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Amyris Opens Renewable Products Demonstration Facility in Brazil; Final Scale-up Before Commercial Production of Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

Amyrisbrazil
Amyris Renewable Products Demonstration Facility. Photo: Business Wire. Click to enlarge.

Amyris Brasil Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento, Ltda., a wholly owned subsidiary of Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc., opened the Amyris Renewable Products Demonstration Facility in Campinas, Brazil. The facility, located in the midst of the sugarcane processing industry, secures the final development step before full commercial production of Amyris’s renewable fuels and chemicals.

Amyris’s initial products include a renewable diesel fuel with performance properties that equal or exceed those of petroleum-sourced fuels and currently available biofuels. A key attribute of the fuel is that it is a renewable hydrocarbon—i.e., it is a drop-in replacement for petroleum-derived fuels, enabling it to be used in any kind of diesel engine and withstand extremely low temperatures without the need to alter engines. It can also be easily distributed within the existing fuels infrastructure.

In April, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially registered Amyris’s renewable diesel fuel, making it the first time a hydrocarbon-based fuel made from plant-derived resources (earlier post) has been registered for commercial sale. (Earlier post.)

The company also recently completed its first successful demonstration drive using Amyris renewable diesel. The renewable diesel fuel powered a 30-passenger hybrid diesel bus that provided local transportation to International Olympic Committee members who were visiting Chicago to assess the city’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games in April.

Amyris renewable diesel contains zero sulfur and virtually no harmful aromatics, and when blended with petroleum diesel it results in significantly less particulate matter, NOx, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions than petroleum-based fuels.

In addition to diesel, Amyris expects to produce renewable chemicals for a variety of consumer products and industrial applications currently dependent on petrochemical components.

Amyris applies synthetic biology to alter the metabolic pathways of microorganisms to engineer “living factories” that transform sugar into any one of 50,000 different molecules used in a wide variety of energy, pharmaceutical and chemical applications. Amyris has proven this technology through the delivery of its first successful commercial scale technologies to sanofi aventis for the production of artemisinin, a low cost anti-malarial drug.

The demonstration facility is the first of its kind in Brazil, and is designed to execute in-country scale-up, demonstration and optimization of all Amyris fuels and chemicals manufacturing processes. Amyris produces these renewable products by applying its proprietary synthetic biology technology to convert Brazilian sugar cane into a range of high value products.

The Amyris Renewable Products Demonstration Facility includes both pilot plant and demonstration scale operations, and complements the pilot plants that Amyris opened in Emeryville, Calif. in 2008 and in Campinas earlier this year. Amyris now has fully integrated capabilities to move technology from lab to pilot to demonstration and finally to commercial scale, with tested continuity of results throughout the chain.

The new demonstration equipment allows for final validation of commercial equipment design and manufacturing processes, as well as the production of more than 10,000 gallons of Amyris products under conditions representing full-scale manufacturing. It also provides local training and technical support for new production facilities.

In addition, to achieve Amyris’s planned 2011 commercialization, Amyris has engaged a leading engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) firm, to oversee final design and construction of commercial production facilities. Amyris intends to leverage existing Brazilian cane industry infrastructure through the conversion of ethanol mills to produce higher value Amyris products.

Amyris intends to bring its renewable fuels and chemicals to market in 2011, initially through production in mills that Amyris expects to own or control. Thereafter, starting in 2012, Amyris intends to scale production by working with independent mill owners through “capital-light” agreements in which Amyris provides technology and plant design and mill owners convert their mills to produce Amyris renewable products. Amyris will then distribute and market these products to end customers.

Founded in 2003, Amyris has raised over $125 million in equity funding to date, including investments from Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, TPG Biotech, and Votorantim Novos Negócios.

Amyris operates two subsidiary companies: Amyris Fuels, LLC and Amyris Brasil Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento, Ltda. Amyris Fuels is building Amyris’s US based product distribution and marketing capabilities, generating current revenue from an expanding distribution and customer network. Amyris Brasil was established in March, 2008 to oversee Amyris’s final scale-up, licensing, production and distribution in Brazil.

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