Jim Lane – Biofuels Digest http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest The world's most widely-read advanced bioeconomy daily Wed, 19 Sep 2018 23:59:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Looking deeper into Clariant cellulosic technology: Part 2 of 2, a visit to Craiova, Romania and first commercial groundbreaking http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/16/looking-deeper-into-clariant-cellulosic-technology-part-2-of-2-a-visit-to-craiova-romania-and-first-commercial-groundbreaking/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 19:42:47 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96653

Clariant launches flagship sunliquid plant in Romania as the EU bids to decarbonize transport

In Romania, Clariant officially started construction of the first large-scale commercial sunliquid plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural residues. 

The Clariant first commercial now under construction, in a rendering

The project represents the biggest industrial commitment by an international corporation in this region. At full capacity, the plant will produce 50 000 tons of cellulosic ethanol annually — using around 250 000 tons of wheat straw (and other grain residues) sourced from local farmers to . By-products from the process will be used for the generation of renewable energy with the goal of making the plant independent from fossil energy sources. The resulting cellulosic ethanol is therefore an advanced biofuel that is practically carbon-neutral. 

The future Clariant commercial-scale plant, in planning

You might find yourself asking of me, “what are I doing here”” the Romanian minister for energy who goes by the unlikely name of Anton Anton,  asked a group of stakeholders gathered in southwestern Romania this week. “I’m not speaking about not speaking about the usual energy type of project — instead about products and investment we usually associate with agriculture.”

It’s true, it’s been a rare sight in Romanian and elsewhere if a dignitary — or anyone else for that matter — finds themselves at a groundbreaking for an advanced project aimed at decarbonizing European road transport: they’ve been few and far between. It’s turned out to be a lot easier to launch the zillionth wind or solar installation, or energy efficiency project — and those have been evident in abundance, here in Romania and elsewhere in the EU these past years. Romania has done well in all those, and so have many countries.

But now the hard yards of decarbonizing Europe begin. The hazy lazy days of substituting natural gas for coal — or launching a sure-thing wind farm — to knock down some impressive emissions reductions numbers — most of those days are done. 

Groundbreaking ceremony for the new sunliquid plant in Craiova/Romania (from left to right): Urs Herren, Ambassador of Swiss Confederation, Claudiu Mares, State Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Anton Anton, Minister of Energy, Paula Pîrvănescu, State Secretary at the Ministry of Business Environment, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, Christian Kohlpaintner, Member of the Executive Committee Clariant, Ion Prioteasa, Dolj County Council President, Philippe Mengal, Executive Director BBI JU, Constantin Gheorghita, Mayor of Podari, Oliver Kinkel, Head of Region Europe Clariant, Dragos Gavriluta, Clariant Project Director sunliquid Romania, Markus Rarbach, Head of Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, Clariant, Martin Vollmer, Chief Technology Officer Clariant (Photo: Clariant)

”Romania has a EU target to fulfill and observe,” said Anton, “and we have fulfilled our commitments before others. But now, now we wish to fulfill our commitment with transportation, and in this sector [Europeans] are not doing well. Why? why – we were missing the absolutely innovative, disruptive projects. The ones that represented the exceptional idea that not everyone thought of. This plant is not a classical one, it is out of the ordinary.”

“It’s another reason I am glad to be here,” Anton continued. “Some of you know that previously I was the Minister for Research and I always wanted and supported the entire cycle. Not just the idea, and the development of that idea in the research phase. But then a project is developed and a plant is built, and that is the achievement.  We are the end of such a cycle where a plant is being built and I am glad to see it.”

Romania on the rise

It’s been a rough journey, too, for Romania — the years since the fall of Communism, the Communist years, the war, the years after independence from the Ottomans — really, you can go back a thousand years and not find three decades of roaring prosperity strung together in this long-ago outpost of the Roman Empire which, against the odds, preserved a Romance language and a cultural outpost of the West, in the East. These are proud, if frontier, Romans, you can see the lineage etched in their faces and hear it in their speech – and they provided so much raw material for so long to so much of Europe — food, petroleum, forest products — and have so little to show for it. You cheer a little at the thought that the Romanian hour might finally be at hand.

