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Shell Exec Signs On as President of LS9

LS9, Inc., a startup founded in 2005 to apply synthetic biology technology to the production of proprietary biofuels (earlier post), has named Robert Walsh its new President, effective immediately. Walsh will lead the rapid commercialization of LS9 DesignerBiofuels products, including a pilot facility leading to commercial production.

LS9 DesignerBiofuels products are a family of fuels produced by microbes that have been specially engineered via recently developed methods of industrial synthetic biology. LS9 hydrocarbon biofuels have higher energetic content than ethanol or butanol and have fuel properties that are essentially indistinguishable from those of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

One of the company’s products is a Designer Biodiesel that overcomes the key challenges associated with existing vegetable oil-based biodiesel including quality consistency, scalability of feedstocks, product economics, and cold-flow properties.

Walsh brings more than 28 years of global petroleum industry experience including 26 years at Royal Dutch Shell. From 2001 to 2005, he was General Manager Supply for Shell Europe Oil Products where he was responsible for $30 billion in annual revenue.

After years of leadership roles in the traditional petroleum industry and responsibility over all aspects of the hydrocarbon supply chain, I can see clearly how LS9's products will fit into existing infrastructure and deliver significant value to partners and consumers compared with other biofuel alternatives. LS9 has the opportunity to fundamentally change the transportation fuel equation.

—Robert Walsh

Walsh replaces Doug Cameron of Khosla Ventures who has been acting CEO of the company during the past year. Dr. Cameron will remain actively involved with LS9 as a Board member as well as a member of its Scientific Advisory Board.



The product line here sounds interesting. Hydrocarbon biofuels with high energy content are welcome and if they have a lower footprint than other biofuels all the better.

What keeps this interesting is the giant hedge that electrics have against the liquid fuel people. Should they try to veer down the monopoly road again, the electric products will hammer them into transparency. This is why the alternative energy future is all about diversity, synthetics and organics and naturally evolved feedstocks.

If one source is less efficient, we move to another and then another - a whole broad range of sustainable solutions - not just one or two.

How detials on how they plan to convert biomass into sythetic petroleum would be nice.

Alex Kovnat

Synthetic hydrocarbons made from renewable resources are all well and good, but we must remember that oxygenates (i.e. alcohols, ethers) have a role in reducing air pollution from spark-ignited engines.


Bioblah. The biofuel industry is an environmental nightmare waiting to happen and a product of big oil working out a strategy to keep dealing us crack at the pumps.

Although they will fight tooth and nail to ensure it never happens, clean solar, tidal, hydro electricity powered EVs will rule the day should our incredibly damaged biosphere be able to hold on long enough for us to start reversing the damage done by decades of fossil fuel consumption.

The race is on between small companies disrupting big oil and big auto - and the time we have left before every major life supporting system on this planet (that has been in rapid decline for years) collapses.

I'd like to say a sarcastic "thanks" to the psychos who are our captains of industry in the fossil fuel industries for helping to wreck the joint and suppressing cleaner alternatives. No business gets conducted on a dead planet you fools. Start protecting what's left.

Or wait, if - and when - our ecosystems collapse on a planetary scale (as our top unbiased global scientific minds are telling us we are in very real danger of), you can give your children and grandchildren all your stock and cash and excuses to breathe and eat when there is nothing left.


Jaded consumer.

Sam Westbork

Jaded consumer, you must be a lot of fun at parties. Lighten up Frances.


Hmm. Makes an interesting point if they happen to have these amazing bugs that make this stuff now...or was the "crack pot" theory of oil created in an underground ecosystem "undiscovered" biosphere correct?

Or is it simply that bombarding different yeasts and bactiria with radiation for years really finaly made what they need?

either way. Fascinating.

P Schager

Biofuel that is essentially indistinguishable from the petroleum standards is a good news/bad news proposition. The good news is that it makes it pointless for anyone to try to stand in the way of the accommodation of these fuels because neither vehicles nor infrastructure have to change anything. The bad news is twofold. One, it gives everyone an excuse not to change the vehicles at all, and that excuse will be leveraged off of so the accommodations will not get disseminated for conventional biofuels. Biofuels which are still the mainstream, have plenty of internal competition, and have advantages in burning cleaner. Two, they will pollute just as much as traditional petroleum fuels, and leave us with just as much pollution pressure. Politicoeconomic pressure to keep accepting pollution and not raise the bar. Other than CO2. But ethanol's promise to drive us to higher-compression SI engines for high efficiency is an opportunity to reduce CO2 as well that will now get blunted.

This also makes it easy for the standard oil companies to take over the biofuels business in an unfriendly takeover, then not support it with the enthusiasm it would normally get.

I fear that the bad news in this overshadows the good.


I doubt there anywhere near a functional product yet.


77% of the world's remaining oil reserves, if not more, is controlled by state oil firms. The oil majors have been pushed out of Venezuela, Russia, and other places. They are actually pumping less oil as a result.

They're not going to stand by and let themselves be run out of business. And frankly, I'd rather buy synthetic petroleum from Chevron and ExxonMobil before the natural stuff from Saudi Arabia.

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