Not All Chemicals Are Created Equal™

Familiar with Benzene

December 19th, 2012 | Posted by in Opinion - (0 Comments)

We have a webpage summarizing how our bio-succinic acid enables cost-competitive replacement products for a variety of not-so-friendly materials. That’s putting it mildly. One is phthalic anhydride. Another is maleic anhydride (MAN). The widespread commercial use of these, and the related health concerns associated with each may be viewed here.

You may wish to learn more, however, about one sentence in particular in this overview. The sentence is: Petroleum-derived MAN is often made from benzene, a known carcinogen.

If you have any confusion or uncertainty about the harmful human health effects of exposure to benzene, take a minute to scan the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Facts About Benzene presentation. It includes, for example, this information:

  • Long-term health effects of exposure to benzene
  • The major effect of benzene from long-term exposure is on the blood. (Long-term exposure means exposure of a year or more.) Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection.
  • Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.

If you’re like me, don’t you have to wonder why in the world anyone would source benzene at any price!

For obvious reasons, the bio-chemicals industry has focused much of its time and energy answering the question, “Can this be done… is this possible?” More specifically, can chemicals made from renewable feedstocks be produced and can they be brought to commercial scale at competitive prices in sufficient volume without a green premium? But as we and others in the industry are proving this, it has revealed the next challenge to be met if we’re to seize the full opportunity at hand. The challenge? Logistics: The shipping, handling, storing and pre-treating of biomass for use as feedstock in bio-based processes

To this end, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is fostering a biomass feedstock research and development program focused on four primary logistical interests: Harvest and Collection, Preprocessing, Storage and Queuing, and Handling and Transportation. Here at the DOE’s Biomass Program website page you can access a very deft overview of the important factors being studied in each of the four categories.

The DOE’s R&D on this topic is extremely useful and will, ultimately, if the study can be sufficiently funded, help to lower cellulosic biomass costs. That, of course, means that already cost-competitive bio-chemical alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals can achieve even better economies which will speed market adoption and grow market share.

At the Green Chemicals Blog, writer Doris de Guzman took the occasion of our recent joint news release with Piedmont Chemical and DuPont Tate & Lyle (DTL) to do what she so often does so well: add interpretive value and provide additional global market information.  About our collaboration with Piedmont and DTL, for example, she writes: This is an interesting non-exclusive deal that could guarantee more interest and development in the applications of 100% bio-based polyester polyols. She then references a recent study by Markets and Markets showing that …the global 1,3-propanediol market will grow from an estimated $157m in 2012 to $560m in 2019 with a compound annual growth rate of 19.9% during the period of 2012 to 2019.

There’s more. Noting that Dupont Tate & Lyle is the only bulk producer of 1,3-PDO, she nevertheless provides a quick overview of others in, or possibly about to enter, this segment.

Her post, titled “Polyols from bio-PDO and succinic acid,” is here.

On November 19th, 2012, Jim Lane, the editor and publisher of Biofuels Digest published his five minute guide to Myriant. It actually takes only about five minutes to read, and it is time well spent for anyone seeking a quick, succinct, and comprehensive snapshot of Myriant.

If you have time, check out the full text of Myriant: Biofuels Digest’s 5-Minute Guide. If you don’t have the time now, here at least is the Guide’s assessment of Myriant’s competitive advantages:

Competitive Edge(s):

  • First commercial plant fully funded and on track for a planned commercial start in Q1’13
  • Commercialized product
  • Validated proprietary technology with low carbon footprint
  • Demonstrated ability to successfully scale and commercialize the technology platform
  • Low-cost producer of sustainable and profitable unit level economics
  • Feedstock flexible
  • Strategic relationships established with leaders in the fields of chemicals, process technology, and engineering
  • Experienced team with a demonstrated track record of building commercial scale plants and executing against business plans to build value for shareholders.