Buzzing at BIO’s Pac Rim: The industry chatter

December 11, 2013 |

While the parade of presentations, posters and keynote addresses went on in the main hall and the breakout rooms — as usual, in the hallways, over coffees or drinks, there was often a completely different set of subjects on the minds of delegates.

What happened with KiOR? There was a tremendous buzz about the sudden and barely-explained departure of CFO John Karnes last week, that elicited some “face it, it was unusual language” in the abrupt 8-K that appeared to explain the change in command, and which was missing many of the usual “there were no substantive disagreements” phrases that other CFO departures are couched in.

In the “never let a good explanation get in the way of idle gossip” department, there was speculation about Sapphire Energy’s absence from BIO this year, given that the high-flying company found the Pac Rim Summit right in their back yard. Especially given a pretty big announce of a collaboration with Phillips 66 that was released this week.  There was some buzz as well when Novozymes US President Adam Monroe was a relatively sudden no-show at Pac Rim; Novozymes also was making a big announce this week in its collaboration with Monsanto.

Speaking of “Missing in Action” – there’s been a continuing buzz over the lack of registered RINs coming out of the INEOS Bio plant — and some took a dim view when site manager David King noted in an operational update that “Bringing the facility on-line and up to capacity has taken longer than planned due to several unexpected start-up issues at the Center…These efforts have highlighted some needed modifications and upgrades.” However, we have heard from a source close to the project that RIN registration is not related to any start-up issues — there’s apparently a strategic reason in there somewhere, although our source would not be drawn on specifics. Well, that’s good news. We’ll wait to hear more from INEOS Bio.

Speaking of operational delays, there’s been some buzz this week on the subject of infections. Specifically, the problem of converting over older, smaller ethanol plants to new processes — including, for example, biobutanol. The speculation from old technical hands is that old equipment may be harder to adapt to new processes than is generally thought — not insurmountable, but driving more delays than some optimistic timelines can absorb.

Idea of the week? When large sections of the US government shut down this week owing to a snowstorm, one wag suggested that the US public might think about investing in snow-making machines and parking them at convenient points along Washington DC’s streets. “Now that we have learned more about how to shut down government, maybe we can get more selective and targeted about it.”


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