Biofuels Digest The world's most widely-read advanced bioeconomy daily Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:21:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Researchers now know more about the catalyst for the production of methanol Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:21:12 +0000

In Germany, a research team from the Ruhr University Bochum and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion showed for the first time that the zinc component of the active center is positively charged and that the catalyst even has two copper-based active centers, giving insight into methanol production.

“The condition of the zinc component at the active site has been the subject of controversy since the catalyst was introduced in the 1960s. From our findings we can now derive numerous ideas on how we can optimize the catalytic converter in the future”, summarizes Prof. Dr. Martin Muhler, Head of the Chair of Technical Chemistry at the RUB and Max Planck Fellow at the MPI CEC.

The work was embedded in the Carbon-2-Chem project, which aims to use steel mill gases from steel production for the production of chemicals and thus to reduce CO 2 emissions. Steel mill gases could also be used as a starting material for sustainable methanol synthesis, together with electrolytically produced hydrogen. As part of the Carbon-2-Chem project, the research team recently investigated how impurities in steel mill gases, such as those produced in the coking plant or blast furnace, affect the catalyst. This work finally made it possible to gain knowledge about the structure of the active center.


Indonesia Picks Up Allies In WTO Palm Fight Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:19:28 +0000

In Indonesia, the Palm Oil Monitor reports that Indonesia has picked up a number of allies in its battle with the EU over the bloc’s ban of palm oil in its renewable energy scheme. An additional 18 countries have reserved their rights to participate in the proceedings as third parties, including palm producers Malaysia, Thailand, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia, and major agricultural exporters United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

There is also interest from Norway, which has made similar moves to block palm oil from its renewables programs. China is also a third party to the dispute; recycled cooking oil exports to the EU have increased significantly over recent years, and China will take interest in any potential certification barriers in the EU.

Interest from the US, in particular, is of note in light of recent comments by US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who took the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy to task in a recent debate.

Perdue stated that “as proposed, the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies will be extremely trade prohibitive and jeopardize agricultural output … When innovative tools are taken away from a farmer, the only choice is protectionism, which isn’t healthy for Europe, the US, or anywhere else in the world. Walled-off protectionist strategies only take us back, not forward.”

PowerCell participates in EU project to develop and operate refuse truck with fuel cells Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:16:58 +0000

In Sweden, PowerCell Sweden AB will participate in an EU project that will develop and operate a refuse truck with fuel cells for Renova AB, an environmental enterprise within recycling and waste management, to help the City of Gothenburg increase testing of hydrogen fueled refuse trucks.

The truck and its operation will be partly funded by the EU project REVIVE which has an objective to accelerate the development of hydrogen fueled refuse trucks in Europe.

According to PowerCell, hydrogen fuel cell trucks have a comparable driving range, refuelling time and payload capacity to diesel-powered trucks while producing less noise and emitting only water vapor which are welcomed advantages for refuse trucks operating in residential areas with early morning collection times.

Both PowerCell and Renova have recently been approved as project partners in the EU project REVIVE, Refuse Vehicle Innovation and Validation in Europe, which will partly fund the fuel cell integration and operation of the new refuse truck. This project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No.779589.  This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research. For further details, please visit the REVIVE project website

PNNL offers entire patented tech portfolio at no cost until end of 2020 Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:14:22 +0000

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is offering its entire portfolio of patented technologies on a research trial basis—at no cost—to spur economic development and ultimately create new jobs.

Dozens of technologies could be deployed across U.S. markets spanning everything from analytical instruments, human health and agriculture to advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity and renewable energy. Through the six-month trial period, businesses can try out PNNL’s technologies.

Some of PNNL’s intellectual property could be applied to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, one of the most recent additions to the portfolio is a coating called ElastiDry. This inexpensive and stretchable superhydrophobic material could be included during the manufacture of latex gloves—or other protective clothing—to make personal protective equipment impenetrable to deadly viruses.

From now through December 31, 2020, the standard $1,000 fee will be waived for organizations and entrepreneurs interested in signing a nonexclusive exploratory license agreement, which means more than one organization can hold a license for the same technology. The agreement allows entrepreneurs and organizations to test a technology within their own product lines before entering into a formal licensing agreement.

To learn more, visit PNNL’s Exploratory License page.

Novozymes delivers solid first half-year of 2020 considering COVID-19 challenges Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:12:18 +0000

In Denmark, with 4% organic growth in first half-year of 2020, Novozymes delivered a solid first half-year performance despite headwinds in the Bioenergy business. Novozymes’ biggest business area, Household Care, performed very well with sales growth of 11%, Food & Beverages grew by 7%, and Agriculture grew by 17%, while Bioenergy and Technical & Pharma both declined significantly by 15% and 22%, respectively.

