Around the Bend

What's going on at Rivertop Renewables

Around the Bend Blog

Mountains, water, fresh air, room to move. Just a few of the reasons we feel lucky to be headquartered in beautiful Missoula, Montana. This blog is where we keep track of things going on in and around Rivertop.

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Rivertop Named on Global Cleantech 100 ‘Ones to Watch’ List

We here at Rivertop are excited to announce that we have been named to the Global Cleantech 100 ‘Ones to Watch’ list. The list, produced by Cleantech Group, highlights companies that are catching the eye of leading investors and corporates in the market. The competition was fierce with 9,900 total nominations for companies from over 75 countries.

This is the colloquial icing on the cake for our year at Rivertop. Our sodium glucarate was added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL) and we exceeded nameplate capacity at our first commercial production facility less than six months after starting production.

Yet this award, at its core, is forward-looking. As the CEO of Cleantech Group phrased it, “by the nature of the list, the Ones to Watch truly represent the next cadre of exciting disruptive companies.” So it is with great excitement that we march towards 2017 with our new label and big plans. Stay tuned for further developments!

Rivertop Announced as Finalist for Bio-based Innovation Awards

We here at Rivertop are pleased to announce that our new WaterlineTM corrosion inhibitor has been selected as a finalist for the 2016 Bio-Based Innovation Awards. The awards seek out the best innovations in the bio-based space; Rivertop was selected as one of only three finalists for the Bio-Based Product of the Year category.

That particular category highlights products that are derived from plants and other renewable materials and provide alternatives to conventional petroleum-derived products. Notably, in the words of Bio-based World News, “the key is how the product improves on one derived from petroleum—sustainability is not enough—our judges [look] for developments in price and quality.”

This is exactly why Waterline was selected as a contender. The innovative products at Rivertop are made with our breakthrough oxidation technology that affordably transforms plant sugars into new and sustainable chemical ingredients that offer our customers more than a green option—they can compete on price, and offer superior performance as well.

Specifically, Waterline CI, designed to be integrated with products in the water treatment industry, offers a high performance, low cost alternative to phosphate-based options in water treatment formulations. Waterline is newly available in the last year, and already Rivertop’s customer are having success incorporating it into their water treatment products.

Check out our Waterline and Headwaters ® corrosion inhibitors, and our Riose® detergent builder to see how we are making a difference with our breakthrough technology platform.

The icing on the cake was the commendation from the judges. Said Michele Jalbert of the Renewable Chemical and Materials Alliance, the nominated products promise “to deliver systemic change in the shift away from non-renewable incumbent products.”

BIO report paints bright future for renewable chemicals

Last week, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released a new report on the renewable chemical industry, featuring key players in the space, including (we are pleased to announce) Rivertop. The report “Advancing the Biobased Economy: Renewable Chemical Biorefinery Commercialization, Progress and Market Opportunities, 2016 and Beyond,” was written in order to document the progress and illustrate the potential for biobased production of renewable chemicals—and the results are impressive.

While sales of renewable chemicals represented 9 percent of worldwide chemical sales in 2012 (an already impressive number), their share is expected to grow to 11 percent by 2020. Meanwhile, sales of biobased products are expected to reach $375-$441 billion by 2020, with renewable chemicals and new biopolymers expected to have some of the highest growth rates within that greater expansion for the industry.

BIO found that renewable chemicals and biobased materials are attractive for many reasons—they can be commercialized at a smaller scale, come with environmental benefits, offer novel properties in comparison to traditional chemicals and promise more stable costs.

These advantages are familiar to everyone at Rivertop Renewables. We are using our proprietary technology to transform sugar acids into a variety of valuable chemical ingredients that allow our customers to make products that compete on price, performance and sustainability. Check out our Waterline and Headwaters corrosion inhibitors, and our Riose detergent builder to see how we are just getting started with our breakthrough technology platform.

The report also highlights certain policies that have successfully supported the expansion of the renewable chemicals and biobased products industry, as well as policies that could have a large effect if they are passed or expanded. Most notably, BIO highlights the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which it claims initiated important discussion on renewable chemicals and biobased products in addition to biofuels.

This is of course at its essence a reaffirmation of what we have been seeing for years—the renewable chemicals industry is humming and has enormous potential. BIO’s executive vice president, Brent Erickson, put it best: “The biobased economy is alive and well and it’s not just about biofuels development.”

Building with Biology

Each month, the University of Montana’s SpectrUM Discovery Area opens up its doors free of charge to the public for some hands-on learning and an opportunity to meet role models in various fields. This month’s theme was “Building with Biology” and provided opportunities for kids (both young and old) to engage in some hands-on science work and to meet some great STEM role models.

That group of role models included Rivertop’s own Kelly Barton, Senior Scientist here in Missoula. Kelly showed different ‘modules’ or units designed to elicit discussions on synthetic biology and its societal implications. She took visitors through Synthetic Biology kit exercises—particularly the ‘Tech Tokens’ Synthetic Biology kit.

Read more about the program in the Missoulian or check out this Tech Tokens video to learn more about Building with Biology.

Rivertop’s Annual Safety BBQ

Rivertop takes pride in its commitment to safety—a commitment which we celebrate every year at a company-wide event here at Rivertop. What do you get when you take a safety event, add some good BBQ and delicious local lager? A Safety-que.