Ruins of previous industrial developments in the Podari region

 Quite a number of companies have ‘broken their pick’ trying out conventional projects in this part of the world — we’re near the regional center of Craiova in the southwest of the country.  It’s a part of the world where you’ll still see horse-and-cart technology in everyday use; you see the land and you realize the immensity of opportunity here, but advanced European technology hasn’t always easily found itself a place here. If the United States has its “flyover states”, Europe has a wide swatch of “skipover regions” where advanced technology could be achieving the same massive financial lift as elsewhere — but the train, as they say, just has never reached the station because the tracks have rarely led here.

Ruins of previous industrial developments in the Podari region

The lift opportunity is immense — leave aside the jobs that come with advanced projects and the decarbonization opportunity that comes with replacing gasoline with advanced low carbon fuels like cellulosic ethanol — the reductions can reach 85 percent in cases. What we’re looking at is a huge tonnage of agricultural material — straw, for example — that is so valueless that for thousands of years farmers have simply left it on the fields to rot and emit. Turning something valueless into something value by deploying an application that converts waste field residue to a saleable product — one in great demand. It’s the magical promise of advanced cellulosic fuels and a region like southwest Romania has more to gain from it than almost anyone.

Podari, rising from the ashes

You see more ruins in the immediate area than in a city that’s lately preserved its Greek, Roman or Egyptian antiquities — but these are not ruins from the Classical Age, they are ruins of the Industrial Age. 

The sign sits proudly on a hill overlooking the Clariant sunliquid site. P-O-D-A-R-I, in giant white letters as big as the Hollywood sign and in the same style. If Podari never attracted the klieg lights before and the glamour of an advanced technology debut, it’s not for the lack of trying, or hoping. 

Cargill was here, for one — presumably processing wheat — and the rusted out, idled equipment is all around you here. Some of that legacy is highly positive — because there’s a willing base of growers, a surprising amount of solid infrastructure in place for a project of this type — not only to facilitate the delivery of the inputs, but the shipping of the outputs, ethanol and fertilizer. And if there is a small base of growers with baling equipment, we probably have Cargill to thank for that.

“As you traveled here today,” observed Clariant executive committee member Christian Kohlpaintner, “ we were not the first to build an industrial plant ere. You can see the

remains of factories originated from as early as the 1950s. In fact, what you see here today is after several months of demolition and clearance. 

“They call it industrial conversion. The replacement of a value chain that is obsolete or not competitive with another. Now, this site is based on advanced and cutting edge. Now, Romania is at Europe’s leading edge in technology. And, it’s an example of how innovation and sustainability become a tangible reality in this plant. This plant will offer the proof that a technology we have already been operating in Straubing, Bavaria for six years can be used at industrial scale. And it will prove that we can use agricultural residues for fuels.”

It turns out that Romania is sometimes exactly where you want to execute an flagship, first-commercial, advanced technology project. First of all, the people are hungry for them, prideful in their country as they are, the deployment of advanced technology is a statement to the populace — and regional competitors — that Romania is on the move. And then, conventional projects don’t always have quite the favored geographies, clustering and economies of scale that they need, here — and advanced technology can offer the breakthrough economics that turns conventional project cemeteries into advanced technology showcases.

A generation ago, not long after the fall of the communist regime, Romania found itself with a less-than-spectacular mobile phone network, and became one the first countries to aggressively adopt the advanced GSM standard — which became the global standard — and in the late 1990s it was just incredible how widely deployed and robust the mobile business became. Then as now, advanced technology provided the leap that countries like Romania needed — and they went directly from telephone backwater to advanced showcase with services like Connex and Dialog.

It’s much the same today — flagship technology — in this case cellulosic ethanol technology, and a far-sighted parent of that technology in Clariant — has proven to be the ticket to the future that countries like Romania have needed.

The cellulosic ethanol industry and movement could use a leap, too. We’ve covered elsewhere and here the technological differentiation of Clariant technology — here, it’s worth noting that what makes this project different and special is not just the technology, it’s a team that has been watching all the technology developments in this sector as carefully as a scout on the pioneer trail looks at the ground for signs of water, trouble and the right direction ahead. These dudes are students of cellulosic technology like you wouldn’t believe — intent on capitalizing on everything that’s gone right for the industry and avoiding the mistakes of the past in scale-up.

