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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



I assume that Shell and Cargill are counting on oil and gasoline prices to continue to rise in the future. Whether M85, cellulose E85 or synthetic gasoline, we will need alternatives when the peak oil bidding war begins.


What SJC said.


The "alternatives" don't have enough feedstock to begin replacing oil, so most of the heavy lifting will have to be done by other means (e.g. electrification). But this is all good, especially if other supplies of process heat (nuclear, excess wind) can permit the light alkanes to be used as storable fuels or chemical feedstocks.


Whatever, either we get it in gear or we fall victim to our own stupidity.


No where does it state the amount of water this process will consume.

Water will become an increasingly expensive commodity if bio fuels are going to replace even a fraction of fossil fuels.


"Royal Dutch Shell leads investment round, with strong participation from Cargill and other existing shareholders"...$46 Million. Not just a few short years ago, the oil companies were making tens of BILLIONS of dollars every quarter. Here, Shell isn't even putting up all the money, but a portion of the $46 Million. It's a nice gesture, but they have the capability to do a heck of a lot more.


Water isn't going to be a big factor in a catalytic system. With sugars as the input and alkanes as the product, it will produce water.

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