Novozymes’ overall organic growth for first half-year of 2020 was 4% with a preliminary EBIT margin of ~27.5% (Q2 ~26%). In the second quarter of 2020, overall organic sales declined by 2% compared with the same period last year.

“I’m satisfied with our development in the first half-year of 2020,” says Ester Baiget, CEO and president of Novozymes. “We saw growth in our two biggest business areas and delivered a solid half-year performance.”

The world continues to be impacted by COVID-19, as is Novozymes. In the second quarter, Novozymes experienced a steep decline in its U.S. Bioenergy business as stay-at-home restrictions led to a sharp drop in gasoline consumption. Our Technical & Pharma business also declined in the second quarter as the textile industry remained under severe pressure. The downside was partially balanced by strong performance in Household Care, Agriculture & Feed and Food & Beverages. The overall second quarter results reflect the strengths of our product portfolio.

On April 7, Novozymes suspended its guidance for 2020 due to increased volatility from COVID-19. Novozymes 2020 outlook remains suspended.

“We continue to operate under difficult conditions and with little visibility because of COVID-19. Our priority is the safety of our employees and to be there for our customers. The solid results during the first half of 2020 makes me proud of the commitment from our employees,” says Ester Baiget. “Novozymes is here for the long run, and the recent acquisition of PrecisionBiotics is a testimony that we keep investing in our future and our strategy.”

RSB launches new engagement in China’s sustainable aviation fuel market Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:10:36 +0000

In Switzerland, as part of their global drive to support the aviation industry in achieving decarbonization through the use of alternative sustainable aviation fuels, RSB is turning its attention to China. In a project made possible by the ClimateWorks Foundation, RSB is working with MotionECO, to develop a roadmap for SAF in China to help guide the trajectory of growth along a sustainable path.

With a domestic aviation market that is predicted to be the world’s largest by 2028 and overall industry growth in the country anticipated to outpace global levels annually until at least 2038, China will be key to unlocking global sustainability in aviation.

Combining RSB’s long-term global expertise with MotionECO’s local experience and hands-on capability, this initiative will assess the current status and potential of SAF in China, map key national and international stakeholders, and ultimately stimulate the development of a SAF roadmap via stakeholder workshop at the end of the year. The SAF roadmap is expected to advise on sustainability, feedstock, technical and policy pathways that will support the sustainable growth of the Chinese aviation sector.

Focusing on the SAF sector, RSB’s CORSIA Standard, which will be used to certify CORSIA eligible fuels, has been submitted to ICAO for recognition.

AgBiome gets new CFO, secures patent protection for new microbiome crop product Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:09:31 +0000

In North Carolina, AgBiome, a developer of products from the Earth’s microbial communities, received a patent directed toward the Connate product line granted in the United States, which harnesses the power of the plant microbiome to create biologicals crop protection. AgBiome also has a new CFO, Gerald Coward, who was the former CFO at the Fresh Food Group and Driscoll’s of the Americas.

gBiome®, a leader in developing innovative products from the Earth’s microbial communities, announced Gerald Coward has joined the company as its Chief Financial Officer. Gerald will lead the finance team from the company’s headquarters in Research Triangle Park, NC, effective immediately.

“Microbiomes hold the solutions to many problems facing agriculture and food production. AgBiome has addressed these issues by assembling an extensive, continuously growing microbial collection, data science infrastructure, and screening platform, GENESIS™, from which we discover and develop our innovative crop protection biological products,” Eric Ward, co-founder of AgBiome said. “This most recent patent toward the Connate product line reinforces AgBiome’s focus on harnessing the power of the plant microbiome to create new, efficacious products,” added Ward.

AgBiome’s patent estate provides protection throughout the depth of the AgBiome crop protection R&D pipeline. As the pipeline identifies novel bacterial strains that possess fungicidal, insecticidal, and/or nematicidal activity, AgBiome continues to file patent applications to protect these valuable assets. To date, AgBiome has 264 pending U.S. and international patent applications, with 28 issued or granted US or foreign patents.

REG reports $546M revenues on 183M gallons of fuel sold Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:07:35 +0000

In Iowa, Renewable Energy Group, Inc. reported revenues for the second quarter 2020 were $546 million on 183 million gallons of fuel sold. Net income from continuing operations available to common stockholders was $1 million in the second quarter of 2020, compared to a net loss of $58 million in the second quarter of 2019.

REG also reported an Adjusted EBITDA of $8 million ($99 million for the first half), and carbon reduction from REG produced fuels of over one million metric tons.

The net loss in the second quarter of 2019 does not include the Biodiesel Mixture Excise Tax Credit (“BTC”) allocation, which was retroactively reinstated in December 2019. Adjusted EBITDA in the second quarter was $8 million, compared to $36 million in the second quarter of 2019 including the allocation of the BTC.