We have two years to wait, more or less, from this groundbreaking until the completion of construction and the commencement of commissioning of the plant. But we have six years of work at the large integrated pilot unit at Straubing, Germany that Clariant has run. There have been more hours on that project than some full-scale commercial projects we’ve seen.

A good day

We’ve seen projects driven by economics, by the desire to showcase technologies, by the imperatives of sustainability. This one is different — built not only in a corner of the EU that where conventional technology has struggled, but built at a time when too much advanced thinking has gone into deploying conventional technology, and too much conventional thinking has gone into deploying advanced technology. It’s time for advanced thinking about how to deploy advanced technology, and we have it right here in Podari.

It’s timely.

“There are different opinions as to when our reserves of oil & gas will run out,” as Christian Kohlpaintner observed, “but one thing is true, resources are not infinite, we must manage more wisely, and we now face the necessity of choosing climate friendly alternatives. 

“We promise to be a good neighbor, Kohlpaintner added. “We hope our plant will impact positively the regions agricultural industry, and we will provide 100 to 120 permanent and 700 construction jobs. And 300 jobs will be created in supporting this plant with services and materials. We will recruit locally, and train these people at our demonstration unit so they can learn to operate and technology. Which makes this a very good day — not only for Clariant, but for the European Union, and for Romania too. Let’s enjoy it, the first I hope of many that we will be able to celebrate with you in Podari.”


Looking deeper into Clariant cellulosic technology: Part 1 of 2, a visit to Straubing, Germany and an integrated pilot plant http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/16/looking-deeper-into-clariant-cellulosic-technology-part-1-of-2-a-visit-to-straubing-germany-and-an-integrated-pilot-plant/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 19:25:57 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96647

When you first encounter the Clariant cellulosic ethanol technology, your nose tells you that you haven’t seen anything quite like this before. 

An ethanol plant smells like a Corn Flakes factory, you see —  warm, toasty corn scent that’s pleasant and distinctive, but cellulosic ethanol project typically had a harsher smell when you first enter the door. That’s the faint acrid  odor of the harsh chemicals which are used to pretreat the agricultural residues or wood chips — and there is the musk of corn or wheat straw instead of the toasted sweetness of grain.

But Clariant doesn’t have that acidic scent when you first enter — a sign that its pretreatment is done with steam explosion, not chemicals, and all there is at the front of the plant is the musk of the wheat straw — not unlike the grace notes of late summer hay stacked in a field. Monet would have smelled a lot of this while he was painting his haystacks.

And then, there’s this sweeter musk that you’ve never smelled anywhere near a cellulosic ethanol plant before — although its incredibly reminiscent of a Novozymes plant — and that is the scent of the enzymes in production, and the enzymes in the hydrolysis unit which is used to separate the fermentable sugars from the lignin. That’s the trick in cellulosic ethanol, after all, releasing the sugars.

Special enzymes — even more thoughtfully engineered than the high-science of enzymes used in laundry detergents to release grime from fabric and produce those whiter whites and brighter brights. These are all enzymes, and have their characteristic odor, but effective and affordable cellulase enzymes that can tease sugars out of a stalk engineered by Mother Nature to resist all pests and predators, to provide the structure and the security for all the plant’s inner workings — this is the High Temple of Enzyme design.

Only, what is this doing in a cellulosic ethanol plant? The theory of those plants is generally that you truck in the enzymes from a massive commercial-scale production facility. You use enzymes in great volumes and at great cost in a cellulosic ethanol plant, but you generally aren’t supposed to be making them there.

Which brings us to the most distinctive part of Clariant’s technology. They bite off a small fraction of the sugar stream they are creating, and feed those sugars to specially encoded yeast and they produce the enzymes as an integrated part of the technology. For plants that are in remote areas — leaving aside the costs — the improvement in the logistics of cellulosic ethanol can be remarkable.

