Back to August 2012 home page

REGIONALREPORT Triangle

Grease is the word

Every biodiesel producer faces the same economic reality: The biggest expense is the raw material to make fuel. So the industry keeps seeking cheaper alternatives — different grains, fats and, most recently,
used cooking oil. But that’s a slippery slope. Ten years ago, when what became Pittsboro-based Piedmont Biofuels Industrial LLC started, restaurants gave it away to get rid of it. Now they lock their grease traps,
the contents under contract, the spoils of bidding wars. That’s why Piedmont, with 10 employees and $2 million in revenue last year, teamed up with Danish enzymes giant Novozymes A/S to pioneer a process
to use cheaper, more abundant types of grease that restaurants still throw away. “It opens the world to a whole new set of feedstocks that enzymes can handle,” Piedmont President Lyle Estill says.

Piedmont and Novozymes, which has its North American headquarters in Franklinton, began a pilot project two years ago to develop technology utilizing enzymatic catalysis, which breaks down grease into fuel at
lower temperatures and with less water. It culminated in June with a ribbon cutting in Pittsboro at the first plant to use the process commercially. The technology won’t increase Piedmont’s capacity — it’s puny compared
with the average for plants, according to 2008 figures from the National Biodiesel Board. But larger companies have taken notice. Decatur, Ill.-based agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co., which measures its
annual biodiesel output in the hundreds of millions of gallons, has called the company to discuss the technology. Estill already consults with Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill Inc., as well as a Brazilian company planning
a plant that will use enzymatic catalysis. “The phone rings from all over the world,” Estill says.




Briefs

ROXBOROGKN Driveline will invest $24.1 million to expand its local plant, adding 131 jobs to about 380. The United Kingdom-based company, which makes automotive components, is adding equipment and trying to improve work flow. Annual wages will average $41,108, higher than Person County’s average of $32,188.

CARY — Hong Kong-based telecommunications company Tencent Holdings acquired a minority stake in Epic Games for an undisclosed amount. Epic Games makes the popular Gears of War video-game franchise.

RALEIGH Citrix will invest $12.5 million here and add 337 jobs to its local workforce of 130 within five years. The Santa Clara, Calif.- and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based cloud-computing and networking provider gained a presence here when it bought Raleigh-based ShareFile last year.

CARY Connexion Technologies will close after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year and auctioning off its assets. The company, which managed and installed telecom networks for residential developments, will lay off most of its 89 employees, though about 40 will be retained by an asset buyer, according to a regulatory filing.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Drug developer Liquidia Technologies signed a licensing deal with British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which will use Liquidia’s nanotechnology with its products to create vaccines and other drugs for respiratory illnesses. The companies did not disclose an exact figure, but payments could total “several hundred million dollars” after milestone payments, royalties and additional licensing fees.

CARY — Communications technology firm Bandwidth.com will move its headquarters to Raleigh, where it will lease Red Hat’s former headquarters. The company, which works with Google Voice, Skype and Living Social, has 300 employees and plans to add 200 in the next several years.