Amyris accelerates renewable diesel, biobased chemicals efforts

By Bryan Sims | July 27, 2011

Amyris Inc. continues its aggressive strategy for commercializing its signature platform chemical, a biobased version of farnesene—trademarked Biofene—and related derivatives made from plant-based sugars that can be converted into various hydrocarbon molecules for fuels or chemicals. The firm’s most recent spate of announcements only deepens its traction in the global biorefining sector.

First, Amyris and Swiss fragrance and flavors manufacturer Firmenich expanded their collaboration agreement to include a third ingredient for the flavors and fragrances market. The goal of the Amyris-Firmenich collaboration is to promote long-term interests of the flavors and fragrances markets by providing sustainable, cost-competitive ingredients. Under terms of the agreement, Amyris intends to manufacture and supply key ingredients, such as Biofene, to Firmenich, and Firmenich will market and distribute them exclusively in the flavors and fragrances market. Both parties will share in the economic value derived from these ingredients.

“We are very pleased with the progress of our collaboration with Amyris,” said Patrick Firmenich, CEO of Firmenich. “Innovation and sustainability are integral components of our company philosophy and this expanded partnership with Amyris will continue our commitment to provide high-quality ingredients to the flavors and fragrances market.”

Concurrent to its expanded partnership with Firmenich, Amyris commissioned its second industrial-scale Biofene production facility located in Leon, Spain, owned by Antibioticos S.A. Amyris, expanding its Biofene production capacity to two commercial facilities on two continents. Amyris is currently producing Biofene using its equipment at a facility owned by Biomin do Brasil Nutricao Animal Ltda., in Piracicaba, Brazil. Amyris intends to sell Biofene directly for use in industrial applications or to apply simple chemical finishing steps to Biofene to form a broad range of renewable products, including squalane, base oil and finished lubricants and diesel.

“We are pleased to ramp up Biofene volume with our second commercial production facility,” said John Melo, CEO of Amyris. “We are seeing strong customer demand for squalane and our renewable diesel and this increase in production also supports our expected near-term commercialization of Amyris base oils.”

In addition to its contract manufacturing agreements with Antibioticos and Biomin, Amyris also has its equipment at host sites with Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas Inc., an affiliate of Tate & Lyle PLC and a joint venture with Usina Sao Martinho, one of the largest sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil. Amyris also established chemical finishing capabilities under a production agreement with Glycotech Inc., a subsidiary of Salisbury Partners LLC, at a facility in Leland, N.C.

Subsequently, Amyris’ Brazilian subsidiary, Amyris Brasil Ltda., intends to supply renewable diesel during a 12-month fleet test that involves 20 city buses in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The renewable fuel derived from sugarcane, known locally as Diesel de Cana, will be blended at a 30 percent rate with petroleum-based diesel and used in Mercedes-Benz buses operated by Viacao Saens Pena, a Rio de Janeiro-based bus operator. The Rio transportation federation, FETRANSPORT, will use the data collected during this fleet test to evaluate the engine and environmental benefits of Amyris’ renewable diesel. The results of the fleet test will be revealed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

The city of Rio de Janeiro has more than 8,000 buses that consume about 280 million liters of diesel per year. The Rio fleet test is expected to validate the significant reduction of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions evidenced in recent Mercedes-Benz engine tests with a 30 percent blend of Amryis’ renewable diesel.

“Rio’s government and public transportation authorities are committed to leading by example in addressing climate change and Amyris, along with partners Mercedes-Benz, Petrobras, Michelin and BNDES, is honored to play a role in addressing Rio’s transportation needs,” said Paulo Diniz, president of Amyris Brasil. “We are ready to meet the growing demand for sugarcane-derived renewable fuels in Rio as the city prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.”

The supply agreement with the Rio bus fleet follows on the most recent coattails of Amyris Brasil’s previously announced commitment to supply renewable diesel to an expected 160 city buses in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo operated by the Viacao Santa Brigida. Beginning in August, the buses will run on a 10 percent blend of Amyris renewable diesel, with the remaining balance made up of biodiesel and petroleum diesel supplied by Petrobras Distribuidora. Amyris’ supply contract with Petrobras extends out to the end of 2012.

Finally, Boeing, Embraer and the Inter-American Development Bank intend to jointly fund a sustainability analysis of producing renewable jet fuel sourced from Brazilian sugarcane. The groundbreaking study will be focused on evaluating the environmental and market conditions associated with the use of renewable jet fuel produced by Amyris. World Wildlife Fund will serve as independent reviewer and advisor.

The study will be led by ICONE, a research think-tank in Brazil with extensive experience in agriculture and biofuel analysis, and independently reviewed by WWF. Scheduled for completion in early 2012, the study will include a complete lifecycle analysis of the emissions associated with Amyris’ renewable jet fuel, including indirect land use change and effects. Additionally, the study will include benchmarking of sugarcane-derived renewable jet fuel against major sustainability standards, including the Bonsucro, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the IDB Biofuel Scorecard.

Collaborative research into the sugarcane-to-jet fuel pathway is important for diversifying aviation’s fuel supplies and also builds on the strong renewable energy cooperation established between the U.S. and Brazil,” according to Boeing Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy Billy Glover. “With aviation biofuel now approved for use in commercial jetliners, understanding and ensuring the sustainability of sources that can feed into region supply chains is critical and Brazil has a strong role to play there. This project also expands upon existing collaboration between Amyris, the State of Government of Queensland and Boeing.”


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