April 17, 2013
Potential uses range from cattle feed supplements to biofuels and bio-plastics
ROCHESTER, N.Y., April 17, 2013 – Utilizing a bio-conversion technology to extract fermentable sugars from several types of biomass materials – Rochester-based Sweetwater Energy, Inc. is quickly carving a niche in the biofuels, biochemical and bio-plastics industries.
To help accomplish its goals, the company is relying on the expertise of Eastman Kodak Company’s Specialty Chemicals Group to help provide a smooth, incremental bridge for bio-refineries to move away from corn-grain feedstocks in favor of non-food plant materials – including crop residue, wood chips, and purpose-grown crops such as energy sorghum.
Drawing on the Specialty Chemicals Group’s scale up and commercialization expertise, Sweetwater has successfully devised an economical way to generate separate and concentrated individual streams of C5 and C6 sugar solutions, using Kodak facilities to separate the solutions for testing at various locations. Potential uses range from cattle feed supplements to bio-fuels and bio-plastics, said Arunas Chesonis, CEO, Sweetwater Energy.
For its efforts, Sweetwater Energy recently won the Sustainable Biofuels Feedstock Process Award at the 2013 World Biofuels Markets/Bio-based Chemicals Conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The award recognizes the most exciting new feedstock innovation in the development of truly sustainable and renewable fuel and chemical solutions in the global biofuels market.
“Our proprietary technology uses a unique modular approach to produce sugars that are both less expensive for the end user and far more environmentally friendly than today’s corn-grain based sugar extraction methods,” Chesonis said.
Sweetwater has already signed two $100 million deals for its sugar this year. Ace Ethanol in Wisconsin and Front Range Energy in Colorado will start replacing approximately seven percent of their corn with cellulosic sugar from Sweetwater – yielding about 3.5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
Chesonis cited the support Sweetwater has received from Kodak as a key reason his company is accelerating to commercialize a range of new products from its sugar-based solutions.
“Kodak’s Specialty Chemicals Group at Eastman Business Park continues to help us leverage our smaller start-up staff on the R&D side, not just in interacting with their scientists but also in having access to their labs and equipment,” he said.
Chesonis said because of the technical support he has received, Sweetwater is now building a demonstration-scale system in close proximity to the Specialty Chemicals facility.
“Kodak Specialty Chemicals Group has saved us a lot of money and they continue to deliver exceptional product and support,” he said.
Once focused exclusively on supporting Kodak’s traditional imaging businesses, the Specialty Chemicals Group today offers established and emerging growth companies like Sweetwater Energy a veritable palette of standard, specialty and custom chemical solutions.
From its research and production facilities at Eastman Business Park in Rochester, the Specialty Chemicals Group provides “a depth and breadth of scope that makes us a preferred strategic alliance provider throughout the value chain,” said Nagraj Bokinkere, PhD, Technical Director, Business Development, KODAK Specialty Chemicals.
“As a full-service specialty and custom chemical manufacturer, we offer the flexibility of batch operations and expertise in process development, design for manufacturing and statistical process control.”
Bokinkere said in addition to Sweetwater Energy, numerous other small to medium-sized companies in the clean energy, biotechnology and sustainability sectors are using Kodak’s Specialty Chemicals Group deep technical expertise converting molecules into materials.
In addition to KODAK Specialty Chemicals, the companies are taking advantage of Eastman Business Park’s U.S.-based infrastructure of facilities, scientists, equipment and analytical tools for cost-effective development, scale-up and manufacturing without assuming all of the commercialization risks.
Novomer Inc., a sustainable materials company with a pilot-scale manufacturing facility at Eastman Business Park, has won international recognition for pioneering the development of a family of high-performance plastics, polymers and specialty coatings from renewable feedstocks such as carbon dioxide (CO2).
“After Novomer secured funding through the U.S. Department of Energy to design, construct and operate a pilot-scale facility, we needed help scaling up those efforts,” said Ron Valente, PhD, Vice President of Research and Development at Novomer. “By partnering with Kodak, we were able to scale-up our new technology innovation with a much smaller degree of risk and investment.”
“We not only gained access to their reactors and analytical tools, Kodak helped us demonstrate on a small scale; then they helped us map out the next phase from a process, review and validation standpoint,” Valente said. “They completely understood our needs on the process side. They gave us the opportunity to tie into all of their available resources. And as a result, they helped us scale up production from 25 gallons to 1,100 gallons of product within a shortened time period.”
Valente said the company is now in the pre-commercialization phase in its development of Polypropylene Carbonate Polyol – a low molecular polymer manufactured largely from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The polyol currently is being tested in a variety of polyurethane based products (foams, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and elastomers) ranging from automotive headrests to BPA-free can coatings to running shoes. “Kodak’s Specialty Chemicals Group continues to be a key participant in that development. They have been very responsive to our needs,” he said.
Kodak is transforming into a B2B company focused on its Commercial Imaging business. Kodak will be centered on commercial, packaging and functional printing solutions and enterprise services, markets in which it offers customers advanced technologies that give them a competitive edge. The company also offers leading products and services in Entertainment Imaging and Commercial Films. Its Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses are being marketed for sale. For additional information on Kodak, visit www.kodak.com.
About Eastman Business Park
Eastman Business Park is a one of a kind multi-use advanced manufacturing and research center in Rochester, NY. This 1,200 acre campus encompasses over 100 buildings, 2.5 million square feet of space, and over 50 miles of integrated roads and rail projecting to and from numerous points throughout the Northeast. Often referred to as a ‘city within a city,’ EBP possesses a self-generated utility infrastructure, plus bench top to prototype analytical tools and equipment supporting the acceleration to commercialization of clean technology products in the materials science space. Some of the estimated 50 companies located within this unique innovation ecosystem are involved in the production of highly diverse specialty chemicals, thin films and medical materials, while others are focused on the deployment of next generation functional films, energy storage and bio-mass materials in the domestic product pipeline. Visit us at www.eastmanbusinesspark.com and follow on Twitter @FollowEBP.