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ABLC 2019 Round-Up

Agriculture, Aviation Fuel (Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)), BioChemicals/Renewable Chemicals, Biofuels Digest Conferences, BioRefineries/Renewable Fuel Production, Business News/Analysis, Carbon Capture, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Agency/Executive Branch, Federal Litigation, Federal Regulation, Funding/Financing/Investing, Green Jobs, India, Marketing/Markets and Sales, Navy, Opinions, Policy, Presentations, Process, R & D Focus, Washington, White House
April 8, 2019

by Helena Tavares Kennedy (Biofuels Digest)  … ABLC 2019 kicked off on Wednesday with about 540 delegates in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Agriculture building complete with secret service protection and escorts for some big-name super star speakers, with a pretty exciting vibe in the room.

In ABLC terms, nothing moved up so dramatically this year as much as the numbers of strategics from oil companies, which doubled to more than 30 delegates, and financial industry professionals, which also were up sharply in attendance though almost nothing from private equity, family offices and independent High Net Worths.

The Times Have Found You and Caught Up with your Vision,” said former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in his opening keynote as the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference got underway.

Wednesday afternoon, the Digest introduced U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue who took the stage and observed, “I love risk takers, entrepreneurs like all of you here. Taking products from agriculture, new developments, and creating jobs in rural America, support bioeconomy that you are all creators.”

Celebrations, awards, and networking were the themes of ABLC 2019’s Day 2 over to the Mayflower Hotel that started with a Domestic Policy Forum – very appropriate for a conference in D.C. and considering policy affects everything we all do. Talk of refinery waivers was one of the big issues buzzing around the room – in fact, 4 of the 6 panelists are suing the EPA.

Hope. We had hope and very positive messages from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa who accepted the Holmberg Award for Lifetime Achievement. Senator Grassley told the ABLC audience we have a job to do and that is to remind those who don’t like alternative energy of how good it is. And don’t worry, we won’t be alone. “My work in this area is not done,” said Senator Grassley.

“Homegrown renewable fuels are good for the consumer, good for the environment, good for rural America, good for economics, good for national security and energy independence…nothing negative in my opinion. Like that Campbell’s soup song – good, good, good,” said Senator Grassley.

It was an award-filled day. The Global Bioeconomy Leadership Award went to POET CEO, Jeff Broin, whose inspirational message was that we have “nearly endless opportunities” and shared not just the business aspects of what POET has done but the human aspect behind what they do and why they do it, as well as their “Seeds of change” project that is changing lives around the globe.

The afternoon was marked with various breakout sessions that got into the nitty gritty on renewable chemicals, sustainable aviation, advanced biofuels, finance and investment, digital biology, sustainable technologies, regulatory issues, and hot technologies.

Speaking of hot technologies, the day ended with much fanfare and celebration for the 2019 “50 Hottest Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy” rankings. LanzaTech took the #1 spot again – it was third year at the top for LanzaTech, which also ranked #1 last year. Renewable Energy Group (#2), Ginkgo BioWorks (#3), Amyris (#4), Enerkem, (#5), Beyond Meat (#6), Genomatica (#7), Praj Industries (#8), Impossible Foods (#9) rand Fulcrum BioEnergy (#10() rounded out the top 10. Get the scoop on all Top 50 companies here.

A farm crisis is brewing fast, the likes we have not seen since the 1980s, and the policymakers have much to answer for in conjuring up the cocktail of bad policies in trade and energy policy that are sowing the winds afore the 2020 Presidential election cycle, though exactly who will rep the whirlwind remains to be seen.

Thought we noted all the high-level policy advisors and biofuels producers huddled in conclave and we expect that a dramatic shift in policy — away from the “educate and persuade” approach of the past two years — is imminent.

Meanwhile, there was buzz over the proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard in Washington state, and a provision inserted by that state’s Senate Transport committee that would allow obligated parties to opt out of compliance for a flat fee of $6 per ton of CO2 emitted. Which is sort of like allowing Americans to opt-out of complying with speed limits near schoolyards or an annual price of one dollar — it’s not the revenue implication, it’s the danger to public safety that is on the table. We hear that the bill may have to be amended on the Senate floor.

Rina Singh, recently with BIO’s Industrial & Environment section, has been tapped at the new VP for Policy of the Alternative Fuel & Chemical Coalition (AFCC), which in many ways has been formed to make a policy push for sustainable aviation fuels.

… GranBio VP Ken Hill took the ABLC stage to clarify. American Process remains an independent company and will continue to compete in all its markets except we believe nanocellulose, and will retain some access to the R&D facility API built in Georgia. What GranBio has acquired is a whole raftful of intellectual property relating to cellulosic ethanol and other product sets including nanocellulose.

He (former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Vice Admiral (ret.) Phil Cullom) warned about the potential for U.S. security exposure along the north of Alaska as an Arctic sea lane opens. Looking at his eloquent enumeration of the cost advantages of moving goods from Europe and Asia to the Americas via the polar sea, we noted how much more narrow is the Bering Strait between the U.S. and Russia than the Strait of Hormuz — another risk point for the North Pacific as if we needed one as tensions continue to simmer in the South China Sea.

