Daring to Dream Big

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result – Albert Einstein

 

Another 300 million tonnes of plastic every year

Since World War II we have consumed 5 billion tonnes of plastic, much of which has ended up in a landfill or the oceans.

Making ourselves healthier by depleting global fish stocks.

In 2015, a consensus of expert opinion suggested that a recommended minimum daily dose of 500mg the Omega 3 oil requirement for the world population was 1.3 million metric tonnes. The world fish catch is not elastic and we are already at a plateau. Thankfully we are still producing much less than that each year, but demand continues to grow, while fish stocks continue to be depleted.

 

Daring to think big enough to have an effect

 

In 2009 Patrick Walsh was a Professor at the National University of Galway, Ireland, had a vision of reducing the amount of energy in the production of biodegradable plastic. This biodegradable plastic ingredient is lactic acid. Used as a food preservative, curing agent, and flavoring agent. It is also an ingredient in processed foods and is used as a decontaminant during meat processing.

 

When broken down from poly-lactic acid, the lactic acid derived bio-plastic ingredient converts back to CO2 and water.

 

Humble, or destitute beginnings

 

By 2012 this small company, now named Cellulac, was €300,000 in debt but had secured €2.8m of EU grants for a pilot plant, with the conditions for the release of the grant be, that industry and investors had to contribute a further €9m.

 

New management was brought in. Even with the vision and the size of EU grant, finding €9 million for a pilot plant, that was never going to break-even, let alone be profitable, was equally never going to be built.

 

The team, which came from a previously successful company, Alltracel Pharmaceuticals, altered the direction and mission to address the glaring lack of infrastructure needed to commercialize the technology.

 

  • 25% of the solution, the Bacteria, was in place. Bacteria are easier to explain if I use the term Gremlins. Remember the movies from 1984 and 1990? If you spilled water on them, they multiplied. Just like Gremlins, Lactic Acid and Micro-algae multiply in water. They are incidentally, produced in separate tanks.
  • 25% was an industrial scale engineering solution. There was a need to punch the living daylights out of the Gremlin-like bacteria and micro-algae to begin the release of oils and bio-plastic ingredients into a soup-like mixture.
  • 25% was a low-cost recovery method. Enzymes are like the 80’s video game of Pac-Man. They consume the ghosts of the Gremlins shell to release the oils and lactic acid.
  • The last 25% was a requirement for a production facility that would deliver commercial scale production of the bio-plastic ingredient and Omega-3 oils.

 

Pulling the pieces together

 

In July of 2013, Cellulac reached the 50% milestone when it acquired the SoniqueFlo technology from Pursuit Dynamics (PDX).

 

If you know the history of PDX, you are probably thinking, why buy the failed PDX. Right? They had blown through £68 million GBP.

 

Well, for Cellulac, this was the equivalent of being handed the engineering equivalent of Pfizers side-effect for their heart treatment, turned erectile dysfunctional drug, Viagra.

 

SoniqueFlo was designed as an efficient heater that softened up grains before food, ethanol and beer production. The same technology worked 10 times better at smashing up softer cells on the recovery, or end, stage of oil and bio-plastic ingredient production.

 

It was like having millions of mini-Conor McGregors compressed into each SoniqueFlo reactor punching the oils and bio-plastic ingredient out of the Gremlin Bacteria and Micro-algae, preparing them for the final stage.

 

The beauty of this industrial scale solution is that it was already operationally successful in 25 production facilities across the food, bio-fuel and alcohol industries since 2010.

 

Later in 2013, Cellulac reached the 75% milestone when it secured access to the 2nd largest brewery in Ireland. This had the output equal to 100 times the size of the original pilot plant that had been the subject of the EU Grant in 2012. It was the former Diageo, Harp Lager production plant in Dundalk, Ireland. A state-of-the-art facility, fully automated, food and beverage grade facility.

 

The 100% milestone was reached faster than expected in 2015, with the acquisition of Aer-Bio. This was a small Enzyme expression protocol company. They specialized in the recovery of oils from micro-algae and production of Omega-3 using Enzymes (these are Pac-Man-like proteins that consume the outer layers of cells which have oil inside).

 

Cellulac had worked with Aer-Bio on a combination of SoniqueFlo and Enzymes since early 2014 to deliver a solvent-free production process for Omega-3 oils.

 

Proven Commercial Scale Production

 

In 2016, at a UK industry partner site, the conversion from a conventional solvent-based process to a solvent-free process was responsible for an 81% reduction of the downstream recovery cost of Omega-3 oils.

 

The outcome is a commercial scale solvent-free production process with sales of Omega-3 to one of the largest food ingredient companies in the world.

 

By 2017, Cellulac has achieved 3 out of these 4 stages:

 

  • Laboratory
  • Third-party pilot facility in Potsdam, DE. 1 x 1,000 litre vessel
  • Industry Partner commercial scale in Liverpool, UK. 6-Tonne per batch from one 80,000 litre vessel.
  • Cellulac production site, Dundalk, IE. 10 x 100,000 litre vessels and 10 x 400,000 litre vessels.There is a lot more going on and you can expect some major news before the end of this year.
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