Transform methane into low-cost plastics, chemicals, fuels? Yep, there’s an app for that too.

June 19, 2013 |

Calysta-opening-smTwo of the pioneers of the biobased economy – former Codexis CEO Alan Shaw and NatureWorks — strike a landmark deal based on methane – most affordably sourced from natural gas.

Renegades? Revolutionaries? Practical business in commodity-driven industries? The Digest takes you inside the deal — and the technology.

In Canada, Calysta Energy and NatureWorks electrified the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology yesterday in announcing an exclusive, multi-year collaboration to research and develop a practical, world-scale production process for fermenting methane — a potent greenhouse gas — into lactic acid, the building block for NatureWorks’ signature Ingeo product line, as well as lactide intermediates and polymers made from renewable materials.

Electrifying — because Calysta makes the claim that it has developed a “hardware/software” system in which proven metabolic pathways — like NatureWorks’s pathway for making polylactic acid – can be imported into its methanotroph which can make the same product, via the same pathway, only accessing methane as its carbon source.

In short, a transformative, biobased iPad — awaiting more metabolic apps.

Also electrifying — because no company has been more closely identified as a leader in the biobased economy than NatureWorks, a subsidiary of Cargill and PTT that began life with a clear focus on making PLA, or polylactic acid, from renewable sugars as an alternative to polyesters made from traditional fossil fuels.

As NatureWorks says in its self-descriptor: “NatureWorks is the first company to offer a family of commercially available…lactides and biopolymers derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources with performance and economics that compete with oil-based intermediates, plastics, and fibers.”

So, methane from, ahem, natural gas? What gives?

In today’s Digest, we explore the Calysta technology, it is “bio” at all?, the deal as seen by the partners, feedstock diversification, the 5-year goal, what Alan Shaw learned from the Shell-Codexis relationship, and the bottom line — by following the page links below.

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