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Cobalt Technologies demonstrates capability of biocatalyst conversion of biomass sugars to n-butanol; confirms 40-60% cost reduction compared to petroleum-derived n-butanol

Cobalt Technologies, a developer of next-generation technology for the production of n-butanol, announced the successful demonstration of one of its advanced biocatalysts. Partnering with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Cobalt completed multiple fermentation campaigns in a 9,000 liter fermenter, exceeding the target yield and other performance metrics for a commercial-scale facility.

That announcement came one day after Cobalt successfully demonstrated its biomass pretreatment process in cooperation with ANDRITZ, a leading supplier of technologies, equipment and plants for the pulp and paper industry.

Our strain demonstration comes on the heels of the successful demonstration of our pretreatment technology, proving our ability to map performance at the smallest scales all the way through demo scale. Ultimately, we’re showing performance is achievable at commercial scale across our technology platform. This essentially eliminates the majority of scale-up risk associated with commercialization, which is vital for our customers and partners.

—Bob Mayer, CEO of Cobalt Technologies

For the strain fermentation demonstration, Cobalt utilized the NREL Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility (IBRF) in the National Bioenergy Center facilities in Golden, Colorado, which is designed for large-scale fermentation and downstream processing. Using this test facility, Cobalt demonstrated its advanced biocatalyst’s ability to convert non-food based substrates into renewable n-butanol. Tests resulted in high sugar conversion and high yields of butanol. Cobalt is keeping the exact conversion and yield figures confidential at this point.

Overall, the advanced biocatalyst fermentation demonstration not only validates the ability of Cobalt’s Non-GMO biocatalyst to perform at commercial scale, but also confirms that the Cobalt process to produce renewable butanol is 40-60% less expensive than production of petroleum-based butanol using the traditional oxo-alcohol process, according to the company. This positions Cobalt to be able to move to commercial-scale fermentations with its key strategic partners.

While Cobalt’s technology has the ability to perform on a continuous basis, this testing was conducted using batch processes to fully demonstrate the flexibility of the technology to meet the needs of potential customers and partners. The butanol produced during this demonstration will be sent to several customers for product certification. Company-specific certification will allow Cobalt’s renewable n-butanol to be incorporated into existing chemical-based products such as paints, solvents or plastics.

Pretreatment. Cobalt and ANDRITZ tested Cobalt’s dilute acid hydrolysis pretreatment process, the first step of the process for converting sugars into n-butanol for use as a renewable chemical or fuel.

Cobalt conducted the testing in the ANDRITZ pulp and paper mill demonstration facility in Springfield, OH, which is specifically designed to validate new processes before commercial-scale implementation. Cobalt’s dilute acid hydrolysis pretreatment process, which extracts sugars from lignocellulosic biomass, was validated on woody biomass, bagasse and agricultural residues.

Using ANDRITZ’s proven pulp processing equipment, Cobalt tested its pre-treatment process on both a batch and continuous basis. These runs, while processing up to 20 bone-dry tons of biomass per day, successfully extracted sugars from the biomass without the use of enzymes to produce the desired liquid hydrolysate.

This milestone not only proves the ability of Cobalt’s pretreatment process to scale-up, it also marks the first phase of Cobalt’s partnership with specialty chemical company, Rhodia in Brazil to develop bio n-butanol refineries throughout Latin America utilizing bagasse as a feedstock.


Henry Gibson

Feed the treated materials to a cow and you will get milk production. ..HG..


Gasify what you have left and make synthetic gasoline. The U.S. uses half the gasoline made in the world every day in more than 200 million vehicles, that will be about the same 10 years from now as well.

Nat Pearre

SJC: My understanding is that butanol can be used directly in any gas engine. The differences between a chain of 4 and a chain of 8 are fairly minor (at least compared to a chain of 2, ie ethanol)

But I think we only use about 1/4 of the world's oil... though your point stands.


1/4 of the world's oil but 1/2 of the world's gasoline. Please read what I wrote and not what you thought you read.

Nat Pearre

SJC: I apologize for giving offense. Right you are.

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