…(F)former CIA Director Jim Woolsey took the stage to warn dramatically against centering too many U.S. assets around the electric grid, championing them of energy diversification in the name of resilience, ….

On Friday, ABLC 2019 closed out with tech talk – the morning started with a federal perspective and programs discussion and led into Industry Horizons Addresses from BASF, Amyris, Neste, and Algae Biomass Organization where they spoke more about the innovative technologies behind what they do. What it all came down to, however, was that it’s “all about the consumer.”

And since we all like more money in our pocket, we appreciated Greenwood’s (Jim Greenwood, CEO of BIO) comment that about $1 per gallon on average is saved by U.S. consumers using biofuels.

No ABLC would be complete without the WOLFPACK to conclude a powerful conference. What seemed more like a stand-up comedy routine ready for TV, James Iademarco from Strategic Avalanche, David Dodds from Dodds & Associates, Paul Bryan from Sandia National Labs, Joel Stone from Convergence, and Michele Rubino, an Independent Consultant – transformed into wolves as they devoured and dissected 6 fuel and chemical companies – Amyris, Bolt Threads, Carbon Engineering, Modern Meadow, Ryze Renewables, and Xyleco.

Modern Meadow came out alive and well – no cow but with bullish positive commentary from the wolves …. Carbon Engineering was ripped to shreds and with more thumbs down than wolves had thumbs. Bolt Threads fared similar to Modern Meadow with some wolves feeling more neutral than bullish. The wolves offered up positive vibes on Amyris, referred to Amyris as a success story of adaptability and survival, and expressed excitement about their CBD deal and recent sweeteners work. The wolves seemed to like Ryze Renewables, not just for their catchy name, but for their renewable diesel and offtake deal with Phillips 66. Xyleco didn’t fare so well with wolves saying they just “don’t get it” and lots of skepticism on their technology, their patents, and their future.  READ MORE

The Times Have Found You: Heard on the Floor at ABLC 2019 (Biofuels Digest)

ABLC 2019 April 5 (BioChannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 5 (BioChannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 5 (BioChannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 5 (BioChannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 4 (Biochannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 4 (Biochannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 4 (Biochannel TV)

ABLC 2019 April 4 (Biochannel TV)

Selling Cells – Ginkgo Bioworks Raises $290M, Latest financing brings total to $719M for cell programming (Biofuels Digest)

 

Excerpt from Biofuels Digest (day 1):  (T)he floor was unexpectedly choked with oil company executives, avowedly shopping for attractive, cost competitive solutions with renewable attributes. Some 10 percent of all ABLC attendees this year come from strategics seeking solutions.

The jury is still out whether it is climate change, the spectra of a world filled with electric vehicles, or the prospect of a low-sulphur marine diesel market in 2020 that has the incumbents spooked, but spooked they are.

ABLC’s opening day at the Jefferson Auditorium is focused on feedstocks and supply-chain, and the renewed buzz around novel crops was unmistakable; algae, which scored a huge win in the 2018 Farm Bill, was much in evidence, but pennycress, carinata, camelina, pongamia, jute, and especially cannabis and its cousin hemp were buzzing on the floor. And it was noted by many that there were as many strategics on the floor as smaller biobased project developers. Are strategics — especially oil companies — more motivated by the maturing technologies they see as now investment-ready, or by the increasing demands of emissions policy to lower carbon intensity, or by the existential threat posed by electric cars? No one was making definitive statements, but the days of ABLC having a handful of observers from the likes of Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron appear to be over — big delegations were the order of the day, and avowedly in search of attractive technologies.

Diversification was the order of the day. Where once ABLC focused almost exclusively on fuels, adding chemicals as a focal point in the early 2010s, the topics were on the floor and on stage included smart farms, advanced materials, superfoods, healthcare, beauty, and the underlying opportunities in genetics, process, transmission, intelligence, storage, and mobility systems and platforms. Diversity of geography was also in evidence — heavier than usual delegations from Asia were particularly of note.  READ MORE

THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF DESIGNER GENES (Wall Street Journal)

 

Excerpt from Wall Street Journal:  In May of 2018, I visited the Boston offices of Ginkgo Bioworks, a company in the burgeoning field of synthetic biology—the science of designing and engineering biological entities. Ginkgo is the first startup in the field to achieve a private valuation of more than $1 billion. Its bioengineers design and build custom microbes.

Originally its microbes were mostly used to synthesize flavors or fragrances derived from plants. In one case Ginkgo partnered with a French perfume company to create a rose fragrance by extracting the genes from real roses, injecting them into yeast and then engineering the microbe’s biosynthetic pathways to produce the smell of a rose—which, it turns out, smells just as sweet when emitted from a yeast. The company is also working on extracting DNA molecules from preserved plant specimens to synthesize the fragrances of flowers that have gone extinct, like a hibiscus from Maui that disappeared from the wild around 1911.

Fragrances are just the beginning. The facility I visited is less a lab than a biological factory, pumping out synthetic organisms the way a Ford plant pumps out F-150 pickups. Christina Agapakis, Ginkgo’s creative director, showed me around the factory floor, as casually dressed biology PhDs busily pipetted and assayed. What struck me was how few of them there were. Much of the work at the Ginkgo factory—or “foundry,” as they call it—is automated.  READ MORE

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