017.
  • Biggest challenge to scale-up is to find land exposed to a lot of sunlight (understandably a challenge in the Netherlands!)


  • It is stressed again that Generating value through a premium price is a function of adding visible functionalities and noticeable convenience to the product (eg strong bonding AND  easy debonding for adhesives). Scientific speak does not help as the client is not educated to capture the message.
  • Biobased does not necessarily means sustainable and at the end it is the latter that matters.
  • Question is raised on whether the plant chemistry industry is aware and concerned that any marginal increase of demand for vegetable oil increases the pressure on land and forest specifically in palm oil producing countries and therefore decreases the GHG absorption factor. Answer is most likely within the scope of this new gen agriculture ‘Issue is however the time it will take to scale it up sufficiently to contribute to curb down the GHG emissions.


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