Helena Tavares Kennedy – Biofuels Digest https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest The world's most widely-read advanced bioeconomy daily Thu, 01 Oct 2020 13:32:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 Culture sushi-grade salmon, cultivated lab-beef, Porsche biobased car parts, and more: The Digest’s Top 8 Innovations for the week of October 2nd https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/10/01/culture-sushi-grade-salmon-cultivated-lab-beef-porsche-biobased-car-parts-and-more-the-digests-top-8-innovations-for-the-week-of-october-2nd/ Thu, 01 Oct 2020 13:32:50 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=129082

In San Francisco, startup company Wildtype gives salmon cells nutrients, sugars, salts, amino acids and growth factor to “grow” salmon tissue in its lab. If you are still hungry after that, Netherlands-based Mosa Meat is scaling up their industrial-sized production line to demonstrate the safety of cultivated meat and introduce the first cultivated beef to consumers.

In today’s Digest, it’s not all about food, as we look at iconic sports car maker Porsche now including body parts made from linseed and balsa wood, a biobased fur coat gifted to Sophia Loren by PETA, food packaging made from sugarcane waste, and more…and it’s ready for you now at The Digest online.

New tech converts natural gas to hydrogen at scale anywhere and Plastic-eating enzyme ‘cocktail’ heralds hope for plastic waste https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/29/new-tech-converts-natural-gas-to-hydrogen-at-scale-anywhere-and-plastic-eating-enzyme-cocktail-heralds-hope-for-plastic-waste/ Tue, 29 Sep 2020 04:02:49 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128939

It’s Tuesday and we’ve got two hot-off-the press technologies making news today. And if that isn’t enough Ts in one sentence, they also hit the target in terms of solving today’s tough trials.

Converting otherwise wasted natural gas into high-value hydrogen and acetylene

In Florida, Transform’s patented commercial-scale microwave plasma reactor system accelerates hydrogen infrastructure development and offers the petrochemical industry a path to reducing carbon emissions.

You see, at hydraulic fracking wellheads, natural gas is often flared instead of collected due to its low value — a colossal waste of a natural resource and a significant increase in harmful greenhouse gases. What if natural gas could easily be converted into useful components with immediate, high-value applications?

Today, Transform Materials does just that – transforming the petrochemical industry by converting this abundant resource into two important chemical building-blocks. Rather than use crude oil to make the building blocks for essential products like plastics and pharmaceuticals, Transform Materials’ energy-efficient process instead uses the methane in natural gas, converting it into high-value hydrogen and acetylene using microwave plasma technology.

Transform’s patented conversion process is deceptively simple but took years to perfect. Methane, the key component in natural gas, is usually just burned for heat, combining with oxygen in the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas. Oxidation of methane also introduces impurities in the product stream.

To avoid these undesirable outcomes, methane must be broken down without oxygen. But methane is extremely inert in an oxygen-free environment, and resists chemical reactions. With its innovative technology, Transform Materials breaks down methane and other similar light hydrocarbon gases without oxygen, recombining the resulting fragments into two high-value end products, acetylene and hydrogen. The key to this transformation is a patented microwave plasma reactor system, which generates these new products from methane efficiently, at very high rates of conversion and selectivity.

“Our process is clean and cost-effective, employs robust and off-the-shelf microwave hardware, and requires a relatively compact plant footprint. Also, our reactors can be multiplexed to scale up and meet incremental market demand,” said David Soane Ph.D., CEO of Transform Materials. “We are especially proud of our environmental stewardship; we essentially mop up methane and convert it into useful hydrogen fuel, at the same time locking up carbon in valuable end products.”

Numerous potential downstream industries will benefit

Hydrogen is emerging as an important fuel. For example, Transform Materials can fully utilize coalbed methane from coal mining operators to produce green hydrogen to power heavy equipment and hauling trucks. Fuel-cell vehicle fleet operators can take advantage of distributed manufacturing and strategic siting of refueling stations. For passenger cars, Transform Materials’ technology enables the build-out of crucial hydrogen infrastructure and produces hydrogen using approximately 40% less energy input than conventional methods of production.

For acetylene users, Transform Materials enables on-site production of this important precursor, guaranteeing surety of supply, conveniently and at low cost. Acetylene can be then converted into many derivative chemicals, all possessing high value—in fact, the availability of low-cost acetylene may lead to a renaissance of acetylene use for traditional applications including PVC and acetylene black, while laying the groundwork for new industrial applications.  A notable example is acetylene-led synthesis of lactic acid, which in turn can be easily polymerized into polylactic acid, a biodegradable polymer for packaging applications that can mitigate ocean plastic pollution.

