Blue Marble, Anheuser-Busch sign MOU to develop pilot biorefinery

By Bryan Sims | February 28, 2012

Seattle-based biorefining firm Blue Marble Biomaterials and Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC have signed a memorandum of understanding for Blue Marble to begin development of a pilot biorefinery to be co-located at a North American Anheuser-Busch brewery. A specific location of the Anheuser-Busch site wasn’t disclosed.

The project will initially focus on converting spent brewery grains and biogas derived from the brewing process into high-value biobased chemicals that can be readily used in the food, flavoring and fragrance industries using Blue Marble’s proprietary Acid, Gas and Ammonia Targeted Extraction (AGATE) process technology.

Blue Marble began testing batches of Anheuser-Busch’s spent brewer grains in early 2011 at its pilot facility and continued to produce samples of biobased compounds from the feedstock as it scaled up to its larger integrated demonstration-scale biorefinery in Missoula, Mont. Not only can the company use spent brewery grains as feedstock to produce a suite of biobased chemicals and other high-value compounds, Blue Marble has demonstrated it can also use cellulosic feedstocks, including agricultural waste, micro algae, corn silage and more.

The pilot project with Anheuser-Busch will also serve to reduce emissions and waste at each Anheuser-Busch facility where the project is implemented.

“We are incredibly honored to be working with Anheuser-Busch and are very excited to see this project moving forward,” commented James Stephens, president and chief scientific officer for Blue Marble. “Several factors make this partnership the perfect opportunity for us as we continue to scale up. The quality and availability of Anheuser-Busch’s feedstock materials, as well as its expertise in scaled operations ensure the consistency of our products as we grow. Our partnership will not only be mutually beneficial, it will also benefit the environment and our customers, who seek more sustainable ingredients for their food, cosmetics and personal care products.”

Gene Bocis, director utilities support for Anheuser-Busch, stated, “[Blue Marble’s] process is unique and we are eager to take the next steps towards the potential application of this technology. For generations, we have provided our brewers’ grains to farmers for feeding their livestock. We are excited about the opportunity to have another complementary use for our grain byproducts that is also environmentally responsible and beneficial to other industries.”

While he couldn’t disclose what specific biobased chemical products Blue Marble might initially produce out of the pilot biorefinery due to nondisclosure parameters established around the partnership, Colby Underwood, chief business officer for Blue Marble, said the MOU with Anheuser-Busch is a culmination of about 18 months of dialogue that had been exchanged between the two companies up until the formal announcement of the partnership. Underwood said Blue Marble expects to begin producing actual physical product from the pilot biorefinery within the next year or so.

(This article first appeared in Biorefining Magazine.)