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Total Takes 17% Stake in Amyris; Strategic Partnership for Biomass-based Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

Amyris engineers microbes to convert sugar to hydrocarbon fuels. Micrograph of fermentation fluids from production of Amyris Renewable Diesel (Nov 2007). Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.

France-based Total, a major international oil and gas company, and synthetic biology company Amyris Inc., have entered into a strategic partnership encompassing Total’s investment in Amyris and a wide-spectrum master development and collaboration agreement.

Total has agreed to acquire approximately 17% equity interest in Amyris on a fully diluted basis, and will have the right to appoint a member of the Amyris Board of Directors. Under their collaboration agreement, Total and Amyris R&D teams will work together to develop new products and build biological pathways to produce and commercialize renewable fuels and chemicals.

The partnership combines Amyris’ industrial synthetic biology platform and emerging Brazilian production capacity with Total’s technological know-how, industrial scale-up capabilities and access to markets.

Biotechnology offers new perspectives on the conversion of biomass into molecules for biofuels and green chemistry. Amyris is one of the most promising start-ups in the emerging white biotechnology field. Its technology platform is a powerful accelerator for the development of industrial production routes for several of our markets. This partnership is a milestone for Total, as we aim to become an important player in this domain.

—Philippe Boisseau, President, Total Gas & Power

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 is using this technology to develop renewable chemical and transportation fuel products. Amyris operates laboratories and a pilot plant in California and a pilot plant and demonstration facility in Brazil.

Amyris currently is developing two types of renewable hydrocarbon fuels: Amyris Renewable Diesel, and Amyris Renewable Jet.

Yesterday, Amyris announced that it and Cosan S.A. executed term sheets to establish a joint venture for the worldwide development, production and commercialization of renewable intermediate chemicals for specific industrial and automotive applications. (Earlier post.)

The company also has formed a partnership with Soliance combining Amyris’s industrial synthetic biology platform with Soliance’s leadership position in the production and commercialization of renewable cosmetic ingredients. Under this agreement, the parties will apply Amyris’s technology to produce squalane for use in cosmetics.


Henry Gibson

The major falsity about biofuels is that people are being led to believe that fossil fuels did not come from photo synthesis in the past and must be bad.

Multi-carbon alcohols have higher energy density than methanol, but they are not necessarily more useful fuels than methanol. Trees and other plants and animals do produce even pure hydrocarbon chain chemicals such as heptane which have higher energy per pound than any alcohols. Such fuels are best used in aircraft. Any fuel, including pure carbon, can be used in vehicles that stay on the ground. Pure carbon powder can be used in short range aircraft if the price is low enough.

The three carbon alcohol, glycerol, is part of most fats produced by plants. The other part of the fats are long chain oxidized alcohols called fatty acids. Vinegar is the short chain carbolixic acid form of ethanol.

Sodium sulphur batteries are likely to have the best efficiency and lowest cost combination for electric energy storage, and are more than adequate for most automobile trips. Many battery types including lead are adequate for most trips and then there are small engine generators for other trips.

The Russians built a hydrogen powered aircraft and then tested liquid methane in it as well. Methane, produced by many organisms, is the lightest most energy dense hydrocarbon fuel and is suitable for most automobile use. Ordinary gasoline can be used for the rare long distance travel, but for locomotives, the cost of compressed natural gas storage waggons and their transport is low enough for a total conversion from diesel to CNG.

What could be better than a large covered pond where CO2 is pumped in with the sunlight and the organisms use solar energy to convert CO2 to methane. Little additional water is needed and much of the nutrients are recycled. Genetically engineer organisms so that the nitrogen needed for growth is obtained from solar fixing of ntrogen from the air!

It is not known what was fed to the goose that layed the golden eggs, but the biofuelists have people believing that biofuels can produce enough energy for modern civilizations. The fact that the whole world has fewer forests and natural grass lands shows that this is false. Just fishing for food had depleted the massive ocean stocks of fish. It is not widely known that it is easily possible to build a ship that runs off of ocean biomass and waste plastics found in the ocean. It can use wind to get to the plastics and save them up for low wind areas.

Sun light is not the only free energy. All energy comes from the fusion of hydrogen to heavier elements in the sun or other stars. All fossil fuels are solar energy from one star or another. Solar energy and solar derived fossil energy of any kind are all free, but it requires facilities to collect such energy for its use by man or animals. The cost of the facilities is represented mostly the cost of their construction and the area to build such facilities. The energy in carbon fossil fuels was collected over millions of years of ver vast tracts of land and the few remants remaining of that collection are now being used in a brief time period.

If people think that land for colecting solar energy for biofuesls is free, just look at the recent killings over it in former soviet areas.

The second biggest lie about biofuels is that there is enough land and water area for enough prodution to replace a substantial part of the current use of fossil BIOFUELS.

A forest is a fossil fuel reserve from at most a few thousand years ago. A peat bog may have existed for millions of years.

A recent trip showed vast amounts of farmland not absorbing very much CO2 because the crops were not yet planted or just still small. Forests are much better at capturing CO2 than bare ground. How many readers about biofuels know about coppicing?

China can now make the difference in reducing the production of CO2 by building thousands of pebble bed reactors and making fuel with them by combining CO2 with water and nuclear heat to produce Methanol. China is already testing the re-use of old reactor fuel in their more fuel efficient heavy water reactors. ..HG..

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