Which is why projects in some of the most feedstock-replete but otherwise remote parts of the world — seeking to lift the value of waste agricultural residues by entering into the global energy business — Clariant has been increasingly visible as a technology partner. There are other technologies in play — as there should be — but Clariant is getting, after years of development, it’s day in the sun and for sure, you can sense it with your nose.

After enzyme production, there is the hydrolysis unit where the actual separation of lignin and sugars occur. There’s a surprising amount of sugar trapped in cellulose, as a matter of fact, almost 70% of the sugar volumes (per ton) that we see in conventional grains used on first generation ethanol production.

You see, it’s never been about the cost of the sugars — you can buy a ton of cellulose for a fraction of the cost of the grains. It has always been about releasing those sugars, sustainably and affordably. 

But then, you notice something else in a Clariant plant that’s a little different than other systems that have been advanced. There’s just the one set of identical fermentation units, where the sugars are converted into alcohols. You might find yourself looking around for one set of fermentation units that convert conventional six-carbon sugars (like glucose) to ethanol, using a basic reaction that was well known since the time of Noah and the Book of Genesis.

But then, there’s supposed to be another fermentation line where the more difficult 5-carbon sugars — the ones you might usually associate with wood which is why the most well-known of them is known as xylose — which is literary Greek for “wood sugar”. But there’s arabinose, too, and galactose — a whole set of C5 sugars known as the pentose family and they often require their own separate fermentation system. But Clariant has one pot, all the C5 and C6 fermentation is done at the one time — and that’s one of the cost-savers that makes this an attractive system even if the in-line enzyme production approach is the most unique and transformative technological breakthrough.

Technologies have been popping up over the years — each with their unique aspects. The appeal of Clariant technology for these more remote areas is of a great deal of interest, if you’ve ever driven the roads (or lack thereof) of much of the land that Brazil  has identified for sugarcane expansion in the north and west of that sprawling country.

Or, if you have traveled the back roads of Eastern Europe where agriculture reigns and residues are found in great volumes but not always as many high-grade roads that can take the constant pounding of the delivery trucks — leaving aside the transit costs and the challenges of stabilizing enzymes for delivery. The central production model will have its own brilliant set of project executions — especially where you can establish a cluster of plants. But the world could use a system that produces virtually everything it needs — power, steam, enzymes and so forth — in one place at one time.

India comes to mind of course. Praj is right there and will likely roll up a large share of the projects — they’ve been rightly focused on India all along and no company has worked harder to establish the bona fides of 2G biofuels technology there. But it would be just crazy for every single Indian project to use just the one technology — same goes for everywhere else — there’s real strength in diversification. When you think about technologies that have been robustly tested with sugarcane bagasse, and for whom the remoteness of India and the experience of working on a large set of international projects, Clariant comes to mind.

We’ll see how that works out — when you think about China and India, it’s hard to decide which one has the bigger 2G potential in the long-term — it almost depends on how big the liquid fuels market becomes. But India has some advantages in the near term because the feedstock is so organized because of the sugarcane industry.

Bagasse has its challenges, but teaching wheat farmers to collect straw is one, also. Not to mention getting baling equipment into those areas where combine harvesters are usually employed to bring in a grain harvest: these may seem like near-meaningless challenges to any group of technologists who have found a way to pick the Golden Lock of Nature’s Defenses against Cellulosic Deconstruction. But challenges these are: feedstock will need to be  sustainable, affordable, reliable and available. That’s what we call SARA, and it’s the four-letter acronym that every cellulosic project developer should chant like a mantra.

You see, we can test feedstock with great skill and for thousands of hours in our pilot-scale bioreactors — and Clariant has a lulu of a pilot operation at Straubing in southern Germany, its so complete and constantly run that it’s a shame to call it a pilot, for at 1000 tons per year it is really a fully integrated small commercial demonstration,

But Clariant calls it a pilot — they’re conservative in the way they talk up the technology, and given the fates of many other technologies that had a lot more hot wind in their marketing efforts, perhaps we all can do with a bit of understating just for now.

