Not All Chemicals Are Created Equal™

Reporter Victoria Shirley of KNOE 8 News out of Monroe, Louisiana, recently filed a story under the headline: Lake Providence acid plant to open soon, spurring local economy. It’s a fabulous story. Sure, it draws positive attention to Myriant and we love that. But this report is of special significance because it brings to life, through real people, what we have said all along: the biochemical industry can deliver good jobs to good people in some of the hardest hit regions in the United States. But that’s not all really. Read Mr. Shirley’s piece and you can’t miss the overriding sense of optimism in general, region-wide, that the potential for improved prosperity is fostering.

I am happy anytime I can write something about shopping. Writing about shopping in Italy is even better. But this story satisfied my personal and professional interests.

It’s a small story with big implications for anyone who thinks massive changes aren’t happening in a hurry when it comes to biochemical-based product innovation and market demand. It comes courtesy of Canadian Plastics. Here’s what happened: In mid-December the Italian Parliament issued a decree banning traditional plastic bags. For a U.S.-based bioplastics manufacturer, this act was the source of $300,000 in new revenue in the last two weeks of January alone.

What does this tell us? One, that there is a global movement afoot in this regard. Two, problems and solutions will find one another even if separated by thousands of miles. Three, isn’t it likely that companies everywhere still using traditional plastic bags are at least thinking about, if not acting upon, the distinct possibility they’re going to have to find a better way, sooner rather than later? In my view, that’s in the bag!

By the way, how are Italians coping with the ban? Just great. See this related story, entitled Italian shoppers get used to life without plastic. It’s the source of the image used.

Plastics News has published a report featuring responses from a variety of European plastics groups to the European Commission’s policy statements late last year calling for, among other things, a priority for bio-based products. It is an interesting report on three levels. First, while it comes as no surprise the new policy priority is favored among bio-polymer providers, the article notes this as well: PlasticsEurope has members that produce polymers from both fossil and renewable resources and is generally supportive of bioplastics growing their market share.

Two, the story reveals that both European policy makers and plastics providers get the global economics of the opportunity at hand and are realizing that without a forward-looking policy collaboratively forged with producers, investment in bioplastic production, and therefore capacity, in Europe will be radically eclipsed in other parts of the world.

The third point is that in Europe (as well as here in the U.S. although this isn’t noted in the story), a clear, durable, public policy framework is a big part of the investment potential; of the risk/reward analysis. On balance, based on this report, it seems the EU is making good progress.

The article, entitled Plastics groups react to European Union industrial policy, written by David Eldridge, is here at this link.

This major event for decision-makers and thought leaders in the coatings industry occurs every two years. In 2011, this show drew 887 exhibitors from 45 countries and 25.955 visitors from 108 countries. More than 900 exhibitors have made plans to attend this year and Myriant is among them.

Our focus at this event will be on our ultra low odor, high efficiency coalescing solvent that works in a variety of applications. Also featured will be Myriant’s other coating raw materials including binders, intermediates for construction chemicals, additives, plasticizers, and pigments. These are produced by our proprietary process that uses bio-based materials that can substitute for existing petroleum-based chemicals at comparable performance and price. This revolutionary process also uses less energy, consumes carbon dioxide and creates less pollution than conventional petroleum-based production processes.

John Baker, Global Editor, ICIS

Anyone really interested in some of the sharpest and most insightful reporting and analysis of bio-based chemical industry trends, developments, and future possibilities ought to be reading John Baker. He’s not the only source, of course, but he’s one of the best in his two roles: as global editor at ICIS, the chemicals and energy news and information provider, and on his blog Chemicals and innovation.

Take, for example, his February 8th blog post entitled Bio-economy needs innovation in supply chain. It includes a review of feedstocks logistics issues, cites some petrochemical market realities, explains the impact of biopolymer adoption rates, and, among other things, notes the strategic value of intermediates. He writes…A third route, now being opened up, is to use bio-based feedstocks to produce a range of novel intermediates that can then be used to produce products in well-known families. Thus succinic acid is receiving a lot of attention at the moment and can be used in the production of polyurethanes, coatings, solvents, thermoset resins and so on… Further into the future lies the concept of the biorefinery, whereby a range of bio-raw materials will be converted using a variety of techniques into a range of chemical intermediates, ready for downstream conversion.

We agree.