Green Power Conferences Ltd.

A comprehensive round up of advanced biofuels in US


Source: Green Power Conferences Ltd.

In California, major announcements from Rentech, SG Biofuels and Bunge at Advanced Biofuels Markets in San Francisco. In contrast to the “five years away” and subsidy-driven discussions that framed advanced biofuels conversations just two years ago, CEOs are widely reporting that they expect their companies to reach commercial scale within 12-36 months, with costs in the $0.75 to $2.50 per gallon range.

On the first day, major addresses from Codexis, Solazyme, Genencor, LS9, Ceres, SynGest, American Process, AE Biofuels, POET were among the highlights of the morning session on scale-up issues, as well as renewable chemicals and other co-products. In the afternoon, financing was the subject of panel discussions including key players from CMEA, Credit Suisse, Burrill & Co, Mintz Levin, Stern Broehter, Kreig DeVault, the California Clean Energy Fund, Waste Management, Syntroleum and Coskata. Panels on military and aviation biofuels including DESC and the USDA, and major addresses from Qteros, Coskata, Joule, Enerkem, the Advanced Biofuels Association, and SG Biofuels were among the highlights.

“What kind of oil would you like?” Solazyme president Harrison Dillon said was the question they asked that had led to the numerous partnerships Solazyme has been signing this year, noting that most of their new partners were used to working with “you get what you get” petroleum, and working around the limits of their feedstock source.

Codexis CEO Alan Shaw said that “people think of us as an enzyme company, but the future of our company is in the direct fermentation of sugar to fuels and chemicals.” Shaw told the delegates, “I am an industrialist, I live in the real world, where I want to make products for people that they can use and afford.”

LS9 chief Bill Haywood said that the company is active in developing Brazilian opportunities and said that there were “no show stoppers” remaining in the path of LS9′s development of its one-step sugar-to-renewable diesel conversion, and that the company remained on track in developing its demonstration-scale facility in Florida.

CEOs such as AE Biofuels’ Eric McAfee, however, warned of a significant breakdown in the structure of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and other signs of policy instability, had posed significant threats to the investor confidence necessary for the raising of equity and debt for the deployment of renewable transport fuels at commercial scale.

Among the voices at ABM this year:

Tim Potter, CEO, Butamax: “We are looking at a 3 year payback, and
30 percent increase in income [for licencees of our biobutanol technology]. We are still on target for 2012 corn to butanol, and sugarcane in the 2013-14 period.”

Kirk Haney, CEO, SG Biofuels: “We are seeing a100 percent improvement with JMax compared to jatropha 1.0, and we are at eight times the yields of soy. Jatropha has 5 million acres planted today, 30 million is expected by 2015. Jatropha 1.0 returns of around 8 percent, which are not an institutional grade prospect, are 26 percent today with jatropha 2.0, with a cost of $1.40 per gallon today, or $58/barrel.”

John Scott, CEO, PetroAlgae: “We’re working with more than 200 indigenous organisms, with the key being the maximum exposure to the right light. We are at 4 times what nature does in terms of growth rate for undomesticated plants, and if they say “We use everything but the squeal” in the pork industry, there’s no squeal, so we use everything.”

John McCarthy, CEO, Qteros: “We are looking at cash operating costs of $1.00 per gallon by 2013, which is where we think you have to get to. In 30 to 60 days, we expect to announce a transformational partnership.”

Bill Sims, CEO, Joule Unlimited: “We are already at 10,000 gallons per acre for ethanol, and we expect to reach a cost of $30 per barrel of oil equivalent for diesel, and 58 for barrel of oil equivalent of ethanol. Next fall we expect to start the commercialization scale effort, and we have a pretty good chance if succeeding.”

Wayne Simmons, CEO, Sundrop Fuels. “We expect to have our first plant online in 2013.”

Doug Berven, Director, corporate affiars, POET: “Give us a loan guarantee and a market and we’ll build, based on the economics we see today. We’re at $2.35 per gallon now, capex, opex and no subsides, and expect to be at $2.00 when our first plant is built, down from $6 per gallon when we started.”

Eric McAfee, CEO, AE Biofuels: “Hundreds of millions of dollars ere invested against the chart that details the mandates imposed by the Renewable Fuel Standard, but this chart is lying to you, the mandate is not enforceable. People who work in the oil and gas industry are not stupid – they see hat if they invest in advanced biofuels capacity they will have to buy and blend the fuels, but if they don’t, they won’t.”

Alan Shaw, CEO, Codexis: “Sugar is the new carbon, and the future of our company is direct fermentation of sugar to fuels and chemicals. We aim to be the Microsoft of cleantech, because we see our partner Shell as the IBM, a company that has the ability to take these technologies to scale.”

Harrison Dillon, president, Solazyme: “In the past, it’s been “what you get is what you get” with petroleum, soy, canola. You designed your technology around the limitations of the oil. Today, we start the conversation with our partners with, “What kind if oil would you like?”

Bill Haywood, CEO, LS9: “We’re on track for commissioning of our Florida facility, which will begin to take us to commercial scale, in 2012.”

Richard Hamilton, CEO, Ceres: “Can we decarbonize without bioenergy? No. Can we provide both feed and fuel? When clinically obese outnumber the hungry by 2 to 1, and of the 800 million hungry people in the world, 500 million are farmers, we see that what causes hunger is a vicious cycle of poverty, driven by poor governance. The world record for maize production was once held by Zimbabwe, which now sees yields of around averaging 25 bushels ore acre. That’s a scandal.”

