Warm spring-like weather welcomed participants to the 4th Annual Next Generation Bio-Based Chemicals Summit at the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar. As a Platinum Sponsor of this premier event, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C) professionals participated in four major events at the Summit. Attendees from many countries enjoyed the opportunity to become updated on the latest technologies and business developments in a well-organized program consisting of two days of concurrent pre-summit symposia ('Molecules to Market' and 'BioManufacturing & Scale-Up') followed by the two-day 'Bio-Based Chemicals Summit.' These are described below.
The Bio-Based Chemicals Summit brought together business leaders and advisors to discuss significant current topics in biobased chemical products development. An expert panel moderated by B&C's Dr. John Thorne discussed the competitive status of cellulosic feedstocks; transportation and storage logistics challenges; wavering political and financial support in U.S. farm and bioenergy policies; and the likely impacts of cheap natural gas on the price-competitiveness of cellulosic feedstocks.
Other panels discussed the status of genetic manipulation of feedstock sources and provided case studies of commercial cellulosic feedstock production. Recovered value from waste streams was the subject of another panel, for example, recycled corrugated cardboard is chemically converted in two steps to a single aromatic chemical product of high value; methane from anaerobic digestion of animal wastes or wastewater is converted to chemical intermediates; and rapid production of pyrolysis oil from a wide range of biomass and other sources. Start-up speakers repeatedly emphasized the critical value, expertise, and market access gained from downstream partnerships and joint ventures with major companies, providing research expertise and funding from off-take agreements. A panel of speakers representing major global brands discussed views and initiatives to spur market adoption of biobased products, consumer perceptions, and marketplace demand. A common theme among speakers was there is no 'green' premium, and that biobased products and feedstocks must compete with traditional products on price and performance all along the supply chain.
A panel featuring a number of start-ups pursuing the production of drop-in chemicals that exactly replace petroleum-based intermediates discussed their business status, joint venturing with chemical majors, project financing, and feedstock price volatility and logistics. Specialty chemicals producers also discussed their unique, high value products, often produced in batch quantities for eager customers. Customers of one such specialty chemical company have built batch-sized production plants as bolt-on facilities at their factories, with off-take agreements for at least half of the annual production. These speakers identified regulatory policy challenges as critical to their success, and expressed hope that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) will be reformed to reduce their burden of bringing new molecules to market. Earlier in the day, Lisa R. Burchi, B&C, on behalf of Lynn L. Bergeson, examined global regulatory challenges and outlined strategies for converting challenges into commercial opportunities. Ms. Bergeson's presentation is available online.
The Molecules to Market Pre-Summit Symposium allowed participants to experience real-world case studies, differing strategies for taking products from the laboratory to the consumer, and increasing market penetration of biobased chemicals and materials. These included presentations from major brand owners, manufacturers, and downstream processors, as well as numerous technology start-ups. Major automobile and computer manufacturers discussed their use of biobased materials for product components that withstand harsh operating environments, provide excellent performance over long lifetimes, and provide significantly reduced environmental footprints. Others spoke of products and technologies from biobased materials with increased renewability, recyclability and biodegradability, and reduced toxicity. A major theme of symposium speakers from smaller companies was the tremendous value that well-established downstream partners are providing for bringing new biobased materials to market. Other speakers stressed that to connect with end-users, applications developers must aim for large, addressable markets, among which are composites and coatings, industrial manufactured intermediates, and packaging. But to reach the aim, developers must offer biobased alternatives at cost-parity with petroleum-based products, close performance gaps, and advance biobased products beyond their reputation as merely 'green.' Keynoter James V. Aidala, B&C Senior Government Consultant, identified federal government policies and regulatory challenges confronting biobased chemicals producers and the strategies needed to succeed in commercializing products. Mr. Aidala discussed the current Washington, D.C. political climate, and pointed out that the regulatory infrastructure under TSCA is antiquated and presents commercial challenges for businesses. Careful review of the chemical identity of renewable feedstocks is essential to ensure time consuming regulatory approvals are not required before commercialization. Failure to procure these approvals can significantly delay distribution of products in commerce. Mr. Aidala's presentation is available online.
The BioManufacturing & Scale-Up Pre-Summit Symposium provided strategic wisdom and tactical know-how to aspiring biobased technology companies for scale-up from bench scale production to pilot scale and then to commercial volumes. Experienced industry consultants, engineering companies, larger chemical manufacturers, and first wave bioplastics producers shared their best insights and case studies to help assess markets, remove business risks, and guide projects to successful scale-up. Presentations by a mix of start-ups entering the demonstration phase and project financiers discussed different types of finance mechanisms available, the benefits and risks of leveraging government loans and grants, and strategies in working with engineering, procurement, and construction contractors to ensure successful construction and operation of the new project. Sustainability speakers discussed some possible unanticipated risks from production contaminants and waste stream components, and how companies can use life cycle assessment (LCA) to help avoid unpleasant surprises in determining a product's sustainability. Keynoter Charles Auer, consultant to B&C, identified critical regulatory issues pertinent to renewable, biobased chemical feedstocks that manufacturers must anticipate and address to ensure scaling-up manufacturing operations progress as planned. A copy of Mr. Auer's presentation is available online.
If you would like to receive all of the presentations from the 4th Annual Next Generation Bio-Based Chemicals Summit, please send a request to Chad Howlin at email@example.com.
Stay on Top of Biobased Issues as Part of the Biobased Products Advocacy Consortium (B2PAC)
B&C, through its affiliate B&C Consortia Management, L.L.C., launched B2PAC in 2012 to help members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. Members receive strategic insight into regulatory and legislative topics that are critical to their businesses, and collectively provide an informed advocacy voice for policy change. B2PAC's focus issues include building regulatory awareness of biobased chemicals and seeking regulatory relief in key compliance areas; navigating TSCA requirements; and engaging in the legislative process to advocate for the biobased products industry. For more information, contact Kathleen M. Roberts, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.b2pac.org. You can follow B2PAC's tweets of biobased news and policy developments at twitter.com/Biobasedpolicy.