Virent Secures $46M in Third Round to Accelerate Catalytic Bio-hydrocarbon Fuels Scale-Up; Expansion into Renewable Diesel
|Virent’s BioForming concept. Source: Virent. Click to enlarge.|
Virent Energy Systems, Inc. has closed a $46.4-million third round of funding in which Shell and Cargill deepened their commitments to Virent’s technology platform, which converts plant sugars into sustainable hydrocarbon fuels.
This new round of funding will advance Virent’s efforts to scale its BioForming process, a patented catalytic biorefinery platform, to commercial production volumes. The investment agreement also expands an existing research and development collaboration with Shell for the production of biogasoline to include diesel fuel.
|Different biofuel pathways. Virent’s BioForming is shaded in yellow. Source: Virent. Click to enlarge.|
Virent’s BioForming platform technology—based on the Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR) Process (earlier post)—is a catalytic, low-temperature (180º–260º C) method for the production of hydrogen or alkanes from oxygenated compounds. BioForming combines APR technology with conventional catalytic processing technologies such as catalytic hydrotreating and catalytic condensation processes, including ZSM-5 acid condensation, base catalyzed condensation, acid catalyzed dehydration, and alkylation.
With its new equity stake, Shell will also have a seat on Virent’s board. The investment round is further highlighted by 100% participation from existing investors.
The financing follows a March 2010 milestone in which Virent announced the successful start-up of the world’s first biogasoline production plant. The Virent demonstration plant can generate more than 10,000 gallons per year of premium biogasoline product and increases confidence in the commercial viability of the technology. (Earlier post.)
Virent has a competitive advantage from our strong relationships with two premier, global companies, Shell and Cargill. Their significant capabilities and expertise across the value chain will be essential to accelerating deployment of Virent’s BioForming technology at commercial scale. I am especially gratified that our accomplishments to date have resulted in a $46.4 million funding round, which is well above our initial $25-40 million objective.
—Lee Edwards, Virent president and CEO
This investment demonstrates Shell’s confidence in Virent’s catalytic biofuel production processes. The expansion of our joint technology program to include research into the production of diesel from plant sugars offers considerable potential and complements Shell’s wider biofuels portfolio.
—Luis Scoffone, Vice President of Alternative Energies at Shell
Over the past four years, Cargill has supported Virent’s innovative sugars-to-hydrocarbons technology as it has evolved into a true biorefinery solution with the potential to help replace petroleum as the source of fuels and many chemicals. We also see the technology’s feedstock flexibility as an important characteristic to enable replacing the sugar source used in producing biogasoline with nonfood sources, such as sugars derived from lignocellulosic feedstocks.
—Scott Portnoy, corporate vice president of Cargill