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Terragia raises $6M seed round to advance one-step biological conversion of biomass to ethanol

Start-up Terragia Biofuel raised a $6-million seed round led by Engine Ventures and Energy Impact Partners (EIP). The company will use the capital to commercialize its novel biology-based approach to converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol and other products, expand its employee headcount and initiate partnerships with major biofuel producers.

Terragia uses engineered thermophilic bacteria to break down cellulosic biomass and convert it into ethanol and other chemical products. The company’s technology avoids key features responsible for the high cost of conventional cellulosic biofuel production by one-step consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) without added enzymes, and leveraging mechanical disruption during fermentation (i.e., cotreatment) in lieu of thermochemical pretreatment.


Cellulosic biofuels are a route to low-carbon fuels for aviation and other difficult-to-electrify transport modes as well as CO2 removal from the atmosphere, both of which are critical for climate stabilization. One-step biological conversion of cellulosic biomass without added enzymes or thermochemical pretreatment has clear cost reduction potential relative to other process concepts.

—Martin Keller, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Conversion of ethanol to fuels for planes, ships, and trucks is a leading option for approximately half of future global transportation energy demand, for which electrification is likely impractical, corresponding to a trillion dollar market. With full penetration of this market, Terragia’s technology is projected to displace 3 gigatons of CO2 emissions annually and enable capture of a yet larger amount of CO2.

—Terragia CTO and Co-Founder Lee Lynd, a Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and Director of the Advanced Second Generation Biofuel Lab at the University of Campinas, Brazil

In partnership with Dartmouth College and the University of Campinas, the ongoing development of Terragia’s technology is supported by funding from the US Department of Energy Center for Bioenergy Innovation and the São Paulo Research Foundation, by grants from the US Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation, as well as private capital.

Terragia also announced leadership changes with the appointment of Kristin Brief as Chief Executive Officer. Brief joins co-founders Lee Lynd, who transitioned to Chief Technology Officer, Bill Brady, Board Chair, and Chris Herring, Vice President of Technology Development.



Well, that is the dream, isn't it?
Lets hope it works out.

My own view though is that we should not be allowing and enabling via tax exemptions etc the projected massive increase in the long distance aircraft fleet in the vague hope that 'something will turn up'

I have certainly seen no figures whatsoever to support how world GHG emissions from aircraft can be covered for the projected fleet in 2050.

What I have seen is figures purporting to show that the special case of US biomass could cover the PRESENT US only fleet, but they don't want to do that right now, as it is far too expensive, ie air fares would have to rise to make it practical, which should at any rate solve the problem of too much expansion, but the aircraft industry intends to fight tooth and nail to avoid carrying their true costs.

It is based on the ludicrous notion that the ability to fly off ad lib for far away holidays is more important than containing global warming.

This is the position of a neurotic, refusing to face reality.

The international shipping industry is also pretty dire, but seems at least to have relatively credible, and I do mean relatively, plans in place to actually reduce emissions.

Roger Brown


"Realize the value of leaving residue in the field. Residue should be left in the field as it protects the soil to reduce erosion and conserve water, critical in dryland production. The residue mulch greatly reduces evaporation, saving three to five inches of water over the growing season."

Given the increasing incidence of droughts we should not plan on using all of our "waste" biomass for producing fuel. Corn produces such a large amount of biomass per hectare that it is not practical to leave it all in the field, so that the excess is potentially a good candidate bio-fuel production. However I believe that the goal of processing this biomass should be to co-produce food and fertilizer. Recycling nutrients should have high priority in the development of such a process.

Whether the best use of this fuel is to prop up jet airplane tourism is highly doubtful in my mind. I think we should start taxing jet fuel produced from fossil sources at a rate which will be ramped up over time. If the airline industry can ramp up SAF fast enough they can avoid paying increased taxes. If they cannot scale SAF rapidly enough then the rising tax rates will scale back flight miles and fuel use. Such a scheme would force the proponents of SAF to put up or shut up rather that going forward with airline industry expansion plans and assuming that SAF at scale will ride to the rescue of carbon emissions.

Of course there are a number of local economies that have become significantly dependent on jet airplane tourism. If it becomes evident that SAF will not scale rapidly enough then these economies will have to transform, and a planning process will have to be put in place to deal with this situation. Scaling back jet airplane tourism will not limit our ability to produce food, shelter, clothing, leisure and reasonable comfort for the population of the planet. If people become impoverished and immiserated because of this change such suffering will be the result of a failure of social organization rather than a matter of physical necessity.



Just so.

The airline industry could start by paying some tax on fuel, instead of being zero rated.
At the moment the wealthy can travel in their business jets paying zero tax on their fuel down to Monaco, whilst humble folk driving their camparvans down pay tax at 60%

And for piston driven light aircraft:

' The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced it has determined that lead emitted from airplanes is a danger to public health, opening the door for the agency’s first limits on lead fuel in aviation.'

Really! How on earth have they managed to work that out!

I have not been able to track down any recent analysis of tire particulate emissions from landing aircraft, as that has only relatively recently been addressed in a reasonably comprehensive way for cars, but what is the betting that landing and breaking aircraft, including jumbo jets, emits a heavy burden.

I have found this on tire wear:

' The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger plane in the world, and it has 22 tires. That's over 30 pounds of rubber lost per landing – equivalent to the amount of rubber in two of your car's tires.'

Of course the only thing the aircraft industry has been interested in is how much it costs to replace the tires and scrape melted rubber off the runway, with the no doubt substantial particulate emissions damaging health being of no noticeable interest to them, but that does not mean that they do not impose a real cost, although of course that is paid largely those living in proximity to the airports, not the important folk jetting off on their holidays etc, so doesn't matter.

Roger Brown


I did not realize that leaded fuel was still in use in American aviation. You learn something new every day.

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