“With $99 million of Adjusted EBITDA, our financial performance for the first half of 2020 was relatively strong despite the oil price war, the impact of the historic pandemic and resulting volatile energy market,” said Cynthia (CJ) Warner, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We continued our focus on optimizing the underlying operational performance of our business while maintaining the health and safety of our employees.”

Warner continued, “With the impacts of the pandemic on our business beginning to subside, the feedstock complex and energy markets improved since late April, as represented by improved margins. In spite of the significant April and May headwinds, we are pleased with what we were able to deliver in the first half of 2020, and intend to build on those results.”

Frontiers in the Bioeconomy: The Digest’s 2020 Multi-Slide Guide to Praj’s Bio-Mobility, 2G Ethanol & Renewable Chem Sun, 09 Aug 2020 23:02:14 +0000

At ABLC Digital in July, Pramod Kumbhar, President and CTO at Praj Matrix’s R&D Center shared this illuminating slide guide on their Bio-Mobility platform, enfinity – Praj’s 2G ethanol technology, their latest work in marine biofuels, sustainable aviation fuel, renewable natural gas, and biodiesel, demo plant, the next frontier of renewable chemicals and materials, and more.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…Amyris turns to face the strange with sugarcane-derived squalene vaccine adjuvant Sun, 09 Aug 2020 16:11:14 +0000

COVID-19 has changed the way we do things…like drink more alcohol, wash our hands more, wear a mask, limit our gatherings and trips, but positive things have come about too. More time to connect with friends and family via online tools, a new respect for healthcare, agriculture and other essential workers, breathing cleaner air, and finding new ways to connect, entertain and innovate. Even in the bioeconomy, companies are doing the “pandemic pivot” and creating innovations to improve our future.

We’ve covered how the ethanol industry jumped in to save the day with hand sanitizer production, but today we look at how bioinnovator, Amyris, is taking a different approach to fighting COVID-19.

In today’s Digest, how Amyris reminds us of David Bowie’s “Changes” song and how they are ‘turning to face the strange’ with their sugarcane-derived squalene vaccine adjuvant, how their business is not only surviving but thriving in today’s changing world, and more.

Fighting back with vaccines

First, let’s start with the big news from Amyris that they signed a binding term sheet for a planned COVID-19 RNA (ribonucleic acid) vaccine technology program with The Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI).

The program combines IDRI’s expertise in combating infectious diseases with Amyris’ fermentation platform technology, with the goal to create semi-synthetic squalene-based adjuvants at scale. IDRI’s RNA vaccine platform is expected to offer significant differentiated advantages over other RNA vaccines currently in development and will be further enhanced by a scalable Amyris adjuvant.

The Critical Role of Adjuvants in Vaccines

Adjuvants are added to vaccines as an excipient to enhance their effectiveness and are typically sourced from shark-based squalene, a non-sustainable and non-scalable resource. Amyris’ fermentation technology, which replaces shark-derived squalene with lower cost sugarcane-derived squalene, is capable of delivering greater availability facilitating access to adjuvants by large parts of the population. Amyris’ squalene is targeted to be functionally identical to shark-based squalene and will be certified as such as one of the last steps to commercialization.

“The combination of IDRI’s leading RNA vaccine platform technology combined with Amyris’ sustainably-derived adjuvant has the potential to lead on efficacy for a COVID-19 vaccine solution and potentially play a major role in other vaccine solutions to help mitigate potential future pandemics,” said IDRI’s CEO Dr. Corey Casper. “Without adjuvants, vaccines are not maximally effective, and a shortage of existing shark-based adjuvant supply could prove devastating in the future, underlining the importance of this anticipated partnership.”

“We are pleased to partner with IDRI to combat COVID-19 and deliver a significant breakthrough for vaccine technology into the future,” said John Melo, Amyris President and CEO. “We believe synthetic biology can play a significant role in scaling vaccines and therapies that meet the needs of global health crises. Making the world’s rarest chemistry available and affordable has been Amyris’ purpose since its founding in 2003. Soon after its founding Amyris partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and created an alternative supply source through fermentation for artemisinin, a first-line treatment for malaria that is still recommended by the World Health Organization today. Many organizations are working toward a COVID-19 vaccine solution, with uncertain outcomes. IDRI’s expertise in vaccines combined with our leading synthetic biology platform presents a real opportunity to deliver the most scalable and highest efficacy vaccine for COVID-19. We are focused on a second-generation solution that is better performing and can deliver a sustainable platform for vaccines to address future pandemics. We expect first commercial supply of our leading vaccine adjuvant by the end of this year and, assuming successful trials, could have a successful vaccine platform next year.”

