News worth noting (and why)

Some notable announcements, and why I care:

●  Sundrop Announces Biofuels Plant
Sundrop Fuels says it plans to build a $450 million-$500 million cellulosic biofuels facility at Alexandria, LA. The 50-million gals/year project will be the first production facility for Sundrop, which uses gasification technology to convert forest waste into “green gasoline.” The company’s process blends hydrogen-rich natural gas with biomass, producing gasoline with a hydrogen/carbon monoxide ratio appropriate for current combustion engines. Why I care: That’s a lot of money. And the company’s original investors include respected VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. And they are using ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline technology, which is already in use at large scale.
●  Rivertop Nabs DOT Contract
Rivertop Renewables (Missoula, MT) says it has won a contract to supply 110,000 gallons of biobased corrosion inhibitor for Montana’s Department of Transportation. Financial terms were not disclosed. Rivertop’s technology uses chemical oxidation methods to produce glucaric acids. The company is currently building a 100,000 lbs/year semi-works facility at Missoula. Why I care: I like supply contracts (because I like success stories).
●  LS9 Delivers 1 m.t. of Mystery Ingredient to P&G
LS9 has increased its capacity to produce biobased fuels and chemicals from 1,000 liters to 20,000 liters at its South San Francisco, CA pilot-scale plant, enabling it to deliver 1 m.t. of an unspecified ingredient to strategic partner Procter & Gamble (The companies have been collaborating since 2009). LS9’s technology can produce a range of biochemicals, including fatty acids, fatty esters, fatty alcohols of different chain lengths and branching, linear and branched alkanes, alpha and internal olefins, and some aldehydes, as well as biodiesel and jet fuel. The company is currently retrofitting an Okeechobee, FL plant with a 135,000-liters fermentation vessel, which will come online in the first quarter of 2012. Why I care: LS9’s investors include asset management behemoth Blackrock. And everyone loves a good mystery.

●  Verdezyne Starts Adipic Pilot Plant
Verdezyne (Carlsbad, CA), a renewables start-up backed by BP and DSM, has started pilot-scale manufacturing of biobased adipic acid.   Adipic acid is a key precursor to nylon 6,6 , polyurethanes, solvents and resins. Why I care: Verdezyne says it is the first to produce biobased adipic acid at this scale, but it probably won’t be alone for long.  DSM announced in October that it had added adipic acid to its list of target biobased products, with commercialization feasible in about five-plus years (Despite DSM’s earlier investment, the company told me recently that its development efforts are completely separate from Verdezyne’s). BioAmber added adipic acid to its targets in March, and Rennovia has been increasingly visible with its chemo-catalytic process. Genomatica has intellectual property in adipic acid as well.

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