“Transform Materials provides a green alternative to conventional technologies in the hydrogen economy and the petrochemical industry. Our microwave plasma process harnesses the power of natural gas without burning it, a win for the environment as well as for our partners,” added Soane.

Plastic-eating enzyme ‘cocktail’ heralds new hope for plastic waste

The other hot news today is how scientists who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster.

A second enzyme, found in the same rubbish dwelling bacterium that lives on a diet of plastic bottles, has been combined with PETase to speed up the breakdown of plastic.

PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days.

The initial discovery set up the prospect of a revolution in plastic recycling, creating a potential low-energy solution to tackle plastic waste. The team engineered the natural PETase enzyme in the laboratory to be around 20 percent faster at breaking down PET.

Now, the same trans-Atlantic team have combined PETase and its ‘partner’, a second enzyme called MHETase, to generate much bigger improvements: simply mixing PETase with MHETase doubled the speed of PET breakdown, and engineering a connection between the two enzymes to create a ‘super-enzyme’, increased this activity by a further three times.

The team was co-led by the scientists who engineered PETase, Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US.

Professor McGeehan said, “Gregg and I were chatting about how PETase attacks the surface of the plastics and MHETase chops things up further, so it seemed natural to see if we could use them together, mimicking what happens in nature.

“Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them, like two Pac-men joined by a piece of string.

“It took a great deal of work on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was worth the effort – we were delighted to see that our new chimeric enzyme is up to three times faster than the naturally evolved separate enzymes, opening new avenues for further improvements.”

The original PETase enzyme discovery heralded the first hope that a solution to the global plastic pollution problem might be within grasp, though PETase alone is not yet fast enough to make the process commercially viable to handle the tons of discarded PET bottles littering the planet.

Combining it with a second enzyme, and finding together they work even faster, means another leap forward has been taken towards finding a solution to plastic waste.

PETase and the new combined MHETase-PETase both work by digesting PET plastic, returning it to its original building blocks. This allows for plastics to be made and reused endlessly, reducing our reliance on fossil resources such as oil and gas.

Professor McGeehan used the Diamond Light Source, in Oxfordshire, a synchrotron that uses intense beams of X-rays 10 billion times brighter than the Sun to act as a microscope powerful enough to see individual atoms. This allowed the team to solve the 3D structure of the MHETase enzyme, giving them the molecular blueprints to begin engineering a faster enzyme system.

The new research combined structural, computational, biochemical and bioinformatics approaches to reveal molecular insights into its structure and how it functions. The study was a huge team effort involving scientists at all levels of their careers.

The Centre for Enzyme Innovation takes enzymes from the natural environment and, using synthetic biology, adapts them to create new enzymes for industry.


Scotland’s opportunity to grow a new clean, sustainable economy https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/28/scotlands-opportunity-to-grow-a-new-clean-sustainable-economy/ Mon, 28 Sep 2020 19:14:22 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128946

By Mark Bustard, CEO at Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC)

Special to The Digest

The idea of a net zero carbon emissions and zero waste economy isn’t as far-fetched as some may think. The key promise of a bio-based economy is that we can grow the sources of raw materials for every day products. Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is one of the many faces of innovation in the life sciences world. IB offers sustainable, scalable solutions to the current environmental challenges facing many industries.

IBioIC has over 120 member organisations, working across Scotland, the UK and Europe to find innovative solutions to modern problems. Our industry members range from medical biotechnology companies working on protein production through to those developing green solutions in bioenergy and biofuel, that utilise agriculture, marine and forestry derived materials. The projects IBioIC help to deliver are as diverse as taking waste from shellfish and using it to develop sustainable, biodegradable packaging, to fermenting sugar in bioprocesses for the production of high value products like pharmaceuticals and sustainable materials.

Our purpose goes beyond growing the bioeconomy, it is our role to raise awareness of the benefits of transitioning to this sustainable, cleaner future. The move away from using petrochemicals as the main source of our energy and chemicals is something we must do if we are to meet the ambitious net-zero carbon targets in Scotland by 2045 and 2050 in the UK. For this to be economically viable and attractive in the short term there must be proactive and supportive Government policy to propel industry towards solutions provided by the bio-based industries.

Repurposing traditional ‘waste products’ is another great use of IB. Some of our members have developed technology that can repurpose waste from industrial and agricultural processes. The sources and uses are wide-ranging, the likes of salmon feed can be made from algae grown on whisky co-products to reduce carbon emissions. One industry’s waste is another industry’s gold. This approach contributes to growth of a circular economy.