But all that’s in the processing. It’s hard to simulate the feedstock supply chain. The growers, their knowledge, their ability to cut the straw at the right height so that a bale is not composed, say, or 300 pounds of rock and dirt mixed into a half ton bale of straw. Or that the other detritus of the field — shoes, rakes, small animals — are not swept up in the harvest. Or that the feedstock is so well cared for that it never pre-ferments — or, god forbid, catches fire — while being stored. Biomass generates an amazing amount of heat, you’d be surprised how warm a bale of straw is to the touch. 

And then, there’s delivery, preprocessing, bundling, baling wire, and so on. No matter how affordable and available a field of straw or stover is on paper, God is in the details as Mies van den Rohe was fond of saying, and in this case God appears to sit about nine inches above the ground looking for the optimal cutting point where you maximize the organic material without dragging all the inorganics into the truck and into the plant.

All that is execution, and then you look at bagasse and smile. With bagasse, the can is already off the field, the cane sugars are extracted, and you have this leftover residue coming right out of the production process, as cleaned up as biomass ever gets, more or less. If there’s a Mr. Clean of biomass, it probably is bagasse. Nd so we always look at Brazil, and India and elsewhere where the cane is grown, and count up all the projects that might be created for cellulosics. That’s why Iogen technology is being used in Brazil by Raizen, and Praj is hard at work on their tech deployment. But there’s a place for Clariant in that mix, we think.

Which brings us to one more residue and one more scent, and that is the brownish leftover liquid stream from cane production known as vinasse. Clariant technology has this stream, too, and not just from cane processing but from wheat straw and corn stover too. It’s loaded up with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And if you’ve done agriculture or even home gardening you’ll recognize NPK as the essential digits of great fertilizer. There’s a pretty good fertilizer business in vinasse if only a chemical company would step forward to optimize the NPK streams for the various crops — they all have their unique sweet spots. The world is short of phosphorus in general and wheat can usually use a pretty sizable nitrogen top-off to boost yield an the protein profile. 

SO that’s another reason for growers to look into these technologies. They say that leaving crops on the field is the best way to put the NPK back into the soil. We disagree — why not capture, liquefy, optimize? There’s value in not simply handing the residues over to whatever bacteria there might be in the field and hoping for the best.

In all, there’s much to keep on eye on as Clariant deploys. Elsewhere this week we’re covering the groundbreaking for their technology in Romania — their flagship commercial plant. But there’s more to come in Slovakia for sure and we wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see it quite a few other geographies quite soon.

Opportunities in advanced biofuels: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/16/opportunities-in-advanced-biofuels-the-digests-2018-multi-slide-guide-to-the-doe-bioenergy-technologies-office/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 06:08:54 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96623

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (establishes partnerships with key public and private stakeholders to develop technologies for producing cost-competitive advanced biofuels from non-food biomass resources, including cellulosic biomass, algae, and wet waste (e.g., biosolids).

BETO works with a broad spectrum of government, industrial, academic, agricultural, and nonprofit partners across the United States to develop commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower made from renewable U.S. biomass resources that reduce our dependence on imported oil while enhancing energy security.

BETO technology manager (and IEA Bioenergy chairman) Jim Spaeth gave this illuminating overview of evolving DOE opportunities in advanced biofuels at ABLC 2018.

Specialty ingredients: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Evolva http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/16/speciality-ingredients-the-digests-2018-multi-slide-guide-to-evolva/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 06:03:54 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96600

Evolva aims to solve supply chain issues of nature through a 21st century mix of biotechnology and fermentation. They develop, make and sell ingredients that provide significant health, wellness and nutrition benefits to people in their daily life, but whose supply chain issues have limited their use until now. Their flagship ingredients are stevia, nootkatone and resveratrol.

Here’s the company’s latest presentation deck on strategy, technology, and progress towards its milestones.

Resilience through Regional Partnership: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to the SPARC Consortium http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/16/resilience-through-regional-partnership-the-digests-2018-multi-slide-guide-to-the-sparc-consortium/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 04:03:22 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96480

The Southeastern Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC) is a consortium consisting of the University of Florida (lead), the University of South Florida, the University of Georgia, Auburn University, and other institutions, government agencies, the civil aviation industry, and Agrisoma Biosciences and Applied Research Associates (ARA) from the private sector.

