Not All Chemicals Are Created Equal™

You’ve certainly heard the old adage that real estate is all about location, location, location. Well, in our industry, where long-held doubts have been held about whether or not the players can reach critical mass at the commercial level, it is all about capacity, capacity, capacity. And now researchers calculate that capacity levels projected through 2017 are building fast. While many may not have noticed, the separate, fledgling, and piecemeal efforts of many have set the pace for a doubling of bio-based materials and chemicals to 13.2M tons by 2017. That’s according to Lux Research and this article in Power Engineering. In the article, Julia Allen, Lux Research analyst and the lead author of a report titled, “Cultivating Capacity for Bio-based Materials and Chemicals through 2017,” is quoted saying: “The basic science of bio-based materials and chemicals has advanced to the point that dozens of chemicals can now be produced from multiple feedstocks, at costs that are competitive with petroleum…”

The news is even better for companies in North America. Lux predicts our region will become the global leader in capacity by 2017. Hey, that’s only three years from now.

Courtesy of ICIS, which reports to be the world’s largest petrochemical market information provider, an update is available about progress being made in Europe to further accelerate industrial biotechnology and the bio-based products sector. Their story, entitled Market outlook: Industrial biotechnology moves up a gear, centers on evolving public-private partnerships, about which we blogged earlier, as well as issues unique to Europe: feedstock availability and policy issues that cross environment, transport and energy interests. For this alone the article is well worth a careful read. But it also delves into the term, definition, and implications of so-called ‘white biotechnology,’ and spotlights feedstock and fiscal challenges as well as a variety of other critical factors.

Two lines in the story, however, really caught my attention for their simplicity and obvious truth: Since the industrial revolution economic growth has risen in tandem with an increasing burden on the environment. Industrial biotechnology breaks this cycle by re-thinking traditional industrial processes.

Here’s an opportunity to download a 450-page book about a topic not everyone yet realizes is true. Plastics from bacteria? Really? Yes, really. We’re doing it; others are doing it; strong global markets and a growing consumer demand worldwide are developing quickly and driving innovation. Thus, this new volume: Plastics from Bacteria: Natural Functions and Applications Book.

In this new overview, among other things, succinic acid and its polymer polybutylene succinate (PBS) are discussed. One caveat: I haven’t yet attempted the download and so can’t vouch for the quality of the book’s content. If you opt to read it and have a review of it for us, please forward your comment here.

If you’re not familiar with this information resource, you’ll want to check it out. That link takes you to a PubChem page which presents a ton of information about succinic acid, our flagship product to date.  Think Wikipedia, but with a significantly higher IQ. It’s a service of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which is a division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among other things, it provides access to biomedical and genomic information.

My only issue is that the site does not as yet include Myriant in its list of chemical vendors. But we’ll work on that.

A pivotal market study has just been released as part of the ongoing European Union (EU) project called BioConSepT. Myriant along with 59 other companies contributed to the study and the findings could not be more encouraging in support of our emphasis to date on succinic acid – one of three green chemical intermediates targeted for the study – and our intermediate ‘drop-in’ product strategy.

For example, from the news report about the market study’s findings, written by Karen Laird and published in Plastics Today, comes this high-level summary: Next to the extensive analysis of the three intermediates, takeaways from the report included the observations that drop-in intermediates have the most promising outlook…

The study is also global and scope. As noted in the news item, the BioConSepT project, which is coordinated by the Dutch research institute TNO, boasts 31 partners from research & technology organizations, large industrial companies and small and medium-sized enterprises from 12 countries. The project has an overall budget of €13 million and was granted €8.9 million in EU funding.

Access to the full report is granted via a link in the news item or here.