This year’s Safety-que was the third annual event, honoring the hard work of the safety committee and thanking all Rivertop employees for their commitment to safety. It took place at the beautiful home of Cindy and Ross Campbell, surrounded by horse pastures, scenic views of the Montana mountains and (most importantly) a goldfish pond.

Kelly Barton, Rivertop’s Safety Coach (and Senior Scientist) and the safety committee planned the fun night. Kids (young and old) got to play games—including Campbell’s favorite called carpet ball—enjoy delectable barbecued meats (smoked chicken, ribs and pulled pork) and partake of Bayern Brewery’s well-loved Dump Truck Summer Bock lager.

It was truly an excellent celebration; one that marked yet another year of zero safety issues at Rivertop and one that re-emphasizes the company’s dedication to safety going forward.

Rivertop’s Sodium Glucarate Meets EPA Criteria for Safer Chemicals

Today Rivertop is making an exciting announcement: sodium glucarate produced through the Rivertop process has been officially listed on the EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL).

Being on the SCIL list means that the EPA has determined that our sodium glucarate is safer than traditional chemical ingredients, and can now be used in products with the EPA’s Safer Choice label.

Rivertop’s sodium glucarate is also the first chemical with corrosion inhibiting properties to secure full approval for the SCIL.

To qualify for the list, a product or chemical ingredient has to meet a series of stringent human and environmental health criteria—criteria that we here at Rivertop passed with flying colors. Continue reading “Rivertop’s Sodium Glucarate Meets EPA Criteria for Safer Chemicals”

An Adventure like No Other!

Ross Campbell, Rivertop’s Supply Chain and Quality Leader, and his daughter, Kristina, recently returned from an 18-day African Safari. The impetus for the expedition was Kristina’s college course on South African Culture and Historical Study, as well as a biological study of South African Animals. In order to participate, Ross, who intended to “chaperone” the trip, had to become a Buena Vista University student for 3 weeks to satisfy insurance requirements. 30 years after his first college graduation, Ross is a freshly minted alumnus once again!

Overflowing with fascinating cultures, a jaw-dropping array of species and tangerine-colored sunsets melting, Ross took over 11,000 photos on this 18-day adventure. Here are a few favorites:

980x-3“The elephants were some of the crankiest animals, so you learned to keep an eye out for them and be aware if they were heading to cross a road – you never wanted to be in their way. If you remained aware, you would be fine. This one, nicknamed one of the ‘Bash Brothers,’ seemed to pose for the camera.”


Which animal was Ross’ favoriteLion spotting. Hands down. Luckily, all of his encounters were at a safe distance. The other two vans managed to come across lions right alongside their vehicle during the day. Playing with the lion cubs on the final day definitely made up for that though!


“The leopard, only 6 feet away, was amazing to photograph – but you were very conscious of the fact that the window was down and he was aware of everything. Fortunately, he gave us 15 seconds of photo time and then very non-aggressively just stood up, turned around and wandered 20 feet further into the jungle and sat back down”.

“You quickly learned to be as quiet as possible when encountering the animals. Rhinos have poor eyesight, but great hearing. If you sit quietly, you can both enjoy the moment. If they hear you, they get nervous and anxious – a bad combination for a large animal with a three-foot horn and a few thousand pounds behind it.”


When asked about his favorite experience of the trip, Ross (unsurprisingly) had trouble choosing, but eventually settled on their visit to a local school:

“The Nsukazi school was amazing and humbling. School is mandatory in South Africa and is where most children get their only meal of the day. The schools look like fortresses – walled, fenced with razor-wire and guard shacks to protect their little equipment and supplies – and yet the teachers are so dedicated and the students so happy. It was such an honor and privilege to interact with them and watch them pose and smile and sing and dance for us”.

Will Ross ever be going to Africa again?

“They do warn you that no matter how much protective clothing, nets or insecticide you use, very few people ever escape an African trip without at least one bite. The most virulent and common bite comes from an amazingly successful African bug – the come-back bug. I think I feel an itch…”

Tyler Smith Profiled by Missoulian

Earlier this month, the Missoulian ran a feature on Rivertop’s own Tyler Smith, Vice President of Research and Development here in Missoula. The piece, appropriately published on Father’s Day, highlights both the fantastic work that Tyler has done for us here at Rivertop as well as his unexpected struggle with cancer last year.

Tyler has been with us since our very inception. Born and bred a southerner, Tyler happened upon Missoula while on a road trip to Oregon and has not been able to pry himself away since. He received his doctorate in organic chemistry in 2008 and promptly began helping Rivertop build competitive green chemicals. Tyler’s role and the work that he does are essential to our work here at Rivertop—R&D is of utmost importance for a green chemicals company, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of our employees are research scientists.

Tyler opens up about his cancer diagnosis and treatment in the Missoulian story, discussing how his time bonding with other cancer patients in the hospital will always stay with him and how touching it was to be asked to be the guest speaker at last year’s Relay for Life event in Missoula.

July 7th of this year will mark the one-year anniversary of Tyler being in remission. The journey has been a long and arduous one for Tyler, his wife and three kids. We here at Rivertop are grateful to have him back on his feet and in the lab. We are honored to have him on our team and are excited to see the great things he does in the green chemistry world in the years to come.

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