This group has embarked on a $15M project to develop the inedible oilseed carinata as a winter crop — that is, a regionally adapted Brassica carinata, as the source of a new biofuels and bioproducts industry that will be deployed in the southeastern region of the United States. The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative is leading the supply chain development effort, which also includes ARA (conversion and co- products) and Agrisoma (feedstock and animal feed co -product).

SPARC’s David Wright gave this illuminating overview of the consortium’s promise and progress at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC.

The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Clariant’s sunliquid cellulosic technology http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/15/the-digests-2018-multi-slide-guide-to-clariants-sunliquid-cellulosic-technology-2/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 03:41:18 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96464

Clariant’s sunliquid technology for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into sugars, followed by fermentation to cellulosic ethanol, is flexible to be used to convert different feedstocks on a regional basis, for example corn stover in North America, bagasse in South America or wheat straw in Europe and can be adapted to various plant concepts.

The production cost can compete with those of first-generation bioethanol and the greenhouse gas savings of the sunliquid ethanol are up to 95% compared to fossil fuels. Since the sunliquid utilizes agricultural residues, it is not affected by fuel-versus-food-debate. In addition, sunliquid paves the way to a second generation sugar platform for the production of biobased chemicals.

The Clariant team gave this illuminating overview of this technology’s promise and progress to date.

The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Clariant biotechnology http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/15/the-digests-2018-multi-slide-guide-to-clariants-sunliquid-cellulosic-technology/ Sun, 16 Sep 2018 03:28:59 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96432

Clariant’s Group Biotechnology — responsible for the Technology Platform Biotechnology — develops tailor-made biotechnological processes for the economic and sustainable production of bio-based chemicals and biofuels.

It focuses on bio-catalysis and bio-refining. Innovative technologies for the sustainable conversion of renewable feedstocks into biofuels and bio-based chemicals through energy-efficient processes allow to substitute fossil-based products and to open the pathway to new bio-based products with improved performance.

The Clariant team gave this illuminating overview of the company’s progress and its biotechnology chops.

Construction complete at Unibio/Protelux commercial scale methane to protein plant http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/13/construction-complete-at-unibio-protelux-commercial-scale-methane-to-protein-plant/ Thu, 13 Sep 2018 08:15:55 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96390

two of the four U-Loop reactors visible during the Protelux construction process. Notice the size of the worker in the bottom of the picture.In Russia, Protelux completed the construction of its 6000 ton per year methane-to-proteins plant, based on Unibio technology. The parties are currently testing the plant and expect to commission it by late 2018.  

It’s a solid step for Unibio, a giant leap for single cell protein technology globally — and not the least in Russia. The demand for the product has never been in question, nor the abundance of methane feedstock. The question has been the absence of a reliable, advanced technology to get the job done.

We reported the big backstory here, in “Did little algae freedom fighters win the Cold War?” looking at Soviet efforts to develop and deploy such a technology going back to the 1970s.

The project essentials to know

• The plant has a production capacity of approx 6,000 TPA It is the first out of many plants to be constructed in the near future as the parties expect a rapid capacity increase to 100,000+ TPA 

• The plant has four huge 30 meters high U-Loop bio-reactors 

• The fermentation is a continuing process securing as little downtime as possible 

The Unibio essentials

• Uniprotein is produced based among other things on methane as feedstock in Unibio’s U-Loop® fermentor 

• Unibio runs its research and pilot facilities at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and its demonstration-scale plant in Kalundborg, Denmark 

• The technology has been developed in close cooperation with DTU 

• The production plant in Kalundborg is co-financed by Innovation Fund Denmark, which sees great potential in industrial protein production 

• The first full-scale production plant has been built in Russia by a licensee 

• Uniprotein holds 70% protein content and is produced without the use of pesticides, utilizes significantly less water than plant-based protein sources and does not take up farm land 

• Uniprotein has been approved in the EU for use in all animal and fish feed 

• The production process always results in a uniform product, and the only waste product is water and CO2.

