Praj Industries and Qteros partner to accelerate global commercialization of cellulosic ethanol; Qteros closes Series C financing tranche
India-based Praj Industries Limited and Qteros, Inc., the developer of a Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) platform for low-cost production of cellulosic ethanol using the Q-microbe (earlier post), have formed a strategic partnership to accelerate commercialization efforts for industrial-scale cellulosic ethanol production.
Qteros also announced that it has closed the initial tranche in its Series C financing. The completion of this $22M financing is expected to provide sufficient funding to accelerate its development and commercialization plans.
The Q Microbe (Clostridium phytofermentans) produces enzymes required for biomass degradation into pentose and hexose sugars, while simultaneously co-fermenting all these sugars into ethanol as its natural metabolic end product. The organism’s innate biological ability to produce ethanol from biomass enables Qteros to focus its development efforts on optimizing the organism’s effectiveness for industrial-scale production. Moreover, the Q Microbe is feedstock-flexible, producing cellulosic ethanol from a range of non-food biomass materials, including, among others, sugarcane bagasse, corn stover and cobs, and a broad variety of energy crops.
Praj and Qteros will collaborate on a multi-year development program with the objective of rapidly developing and commercializing Process Design Packages (PDPs) that enable cellulosic ethanol production using Qteros’ Q Microbe-enabled CBP platform and Praj’s technology and expertise in the conversion of biomass to ethanol. The partners say that this licensing model will provide an efficient and low-cost solution to the market, while also allowing Qteros and Praj to deploy their capital in an efficient and leveraged manner. The companies plan to retrofit Praj’s existing pilot plant in Pune, India with Qteros’ technology platform, which will then become the foundation for accelerated production scaling as part of its commercial planning.
Initially, the companies will focus their efforts on developing PDPs for feedstocks that include sugarcane, corn and wheat residuals with the goal of achieving commercial-readiness by the end of 2012.
The companies believe that their initial commercial plans will focus on Praj’s existing broad base of ethanol customers seeking to add co-located cellulosic ethanol facilities to their existing ethanol infrastructure. Based on the achievement of certain development and commercialization milestones, Qteros and Praj may elect to broaden the partnership to incorporate additional feedstocks, and potentially other biochemical products to be derived from Qteros’ microorganism-based platform.
An optimized and streamlined consolidated bioprocessing platform offers the potential to provide important production cost efficiencies and economic returns to global ethanol producers. Praj has achieved significant milestones in second generation, cellulosic ethanol technology development. We have also evaluated the complete market landscape for cellulosic ethanol conversion technologies and we believe Qteros’ CBP platform potentially offers the most advanced technology solution to enable the lowest cost production of cellulosic ethanol across a broad array of important non-food based feedstocks. We believe this partnership will enhance the results of the developmental breakthroughs achieved by Praj Matrix, the Research and Development (R&D) division of Praj, which has worked with virtually all types of cellulosic biomass at its pilot plant. Building on its experience of installing ethanol plants in over 50 countries, Praj will bring an integrated approach to the partnership in the second generation bioethanol space.—Pramod Chaudhari, Founder and Executive Chairman, Praj Industries Ltd., and Chairman, Praj Group
Praj Matrix has focused for more than five years on a technology platform to pretreat a variety of lignocellulosic biomass to produce hemicellulosic and cellulosic derivatives in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Qteros is funded by investors including, among others, Venrock Associates, Battery Ventures, BP Technology Ventures, Soros Fund Management LLC, and Valero Energy Corporation.