Amyris & Total expanding R&D partnership and forming joint venture to develop, produce and commercialize renewable fuels
International oil and gas major Total and renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris, Inc. signed agreements to expand their current R&D partnership (earlier post) and to form a joint venture to develop, produce and commercialize a range of renewable fuels and products.
Total and Amyris have agreed to expand their ongoing research and development collaboration to accelerate the deployment of Biofene (renewable farnesene) and develop renewable diesel based on this molecule produced from plant sugars. The R&D program, launched in 2010 and managed jointly by researchers from both companies, aims to develop the necessary stages to bring the next generation renewable fuels to market at commercial scale. Total has committed to contribute $105 million in funding for an existing $180 million program.
In addition, Total and Amyris have agreed to form a 50:50 joint venture company that will have exclusive rights to produce and market renewable diesel and jet fuel worldwide, as well as non-exclusive rights to other renewable products such as drilling fluids, solvents, polymers and specific bio-lubricants. The venture aims to begin operations in the first quarter of 2012.
Amyris is scaling its Biofene production in Brazil, Europe and the United States through various production arrangements; the company signed its sixth production agreement in October. (Earlier post.)
Farnesene is a 15-carbon isoprenoid hydrocarbon molecule that forms the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty chemical applications to transportation fuels such as diesel. When used as a fuel precursor, farnesene can be hydrogenated to farnesane, which has a high cetane number (58). Amyris modifies farnesene to become renewable diesel.
Renewable diesel developed by Total and Amyris will deliver energy density, engine performance, and storage properties comparable to the best petroleum diesel, as well as improved lubricity and superior cold weather performance.
The creation of the joint venture and the implementation of the new renewable diesel R&D program are two more major steps forward for Total, which is aiming to become a key supplier in renewable fuels. Renewable fuels produced with Amyris’s advanced technology will benefit from the know-how and customer access of Total, which operates in more than 130 countries. It will strengthen Total’s position in the global renewable diesel market, which is projected to nearly double in size to 32 million tons in 2020 from 17 million tons in 2010.—Philippe Boisseau, President of Gas & Power at Total
Amyris has developed advanced microbial engineering and screening technologies that modify the way microorganisms process sugars. Amyris is using this industrial synthetic biology platform to design microbes, primarily yeast, and use them as living factories in established fermentation processes to convert plant-sourced sugars into renewable chemical and transportation fuel products.