Business digest

C&I Issue 5, 2024

Read time: 5 mins

UK sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey (JM) has been selected by DG Fuels, a US company specialising in renewable hydrogen and biogenic-based, synthetic diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), to supply its Fischer Tropsch (FT) CANS technology. The FT CANS system was co-developed with UK oil and gas company BP and will be used in DG Fuels’ first SAF plant in St James Parish, Louisiana, US. The proposed $4bn plant will be the largest deployment of FT CANS to date, seven times larger than any previously announced project using this technology. It is planned to produce 600,000t of SAF/year when fully operational. DG Fuels is planning 10 more SAF production plants across the US. These would be modelled on the Louisiana plant, with JM and BP as the partners of choice for these facilities.

Finnish wood-based biochemicals company UPM Biochemicals has launched a new range of bio-based plant stimulants, UPM Solargo. Unlike traditional fertilisers, UPM Solargo biostimulants do not directly provide nutrients to the plant. Instead, they increase nutrient absorption, utilisation efficiency and stress tolerance of the plant. As well as increasing crop yield and quality, they reduce demand for classical fertilisers based on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are responsible for up to 80% of CO2 emissions in crop production.

German chemicals company BASF has started operating its prototype metal refinery for battery recycling in Schwarzheide, Germany. With scale-up in mind, the plant is designed to optimise innovative battery recycling technology, processing end-of-life lithium-ion batteries and battery production scrap to recover lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and copper. The new site complements BASF’s existing cathode active materials plant and battery recycling plant for the production of black mass, which is scheduled to start operations later in 2024.

BASF has also broken ground on a methyl glycols plant at its Verbund site in Zhanjiang, China. The new facility is designed with an annual capacity of 46,000t and aims to meet the rapidly growing demand for brake fluids in the region. The plant is scheduled to commence operations by the end of 2025.

MoonLake Immunotherapeutics, a Swiss clinical-stage biotech creating therapies for inflammatory diseases, and US healthcare and life sciences software company Komodo Health have announced a technology partnership to help improve treatment for people living with inflammatory skin and joint diseases. The two companies will collaborate to maximise the impact of MoonLake’s nanobody-based therapy in hidradenitis suppurativa and active psoriatic arthritis, two underdiagnosed diseases with significant unmet patient needs. MoonLake will use Komodo’s Healthcare Map and platform technologies to enable data-driven decision making to accelerate the development of new treatment options and improve patient outcomes.

Aragen, an Indian CRDMO for small molecules and biologics, has started up the first phase of its biologics manufacturing facility in Bangalore, India. The $30m facility can undertake batch sizes up to 50l and includes process development and analytical labs to support manufacturing activities.

UK biotech SolasCure, which is developing a novel treatment for chronic wound care, has been awarded a Biomedical Catalyst grant for industry-led R&D from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. The £405k funding will support the continued clinical development of SolasCure’s first investigational product, Aurase Wound Gel, a hydrogel containing tarumase, an enzyme cloned from medical maggots for the treatment of patients with chronic wounds.

The UK’s University of Liverpool has signed a memorandum of intent with Ceres, a UK developer of clean energy technology, to formalise their partnership and expand research and innovation collaborations across advanced materials research areas in support of net zero. The relationship covers technology programmes in materials chemistry and manufacturing, including R&D for fuel cell technologies and electrolysers for green hydrogen.

Swiss speciality chemical company Clariant and its process partner Lummus Technology, a US manufacturer of licensing services and catalysts, equipment and related products intended for the oil and gas industry, have been selected by Chinese materials company Huizhou Boeko Materials (HBM) to provide their CATOFIN catalyst and process technology for the dehydrogenation of isobutane at HBM’s new plant in Huizhou City, China. The process technology is exclusively licensed by Lummus Technology, while the tailor-made catalyst is supplied by Clariant. Once complete, the plant will produce 550,000t/annum of isobutylene, which will serve as feedstock for the downstream production of methyl t-butyl ether.

1.29m t
UK chemicals producer INEOS has completed its acquisition of petrochem assets in Lavera, France from French energy and petroleum company TotalEnergies. INEOS owns the companies Naphtachimie, Gexaro and Appryl, which were 50:50 joint ventures between INEOS and TotalEnergies. The deal includes one of Europe’s largest steam crackers with an annual capacity of 720,000t of ethylene, an aromatics business with an annual capacity of 270,000t and a polypropylene business with an annual capacity of 300,000t.

Swiss company Sandoz, which manufactures generic and biosimilar medicines, has opened a new production facility in Kundl, Austria. The new 3000m2 facility with automated production lines will increase production capacity to 240m packages/year, more than doubling 2021 output levels.

German science and technology company Merck has launched the first of its kind all-in-one, validated genetic stability assay. The Aptegra CHO genetic stability assay leverages whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics to accelerate biosafety testing and clients’ move to commercial production. The Aptegra platform replaces five different assays and four different technologies with one assay. This approach reduces testing time by 66% and costs by 43% compared to traditional methods. The platform meets all regulatory requirements for genetic stability assurance, including copy number assessment.

