Seaweed has long been recognized as having potential to be one of the most environmentally sustainable and cost effective feedstocks for the production of fuels and chemicals. It is globally abundant, has very high sugar content as compared with sugar cane, exhibits fast growth, does not require fertilizer or fresh water, does not have lignin, and can be easily be cultivated.
Yet, despite these advantages, the full potential of seaweed as a biomass source has not been realized. This is because current technologies have been unable to metabolize, or “unlock” all of the sugars in seaweed. As a result, renewable fuels and chemicals produced from seaweed have not been cost competitive with petroleum based fuels and chemicals.
That has all changed now that scientists at Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) succeeded in developing the first ever microbe capable of metabolizing all of the major sugars found in brown seaweed. BAL scientists believe they can produce sugars for as low as between 5 -10 cents a pound, which is about 2-3 times less than sugars derived from sugarcane, and about 5 times less than sugars made from corn.
The BioPlastek 2012 Forum will mark the first time at any bioplastics value chain conference that BAL unveils details of its proprietary enzymatic and chemical technology for production of green plastics at cost parity with petroleum products. The Forum will take place on March 28-30, 2012 at the Westin Arlington, Gateway Hotel, Arlington, Virginia, USA (near Washington, DC).
What strategy is BAL implementing to commercialize their technology for the production of bioplastics? The company is currently cultivating seaweed in Chile to demonstrate its commercial viability for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. Additionally, BAL is building a pilot plant in Chile to demonstrate scale and the overall process economics. The pilot plant is scheduled to commence operations as early as July of this year.
In addition to the BAL presentation on seaweed, the session on Next Generation Biomass Feedstocks also will highlight presentations on municipal solid waste, corn stover, sugar beets, and cellulosic biomass options. This BioPlastek 2012 Forum session will feature an objective assessment of these and other biomass options.