PhibroChem wants client feedback on antimicrobial

Stan Janson, Dennis Bayrock join international Lactrol sales and research team
By | March 01, 2002
Fairfield, N.J.-based PhibroChem, a division of Phillips Brothers Chemicals Inc. (Fort Lee, N.J.), announced to Ethanol Producer Magazine early this month that the company has assembled an international sales and research team to manage an anticipated increase in worldwide sales of antimicrobial Lactrol.

John Cuomo, PhibroChem Global Business Manager (formerly Pfizer Account Manager) announced that longtime Williams Ethanol Services, Inc., microbiologist and marketing manager Stan Janson has joined PhibroChem as North American Business Manager (see side bar, next page).

Recently, the company also signed Canadian microbiologist Dennis Bayrock to continue his extensive research on the control of microbial contamination during continuous culturing. For the last seven years, Bayrock has been conducting research alongside University of Saskatchewan researcher Dr. Mike Ingledew. At PhibroChem, Bayrock will essentially help the company solve production problems associated with common microbial contaminants in batch and continuous fermentations that typically decrease yields and ultimately affect production throughput.

Lactrol is one of several antimicrobials known to effectively control bacterial infection during fermentation. As ethanol producers understand all too well, bacterial contaminants not only compete with yeast for nutrients during fermentation, but also produce lactic acid and other organic by-products that inhibit yeast activity.

The active ingredient in Lactrol, Virginiamycin, has been used in specific industrial applications for decades, but Lactrol itself was not introduced to the ethanol industry until 1994. Originally a Pfizer product, Lactrol was sold to Phillips Chemical Company in 2000. Lactrol competes for market share with products such as Lacticide and Penicillin.

"This area of research (fermentation population dynamics and control of microbial contamination during continuous ethanol fermentation) is relatively new and unexplored - at least unanswered," Bayrock said. "So many questions remain in this specific area. And PhibroChem is not just doing research for the sake of doing research; we're trying to find practical solutions to real fermentation problems. Customer specific questions such as: Where is the best place to add antimicrobials? How much should be added? How frequent? How should it be added? Research tailored to answer these questions on a client by client basis would be extremely useful to Phibro's clients. We are committed to this style of research where our clients questions are answered with practical solutions to real fermentation problems. Lactrol is a great product, but we can use it smarter and sell it smarter. That's what PhibroChem has set out to do."

Using Lactrol to increase production throughput is the modern approach to fighting contamination, Cuomo and Bayrock said. When low levels of contamination exist, organisms (such as Lactobacillus) may be "multiplying and robbing" trace nutrients from the yeast.

"Just like you and I, yeast cannot survive on a sugar diet alone," Bayrock explained. "Without these nutrients, a (production facility) might eventually produce the same amount of alcohol as compared to fermentations where nutrients are optimal, but at a much slower rate. . . the yeast multiples slower and, in turn, hinders throughput." Cuomo added, "It's not simply about yield these days, but rather how much a producer can push through a system in a given time period. The bottom line for ethanol producers is efficiency. Increasing ethanol concentration in the beerwell or getting more throughput through the same equipment lowers their cost per gallon of alcohol, increasing their bottom line. We like to think of our product as a management tool for greater efficiency. Producers should be using these products preventatively."

Global Business

In 2001, PhibroChem decided to aggressively pursue new business and expand existing accounts on an international level, Cuomo said. Much of the company's recent efforts have been focused on North America and the ethanol market in Brazil, where the company has hired Ricardo Ventura to manage accounts, Cuomo said.

The company also maintains a research facility in Rixensart, Belgium, where Dr. Francis Gossle is conducting research on several Lactobacillus species that will compliment Bayrock's research as well as investigating several new molecules that control Lactobacillus.

"I think the strength of our team lies in our unique abilities and diverse professional backgrounds," Bayrock said. "Stan (Janson) is our eyes and ears in North America, John (Cuomo) is taking the business to a global level. We all have skills that compliment each other very well. It's a very exciting time to be in this business."