Pharma Teva UK, which manufactures and supplies medicines, and UK techbio Closed Loop Medicine (CLM), which combines drug therapy with digital care, have announced a strategic partnership. Under the agreement, the duo will investigate opportunities to use CLM’s proprietary software as a medical device technology platform to advance the development of personalised medicines, improve drug efficacy and outcomes in patients with specific chronic disorders by combining dose-optimised drug therapy with digital care.

Austrian chemical company Borealis, a major manufacturer of polyethylene and polypropylene has completed its acquisition of a 100% stake in Integra Plastics, an advanced mechanical recycler in Elin Pelin, Bulgaria.

UK pharma Essential Pharma, which works to provide patients with low-volume, clinically differentiated, niche pharmaceutical products, has acquired Renaissance Pharma, a UK clinical-stage pharma. Renaissance is developing therapies in paediatric rare disease, including an immunotherapy currently in Phase 2 clinical development for the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma.

German life science group Sartorius and US start-up TheWell Bioscience have agreed to partner on the further development of hydrogels and bioinks tailored to produce 3D advanced cell models for drug discovery workflows. In addition to this, Sartorius will expand the portfolio of its lab division by distributing TheWell Bioscience’s products and invest in a minority shareholding in the company.

Dutch paints and performance coatings company AkzoNobel is investing €8m in two new research labs at its Sassenheim site in the Netherlands. Work is about to start on building a technology centre for powder coatings, while a new polymer lab has just opened which will develop innovative resin technologies for all the company’s businesses.

Naobios, a French CDMO providing bioprocess development and GMP production of clinical batches of virus-based products, has announced a partnership with Sumagen, a Korean-Canadian biotech developing an HIV-1 vaccine candidate. Naobios will manage the manufacturing process during phase II clinical trials.

Swedish machine and vehicle fire suppression systems manufacturer Fogmaker International has launched Fogmaker Brazil LTDA, the company’s first subsidiary in South America. The Brazilian branch will initially focus on buses, forestry, agriculture, material handling and mining.

Nexeon, a UK developer and manufacturer of next-generation silicon anode materials for lithium-ion batteries, has broken ground at its first commercial production facility in Gunsan, South Korea. This positions Nexeon to supply silicon anode material at commercial volumes starting in 2025.

EMR, the UK’s largest fridge recycler, has opened a state-of-the-art fridge recycling plant at its EMR Darlaston site in Walsall, UK. The new facility uses innovative processes, including robotic separation systems that will double the site’s capacity to recycle thousands of fridges each day.

US company Ecolab, which specialises in the treatment, purification, cleaning and hygiene of water, has opened a wastewater treatment plant in Shell Jurong Island, Singapore. The facility is designed to handle variable bio-treated wastewater using Ecolab’s ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis (RO) membrane system and has the capacity to treat and reuse up to 24,000m3 of wastewater every month.

The UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Digital Research Infrastructure Programme has announced new funding that will equip the UK’s research and innovation base. Included in the funding is £124.4m for Relativistic Ultrafast Electron Diffraction and Imaging. This will be the most powerful high-energy electron microscope in the world. It will provide ultrafast imaging and the world’s fastest electron diffraction facility, driving forward discoveries and advances in sustainable energy, advanced materials and quantum technologies, and structural biology. It will be based at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC, part of UKRI) Daresbury campus in Cheshire and is a joint venture between the University of Liverpool, STFC and the Rosalind Franklin Institute.

Metrohm, a Swiss producer of precision instruments has expanded its OMNIS laboratory analytics platform with the addition of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) capabilities. The new OMNIS NIRS enables chemical analysis through a single system with three specialised configurations to cater for different sample types: liquid, solid and viscous, and liquid/solid dual sample analysis.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, a US supplier of analytical instruments, life sciences solutions and specialty diagnostics, has launched CTS OpTmizer One SFM (serum-free medium). This animal origin-free (AOF) formulation is designed for clinical and commercial cell therapy manufacturing to deliver increased scalability and performance of T cell expansion. The AOF formulation helps mitigate risk by reducing opportunities for contamination or inconsistency due to animal-origin components.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has also introduced its TSX Universal Series ULT Freezers, a new line of ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers with enhanced performance and energy efficiency. By updating variable speed compressors, enhancing intelligent algorithms, and optimising hardware with the new universal V-drive cooling technology, users can experience up to 33% reduction in energy consumption.

German specialty chemicals company Evonik has launched a new fast-curing and UV-resistant epoxy curing agent, Ancamine 2880. It offers excellent mechanical properties, abrasion resistance and colour stability throughout its service life. Ancamine 2880’s low colour and high gloss is designed for flooring applications that require superior surface appearance.

Finnish industrial machinery company Metso has introduced its compact fourth-generation Outotec Kaldo L Furnace, designed for flexible processing and recovery of metals. The upgraded heavy-duty furnace is suited for the melting, reducing and converting of various primary and secondary raw materials such as concentrates, copper scrap, anode slimes and e-waste.

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