Security of supply is something that as a nation we have recently had a crash course in, or the lack thereof. Supply chains are complex and spread across different nations: some sectors heavily rely on the ability to import goods and services. Reshoring significant parts of supply chains is something that IB can also support. Taking ethanol production for fuel as an example, Scotland imports over 50 million litres annually, to blend into petrol reducing the carbon footprint of that fuel. That ethanol comes entirely from outside of the UK to the benefit of European farmers and processors – and demand will more than double soon as we introduce E10 petrol containing 10% ethanol.  Post-pandemic, we need to build security into key supply chains as part of a sustainable future. We can grow the crops, convert the sugar they contain, and ferment that sugar into ethanol all within 30 miles of the heart of Scotland’s chemical industry in Grangemouth. A significant sugar supply is the foundation of a bio-based manufacturing cluster in Scotland. We can future-proof our manufacturing industries as part of the post-COVID-19 green recovery by embracing scalable biotechnology.

IBioIC has worked tirelessly to build a carefully cultivated network that brings government, industry and academia together. We are currently working with these stakeholders to reintroduce sugar beet to Scotland, which had been a part of the agricultural sector until the 1970’s.  When re-established it will mean there will be a local and reliable source of raw materials that can be converted in biorefineries to sugar, and from that it can be processed into many other materials we need such as ethanol, polymers or even therapeutic proteins. Sugar beet to ethanol is just the start of a journey which will create huge economic opportunities from agriculture to high value manufacturing.

However, difficulty for companies often arises in the jump from R&D to manufacturing. If we are going to grow our industry and meet environmental targets, we must go beyond supporting innovation and development, and incentivise companies to transition to manufacturing through supporting investment in manufacturing infrastructure.

With the right infrastructure, policy and funding environment, we can build a successful bio-based economy that will provide solutions for our clean, low carbon agenda. IB has a lot to offer in creating a sustainable bioeconomy equipped for the future, and innovation is key.

Scientists offer companies novel biobased chemistry for greener polyurethane https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/scientists-offer-companies-novel-biobased-chemistry-for-greener-polyurethane/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:20:34 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128916

In Colorado, through a novel chemistry using nontoxic resources like linseed oil, waste grease, or even algae, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a groundbreaking method for producing renewable polyurethane without toxic precursors.

It is a breakthrough with the potential to green the market for products ranging from footwear, to automobiles, to mattresses, and beyond.

By replacing petroleum-based polyols with select natural oils, and toxic isocyanates with bio-based amino acids, NREL researchers managed to synthesize polymers with properties comparable to conventional polyurethane. In other words, they developed a viable renewable, nontoxic alternative to conventional polyurethane.

In the two short years since they first demonstrated the viability of producing fully renewable, nontoxic polyurethane, several companies have already contributed resources and research partnerships in the push for its commercialization.

Brazil to cut carbon credit goals for fuel distributors https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/brazil-to-cut-carbon-credit-goals-for-fuel-distributors/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:19:37 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128900

In Brazil, Argus Media reports that Brazil’s hydrocarbons regulator ANP will reduce individual carbon credit targets for fuel distribution companies for 2020, after it halved the industry’s overall pre-pandemic target as a result of the economic slowdown.

“Brazil’s energy policy council CNPE slashed the overall 2020 target for the sale of Cbios – financial instruments traded on the B3 exchange that are issued to biofuel producers as carbon credits – to 14.53mn credits from the previous 28.7mn,” according to Argus Media. “The ANP said its next task is to adjust the individual Cbio targets for fuel distributors, which are required to purchase the credits from biofuel producers to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of their fossil fuel sales in the previous calendar year.

DC Circuit hears Growth Energy’s challenge to EPA’s 2019 biofuel mandate, small refinery waivers https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/dc-circuit-hears-growth-energys-challenge-to-epas-2019-biofuel-mandate-small-refinery-waivers/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:19:01 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128896

In Washington, D.C., S&P Global Platts reports that Growth Energy took its challenge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2019 biofuel blending mandate before an appeals court, saying the EPA should have taken small-refinery waivers into account before setting the required volumes.

“A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard the case by teleconference, focusing much of the questioning on whether the complaint was timely and biofuel makers had standing,” according to S&P Global Platts. “A decision is not expected until at least December or January.”