Among the announcements at ABM

Solazyme announced that they have signed an agreement to create a global nutritional joint venture with Roquette Frères, one of the world’s most advanced starch businesses and world leader in polyols (sugar alcohols). The JV, which will be 50% owned by each parent company, will be named Solazyme-Roquette Nutritionals, and will be operational by the beginning of 2011. Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson will head the JV. Under the terms fo the agreement, Roquette will fund and build a JV-owned, commercial-scale manufacturing plant with capacity in the tens of thousands of tons of annual production, sited at a Roquette corn wet mill.  In addition, Roquette will provide upfront licensing payments to Solazyme and working capital to fund the JV until reaching profitability. Solazyme’s co-founder and CTO, Harrison Dillon, as well as Solazyme chairman Jerry Fiddler, will be participating in ABM this year.

OriginOil announced that it has succeeded in producing hydrogen from the power of the sun at a level comparable to solar photovoltaics, using a pared-down version of the company’s Hydrogen Harvester. The company has, to date, achieved hydrogen energy corresponding to a solar energy conversion efficiency of about 12 percent continuously for several hours on a partially clouded day using the sun as sole energy input. By comparison, commercial solar cells achieve conversion efficiencies between six and 20 percent. OriginOil noted that the process is the first renewable source for what has become a $39 billion global hydrogen market, and noted that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently stated that “Efficient photoelectrochemical hydrogen production is a holy grail of renewable hydrogen production.” OriginOIl CEO Riggs Eckelberry will participate in this year’s ABM conference.

Butamax Advanced Biofuels announced several milestones in its plan to commercialize biobutanol for the transportation fuel market.  Previewing the bolt-on biobutanol technology that Butamax is expecting to commercialize with corn as a feedstock by 2012, and sugarcane by 2013-14, CEO Tim Potter confirmed that the company is in discussions for “conversions…that’s with an s” in the United States, and is expecting to focus on Brazilian sugarcane for export.  Potter said that the company is proceeding with engine testing and fleet trials, which will take two years, and said that he expects the fuel to enter the market with a blend rate of up to Bu16, under a biobutanol waiver that was granted to Dupont, which has partnered with BP to form Butamax.

The company recently began start-up operations at the Butamax Technology Demonstration Plant in Hull, England. This facility will prove out Butamax’s proprietary process for producing biobutanol.

The businessalso  opened a new laboratory to accelerate commercial designs for sugarcane-to-biobutanol in Paulinia, Brazil. In addition to Brazil, research is being conducted in India, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. Butamax has filed a portfolio of patent applications directed to its proprietary technology across the biofuel value chain including biocatalyst, manufacturing process, and fuel applications.

Rentech revealed that it will license its proprietary Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel technology for Solena’s sustainable BioJetFuel project – GreenSky – in the United Kingdom. The facility will convert more than 500,000 metric tonnes of waste biomass feedstock into synthesis gas every year, using Solena’s proprietary plasma gasification technology.  The BioSynGas will then be processed by Rentech’s Fischer-Tropsch technology into 16 million gallons of sustainable synthetic jet fuel (“BioJetFuel”) and nine million gallons of BioNaphtha  The facility will also export more than 20 megawatts of baseload renewable power to the grid after powering the entire facility with clean electricity.

Overnight, SG Biofuels announced it has established a strategic partnership with Bunge North America to research and develop a model to process Jatropha seeds into a biofuel feedstock. With the announcement, Bunge joins Flint Hills Resources, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, and Life Technologies among strategic partners working with SG Biofuels’ technology to develop Jatropha as a viable source for cost- effective, sustainable crude plant oil.

The move represents the latest of a series of tie-ups between Bunge and a selection of the most promising advanced biofuels technologies. In the last year, Bunge has signed agreements with Amyris and SG and invested in Solazyme, as part of what the company described as a $2.8 billion plan in 2010-12 to expand Bunge’s oil, sugarcane and ethanol interests, following the firm’s $1.5 billion acquisition of Moema. The Moema deal earlier this year made Bunge the third-largest ethanol producer in Brazil, following only Cosan (CZZ) and Louis Dreyfus. Bunge execs said that they have set a target of 30 million tons in crushing capacity by 2012 and will raise capacity to 20 million tones by June.

Syntroleum and Tyson Foods announced that their jointly owned Dynamic Fuels renewable diesel plant in Geismar, Louisiana has commenced production at a rate of 2,500 barrels per day (38.3 million gallons per year) of drop-in fuels, using non-food grade animal fats and greases. Production is expected to grow until reaching nearly 5,000 barrels per day, or 75 million gallons per year.

To date, the Geismar, Louisiana, plant has manufactured renewable diesel with a cloud point as low as minus 26°F and cetane as high as 88, more than twice that of the ASTM petroleum diesel specification. The facility’s renewable diesel fuel product meets all ASTM D975 specifications for diesel fuel. Dynamic Fuels has been making jet fuel for testing by the Air Force Research Laboratory. This is the first renewable jet fuel to be tested by the Air Force that has been produced in a domestic commercial scale facility. “We look forward to working with the Air Force in its fuel certification program,” said Ames.

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