The Unibio backstory

Unibio CEO Henrik Busch-Larsen by the demonstration scale U-Loop reactor in Kalundborg, Denmark

In May 2016 Unibio signed a license agreement with with the intent to upscale and commercialize the Unibio U-loop technology in Russia allowing the conversion of methane into protein. Russia was chosen as an ideal site for such product as bacterial protein is historically known in the Russian market, as Russia has a well-developed compound feed industry, and there is access to an abundance of cheap natural gas. Now, a little more than two years after dry ink on the contract, the first plant is ready for testing and commissioning. 

We reported in November 2016 that Unibio opened its Denmark-based fermentation plant to convert natural gas into a highly concentrated, single-cell protein and produce up to 80 tonnes per year. The protein-rich biomass is naturally developed without genetic manipulation; can be used as a direct supplement in animal feed; and has already been tested as feed for salmon, calves, pigs and chickens with positive results in terms of acceptance and growth rates.

All plant output was sold to Vestjyllands Andel, a Danish animal feed manufacturer, as part of an offtake agreement signed earlier in the year.

“This technology upgrade makes producing UniProtein much more efficient in terms of productivity and energy usage but also helps us maintain a significant lead over legacy technologies,” Unibio CEO Henrik Busch-Larsen said at the time.

According to Unibio, the protein is a sustainable alternative to animal feed and is comparable to LT fishmeal. Adding it to the animal’s diet reduces the amount of feed necessary and minimizing nitrogen excretion. The protein has been tested for salmon, calves, pigs, and chickens and is approved by the European Union.

Reaction from the stakeholders

Unibio CEO Henrik Busch-Larsen states: “It has been an exciting process working on this project, and it had been a very steep learning curve. I’ve been the CEO of Unibio for 6 years so naturally getting to the point where you see the fruit of the Unibio and Protelux teams’ labour in the shape of four huge U-shaped bio-reactors is quite satisfactory. Hard work is still in front of us in terms of getting the plant commissioned but this is a very important milestone in the Unibio go-to-market strategy.” 

Next step 100,000+ tonnes per annum 

According to Unibio, “this is just the beginning as the licensee has already reserved land for the future expansion. The land is situated in an industrial zone holding various international companies and where a lot of the necessary infrastructure is already present to support the project.”

“We see this not just as a perspective investment into cutting-edge technology but as part of a bigger picture: a highly profitable industry of the local agricultural sector built from the ground up. The low cost of natural gas and electricity creates competitive advantages for Russia, when it comes to the production of bio protein*, we can expect this project’s EBITDA to be in the tens of percent. Our strategic goal is to secure its own source of locally sourced protein concentrate which is currently in very limited supply, for the Russian market,” said Protelux’ oversight board chairman Mikhail Serdtsev.

More to know on methane-to-protein

The Three Microb-eteers: Methanogens, methanotrophs, acetogens and knallgas bacteria

Calysta and its Happy Meal

The Methane Reformation: Intrexon, Calysta chart new pathways to economic heaven

KnipBio closes Series B round for its Single Cell Protein: what’s SCP and why is it becoming the hottest development target around?

Multi-Slide Guide

Nutrition, Energy from Methane: The Digest’s 2017 Muti-Slide Guide to Calysta

Driving Decarbonization: How California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard Is Helping the Environment While Saving Lives and Growing the Biobased Economy http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/12/driving-decarbonization-how-californias-low-carbon-fuel-standard-is-helping-the-environment-while-saving-lives-and-growing-the-biobased-economy/ Wed, 12 Sep 2018 22:01:09 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96385

By Bryan Sherbacow, Chief Commercial Officer, World Energy Special to The Digest

As 2018 has made all too clear, climate change is real and it’s impacting all of our lives. July 2018 was the hottest month ever recorded in California. We have dealt with the state’s largest wildfire this summer, just one year after the state’s costliest, most destructive, wildfire season.

Across the U.S., the Northeast experienced record warm overnight low temperatures and unprecedented high humidity. Europe has been blistering this summer, marked by droughts, melting glaciers, and decreased food and grain production. Japan has also experienced record heat and deadly floods throughout the summer.

Despite the impacts of climate change appearing all around us and the broad agreement from the scientific community that greenhouse gas emissions are the cause, the federal government has withdrawn the United States from our commitments in the Paris Agreement.