Amoéba postpones biocontrol applications in the U.S., commercialization slightly delayed https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/amoeba-postpones-biocontrol-applications-in-the-u-s-commercialization-slightly-delayed/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:18:21 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128894

In France, Amoéba announces its 2020 half-year results which were in line with those of 2019 and continues to develop its biocide and biocontrol applications, albeit with some areas slightly delayed such as the application for the marketing of the biocide activity in the United States, previously planned for mid-2020 is postponed and will be submitted at the end of 2020.

The commercialization of biocontrol products containing the active substance (amoeba Willaertia magna C2c Maky amoeba lysate) is envisaged by Amoeba in 2024 in Europe and in the first half of 2022 in the United States (submission envisaged in July 2020, postponed to September 2020).

As the Company’s Regulatory Affairs department worked on the marketing authorization of the biocontrol application as a priority, the application for the marketing of the biocide activity in the United States, previously planned for mid-2020 has been postponed and will be submitted at the end of 2020 with a first marketing in the United States estimated for the first half of 2022.

Amoéba is receiving numerous requests to integrate its solution into existing applications (biocide and biocontrol) in new fields.

Pluton Biosciences launches updated services for microbial testing division https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/pluton-biosciences-launches-updated-services-for-microbial-testing-division/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:17:42 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128892

In Missouri, Pluton Biosciences launched a new website, branding and updated services for its microbial testing division, Microbe Inotech Laboratories. Pluton Biosciences acquired the 29-year-old laboratory, which provides environmental pathogen testing and identification, at the start of 2020.

Testing services featured on Microbe Inotech’s new website include:

  • Water Quality – Testing water samples for pathogens such as Legionella, E. coli and Salmonella that can grow undetected in water systems and cause waterborne illnesses.
  • Healthcare – Comprehensive water, air and surface testing for dangerous microbes in healthcare and nursing home facilities.
  • Environmental – Identifying microbial pathogens in the environment through bioremediation, soil, water and mycotoxin testing.
  • Agricultural – Soil testing to evaluate plant-microbe interactions, amendments, herbicides and plant and animal pathogens.
  • Microbial Research and Discovery – Discovering new ways to use bacteria, fungi and viruses to make next-generation products for the pesticide, agriculture, pharma and bioremediation industries through MiL’s parent company Pluton Biosciences.
  • Industrial – Quality screening for microbial contaminants to ensure product quality and to safeguard manufacturing processes and products.
  • Microbial Identification – Utilizing state-of-the-art genomic approaches to identify various types of bacteria, yeast and fungi present in a variety of environmental samples.
Neste MY Renewable Diesel now available at more than 100 sales points in the Netherlands https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/neste-my-renewable-diesel-now-available-at-more-than-100-sales-points-in-the-netherlands/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:17:09 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128890

In the Netherlands, Neste, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel, celebrates reaching the milestone of 100 Neste MY Renewable Diesel sales points in the Netherlands. Neste MY Renewable Diesel, produced from 100% renewable raw materials, was launched on the Dutch market in October 2019.

“We are extremely happy to be reaching this milestone together with our four Dutch distribution partners and all end-customers. Fleet owners and private car owners across the country can now fill up with our high-quality fuel and become fossil free in an instant. Neste MY Renewable Diesel is a drop-in solution, meaning that it can be mixed with fossil diesel, and it does not require modifications to existing diesel engines or infrastructure”, says Pieter Zonneveld, Vice President, Sales Europe & APAC, for Neste’s Renewable Road Transportation business unit.

Cielo issues patent to licensor for its waste to renewable fuels technology https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2020/09/27/cielo-issues-patent-to-licensor-for-its-waste-to-renewable-fuels-technology/ Sun, 27 Sep 2020 15:16:35 +0000 http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/?p=128888

In Canada, Cielo Waste Solutions Corp. said the Canadian Patent and Trademark Office issued a Canadian Patent to 1888711 Alberta Inc., a private Alberta corporation from whom Cielo holds its worldwide exclusive license to its waste to renewable fuels technology.

With the Facility in Aldersyde back in continuous flow production, the JV Companies have informed Cielo that they wish to proceed with the JV Agreements as well as advancing funds to complete the engineering drawings to build five JV Facilities.

Don Allan, President and CEO of Cielo, stated “Having the Canadian and the US patents in-hand, Cielo is extremely well positioned to deploy its technology across North America. Our first commercial facility in Aldersyde, Alberta is continuing to run 24 hours per day making distillate from wood waste. Cielo is gradually increasing the production until we reach the targeted 1,000 lph. With the enhancements now in place at our Aldersyde facility, we are very please that our proposed JV partners wish to move forward with the formation of our joint ventures.”

Cielo will provide additional updates on the JV Agreements as they become available.