Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Advanced Biofuel Lottery

Over the past six months advanced biofuel producers have raised $450 million in new capital.  The industry has finally gained traction after shifting focus from strictly cellulosic ethanol technologies to a mix of biochemical and renewable fuels.  Few if any of the advanced biofuel companies ‘climbed up out of the red,’ but we suspect the investors who had a chance to participate in these deals thought they had got a whiff of profits.  Indeed, Gevo, Inc. (GEVO:  Nasdaq) promised to achieve breakeven at its Luverne, Minnesota plant this year as the ethanol and isobutanol producer was raising capital for renovations and capacity expansion.  The stock still languishes below a dollar per share.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Big Wide World of Renewable Chemicals

Last week privately-held Genomatica announced its intention to develop biochemicals for production of nylon.  The company wants to make three intermediate chemicals that are used in nylon production.  Of course, Genomatica will use its patented technologies to make those chemicals with biomass instead of petroleum feedstock. 

Genomatica already has two strong development programs under its belt.  The company has successfully produced butanediol (BDO) and has licensed that technology to BASF and Novamont.  BASF is the largest producer of BDO in the world and claims to have produced over millions of pounds of butanediol using Genomatica’s technology.  Not to be outdone, sometime before the end of 2014 Novamont is expected to finish a plant dedicated to BDO production in Europe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Brazil's Entry into Butanol Battle

There seems to be ample supply of advanced biofuel developers in the U.S. and Europe.  I mentioned a number of them in the most recent posts.  Brazil has a stake in the battle as well with Gran Bio, a subsidiary of one of Brazil’s family-run holding companies, Gran Investimentos S.A. 

Even though Brazil has been in the ethanol business for quite some time, Gran Bio is a relative newcomer to advanced biofuels.  It has only been around for three years.  However, it has seems to have caught up with some of the U.S. players.  Gran Bio claims it will have a commercial scale plant up and running by the end of 2014.  We were not able to confirm progress on this plant before this article was posted, but some structures were already in place at the beginning of the year.  Gran Bio says it is aiming for an 82 million liter name plate production capacity, which is pretty ambitious for an initial plant.

Friday, August 08, 2014

The Enzyme Wars

In the last post on Cobalt Technologies we speculated on how they might be coming along in their development of technologies to produce renewable butanol.  They are not the only dog in the hunt so to speak.  Butanol and its variants (isobutanol and n-butanol) it seems are a pretty lucrative business if you can get in and stay in.  Butamax and Gevo (GEVO:  Nasdaq) are two more butanol aspirants.  The two of them have been in a legal battle over patent claims for the past three years.  In the most recent salvo Butamax prevailed in Federal Circuit Court, paving the way for Butamax to resume its patent infringement claims against Gevo.