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Recap: "Optimizing Waste Feedstocks to Advance the Bioeconomy"

December 9, 2014
On Monday, December 8, BIO's Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy held a Track Session titled "Optimizing Waste Feedstocks to Advance the Bioeconomy."  This session was one of the many unique sessions included in the Feedstock Production and Utilization Track.  Tim Cesarek of Enerkem moderated the session and panelists included Tim Hitchman, DSM, Mohamed Leila, McGill, and Brittany Syz, Oberon Fuels, Inc.

Tim Cesarek, head of business development at Enerkem spoke on how the company's plant in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) is the first municipal solid waste to chemicals /biofuels facility in the world.  He discussed key market drivers for making this industry attractive for investment - increased scarcity of urban landfill, low cost feedstock, circular economy and diversion of waste from the landfill.   Cesarek concluded by noting that Enerkem's technology is cost competitive with incineration and serves as a much stronger economical and environmental alternative.

Tim Hitchman of DSM discussed how the company works to secure the value of sustainability and how they see it as a business growth driver.  DSM focuses on the areas of health, nutrition, and materials.  Hitchman made an interesting point that DSM will in fact turn down business opportunities if "they don't think that these opportunities will make the world a better place".  Project Liberty is POET-DSM's ongoing cellulosic bio-ethanol effort taking place in Emmetsburg, Iowa.  This facility uses corn stover residue and turns it into cellulosic biofuel.  Hitchman argued on behalf of bio-ethanol stating that it can boost the bioeconomy, create job opportunities and have a low environmental impact.  He concluded by discussing how oil processing losses are unsustainable and why biobased products can serve as cleaner, more sustainable alternatives.

Brittany Syz, general council and vp of business development at Oberon Fuels spoke on how the company's technology uses such feedstocks as biogas and natural gas to convert methane and carbon dioxide into Dimethyl ether (DME).  Syz discussed how this conversion occurs as part of a small-scale process, allowing the company to circumvent the financial, infrastructure, and permitting challenges that large-scale projects confront.  She noted that Oberon units have the capacity to produce 3,000 - 10,000 gallons of DME per day to service the agriculture, transportation and construction markets.  Syz remarked on how DME has diesel and propane-like handling.  She concludes by commenting while this technology has yet to be commercialized it has made much progress - fuel grade DME, DME powered trucks, achieved ASTM standard and is under review by the EPA.

Mohamed Leila's presentation,"Optimization of Military Waste-to-Jet Fuel Supply Chain in Nevada," covered his current work as a PhD candidate at McGill.  He first discussed the general problem of oil dependency.  Biojet fuels are more sustainable than conventional oil production he argued.  Leila discussed how the optimal design of the structure to convert waste to fuel is one that maximizes profits through efficient feedstocks.  He concluded his remarks by noting the demand for biofuel in military.  Leila spoke of an U.S. Air Force mandate that requires by 2016 that 50% of its jet fuel must be from renewable sources.  A similar mandate was issued by the U.S. Navy which requires 50% of its fuel must come from renewable resources by 2020.

Continue to check back with BIOtechNOW for more blogs highlighting the plenaries and track sessions that took place during the 2014 #BIOPacRim.