Amyris and IDRI anticipate executing a comprehensive agreement after which additional details of the proposed program will be disclosed. In the interim, work on advancing the vaccine is continuing to ensure accelerated time to market.

Not just surviving but thriving

And while many biofuel, biomaterial, biochemical and other bio-related companies are struggling, Amyris has had a solid first half of 2020. They just announced their second quarter 2020 results demonstrating a record quarter for consumer brands with 3X revenue growth, the lowest cash operating expenses in five quarters, and $200 million private placement that significantly reduced debt and debt servicing expense.

Here are some more of their Q2 2020 highlights:

  • Completed $200 million private placement during Q2; largest raise in the history of the company.
  • Reduced debt by $121 million or 40% since start of 2020. Improves H2 2020 debt servicing cash costs by $30 million.
  • Q2 Recurring Revenue for Consumer & Ingredients of $26 million more than doubled YOY. Record quarter for Consumer brands with revenue tripling YOY from strong online sales. Ingredients Revenue grew in excess of 50% year-over-year.
  • Cash Operating Expenses of $43 million were the lowest in the five sequential quarters and down 6% versus prior year. Lower G&A and R&D expense was partly reinvested in consumer brands.
  • Signed commercial partnership for Purecane™ in commercial baking applications with AB Mauri.
  • Signed term sheet for a scientific partnership with Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) to create RNA vaccine platform.

Reaction from the stakeholders

Our business and our people have shown strong resilience during these unprecedented times. Keeping everyone safe has been our number one priority while continuing to grow revenue and improve operations. COVID has certainly had an impact in how we operate the business. For example, COVID has impacted progress with third party manufacturing,” said John Melo, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Lower consumer revenue from store closures was mitigated by consumers transitioning online. Our consumer brands saw record revenue in the quarter and, for the first time, was equal in size to our ingredients portfolio. We expect second half consumer revenue to more than double that of the first half of this year. This shift in our portfolio will continue with significantly larger sustainable and predictable product revenue relative to collaboration programs.”

Continued Melo, “We have executed on commercial and scientific strategic partnerships such as Purecane in commercial baking applications with AB Mauri and to create an RNA vaccine platform with IDRI. Our focus on improvement of operational economics as it relates to scale-up of both new ingredients and our young brands continues, and we made significant progress on improving our capital structure. During Q2, we raised $200 million from a private placement with high-quality investors of which 70% were new and 90% with a health care, biotechnology and/or long orientation.”

Strategic Priorities

The strategic priorities Amyris set out at the start of 2020 support their goals for growth, sustained cash generation, and profitability.

Strategic Priorities Q2 Progress
1 High growth consumer brands · Record quarter for Consumer brands with revenue tripling YOY from strong online sales

· Pipette brand grew 10X versus Q1 2020

2 Scientific and commercial collaboration · Commercial partnership with AB Mauri for Purecane in commercial baking applications

· Scientific partnership with IDRI for rights to their RNA vaccine platform

3 Supply chain optimization · Continued production efficiencies with squalane for Clean Beauty and Personal Care

· 60% higher ingredients production output in H1 and improved unit costs

· Advanced squalene adjuvant to commercial scale-up

· Construction of our Brazil plant continues with full commissioning expected by Q4 of 2021

4 Improved balance sheet, earnings and cash flow · Completed $200 million private placement

· Reduced debt by $121 million or 40% since start of 2020. Improves H2 2020 cash debt servicing by $30 million


Full Year 2020 Outlook

When looking to the future, no one can predict what it holds but Amyris notes “Based on current estimates, the full year Sales Revenue target indicates approximately 44% growth versus 2019 GAAP sales revenue of $153 million, and approximately 80% versus 2019 recurring sales of $104 million. Based on expected sales mix, Gross Margin is expected to be between 55-60% of revenue. Adjusted EBITDA is expected to turn positive during Q4 of this year. COVID continues to present significant uncertainties to which we do not have full visibility.”

Bottom Line

While most companies in the bioeconomy are throwing out the crystal ball completely, it doesn’t mean companies are just giving up on predicting what might happen and preparing for all sorts of scenarios. And that’s what sets successful companies apart from others – the savviness to work with the current situation and make the best of it, going outside the box or comfort zone to come up with creative ways to survive the current time, and the vision to consider possible future challenges, creating scenarios and action items for each of them and being prepared yet adaptable and flexible for whatever may come.

So whether you prefer the classic David Bowie “Ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-changes” song or the more modern Sigma version “This ain’t what I signed up too, This ain’t right, it’s no good, No good, oh, Everything is changing”, remember that while there are lots of changes going on, some of them are good.