As a result, it is critical for states to take the lead by implementing climate policies such as low carbon fuel standards (LCFS) to reduce the environmental impact of America’s transportation sector. Moreover, such carbon cutting policies at the state level benefit human health and grow the biobased economy.

To understand a low carbon fuel standard, it’s best to look at California as an example. California is one of two states (neighboring state, Oregon, is the other) to enact a low carbon fuel standard. Typically, these state policies set a limit to the amount of carbon that can be emitted from fuel per unit of energy, which decreases annually. To comply with the rule, fuel companies must reduce the average carbon intensity level of the fuel they sell or buy credits from low carbon fuel suppliers.

California’s LCFS considers the full life cycle of fuel when setting carbon intensity standards. The Air Resources Board calculates carbon emissions not just from combustion on the roadways, but also from production and distribution of the fuel as well.

As a result, California’s LCFS reduces the environmental impact of transportation.

Since 2011, California’s LCFS has prevented more than 13.7 billion gallons of petroleum from being combusted on the state’s roadways. This equates to avoiding 38 million tons of carbon pollution. And as we have already met our 2020 target, we look to make even more gains in the next decade by increasing the carbon reduction targets even further for 2030 and 2050.

The benefits of a low carbon fuel standard, however, extend beyond environmental impact. According to California’s American Lung Association, the state’s low carbon fuel standard has helped Californians avoid $1.84 million in public health costs and averted more than 200 premature deaths from pollution. And as the carbon intensity standards become more stringent, the health benefits stemming from the rule will increase. The state’s lung association, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, reports that by 2025 California’s LCFS, along with cap and trade, will save $8.3 billion in pollution-related health costs and prevent 600 heart attacks, an additional 680 premature deaths, 38,000 asthma attacks and almost 75,000 lost work days.

And more available work days means more capital that can be gained and invested into the economy. Furthermore, low carbon fuel standards increase investment in companies working on new, innovative renewable fuel sources that emit less carbon.

Since its implementation, California’s program has increased the value of the clean fuels market by an estimated $2.8 billion. And as investment in low-carbon fuels increases, the biobased economy – an economy that spans from the farmers in rural America growing corn and other feedstocks to the researchers identifying new processes for creating low carbon fuel to the biorefineries where the fuel is produced and distributed from – strengthens.

With the lack of concrete federal policies to reduce our environmental impact from fuel, it’s now up to the states to take the wheel and drive towards decarbonization.

States should introduce their own low carbon fuel program to reduce their transportation sector’s environmental impact, save lives, and strengthen America’s biobased economy.

At the Global Climate Action Summit this week in San Francisco, I’ll be joined by policymakers and other leaders at an event co-hosted by below50, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the Low Carbon Fuels Coalition to explore California’s LCFS as a model for other states and the benefits these type of fuel policies can have. Already, California, Oregon and British Columbia are reaping the benefits of such carbon-cutting policies. If more states implement a LCFS we can strategically reduce our nation’s carbon footprint in a manner that will benefit our nation’s economy, our citizens’ health and the global environment.

For more information about the Global Climate Action Summit visit globalactionclimatesummit.org. To learn more about our discussion at the summit on low carbon fuel standards visit go.bio.org/GCAS.html.

The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Airlines 4 America and sustainable aviation fuels http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2018/09/11/the-digests-2018-multi-slide-guide-to-airlines-4-america-and-sustainable-aviation-fuels/ Tue, 11 Sep 2018 21:26:15 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=96355

Airlines for America (A4A) advocates on behalf of its members to shape crucial policies and measures that promote safety, security and a healthy U.S. airline industry. They work collaboratively with airlines, labor, Congress and the Administration and other groups to improve air travel for everyone.

Annually, commercial aviation helps drive nearly $1.5 trillion in U.S. economic activity and more than 10 million U.S. jobs. Airlines for America (A4A) vigorously advocates on behalf of the American airline industry as a model of safety, customer service and environmental responsibility and as the indispensable network that drives our nation’s economy and global competitiveness.

A4A’s Nancy Young gave this illuminating overview of the progress and promise of sustainable aviation fuels at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC.