16 overlooked gems in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy voting

November 29, 2010 |

In Digestville, a collection of newer and fast-moving companies have made our “overlooked gems” list – companies that have struggled inexplicably in balloting for the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy polling despite highly credible advanced technologies and, in several cases, well on the way to commercialization.

It may be tough for readers to find room in their Hot 50 lists, but here are 16 that, in our view, merit more attention that they have been so far receiving in the ballots.

IneosBio (now at #46)

Latest news: Earlier this month, INEOS New Planet BioEnergy awarded its EPC contract to build its 8 million gallon per year advanced bioenergy facility in Vero Beach to AMEC of Tucker, GA. The facility will also produce up to 6 MW of renewable power from municipal solid waste and yard and wood residues, enough to power more than 4,000 residences.

Our take: Though the company has inched up into the mid-40s in recent days, this perennial contender in the Hot 50 has inexplicably moved down in the rankings this year despite incredible progress in its cellulosic ethanol project with New Planet, which is expected to break ground by year end, and which received a $50M grant from the DOE just over a year ago. A nasty lawsuit between Coskata and INEOS Bio over some intellectual property issues may have cooled the ardor of some voters. But it remains a project well worth another look.

Solix (now at #51)

Latest news: In September, BASF and Solix Biofuels announced an agreement to investigate the use of algae to produce certain chemicals for BASF. Solix is a leading developer of algae cultivation technology systems and will test multiple algae species in its proprietary growth system, AGSTM, for BASF.  “Algae represent a fascinating addition to BASF’s technology portfolio,” said Harald Lauke, President of the Specialty Chemicals Research at BASF, “as they offer the potential to produce a number of exciting specialty products. After surveying the algae industry, we chose to work with Solix based on its knowledge of algal biology and the strength of its AGS.”

Our take: When one of the world’s largest chemical companies announces its first biofuels partnership with a Hot 50 company, we would have expected Hot 50 regular Solix to zoom, not fall to the edge of the rankings as a whole. Some disphoria over algal timelines and progress may be affecting the company as a whole, but they have certainly been making all the right moves.

OPX Biotechnologies (now at #54)

Latest news: OPX Biotechnologies was recognized as one of 50 Colorado Companies to Watch by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation. OPXBIO’s first product, bioacrylic, will be a cost-competitive replacement for its petroleum-based equivalent, which today has an $8 billion global market. With successful completion of bioacrylic pilot-scale development progressing faster than planned, OPXBIO is on track to build a demonstration facility in 2011 and a commercial plant in 2013.

Our take: The company’s first product, bioacrylic, may have failed to excite the voters, but commercialization by 2013 is a strong timeline for any Hot 50 contender, and certainly the company is reporting that it is, if anything, speeding up its timetable.

KL Energy (now at #55)

Latest news: “In August, KL Energy and Petrobras announced that they have entered into a Joint Development Agreement to jointly optimize KLE’s proprietary cellulosic ethanol process technology for sugarcane bagasse feedstock. As part of this agreement, The companies also said that they will develop a 4 Mgy bagasse-based cellulosic ethanol project that will be co-located with a Petrobras-owned sugarcane mill, which will come online in 2013.

Our take: Readers put KL in the Hot 50 for the past two years – now, a deal with Petrobras to enter the hot Brazilian ethanol market is rewarded with a lower ranking. We’re confused!

Inbicon (now at #56)

Latest news: In August, Inbicon commenced shipping cellulosic ethanol to Statoil with a 8,00 gallon (28,500 liter) delivery from the Inbicon’s  demonstration plant at the Asnæs powerplant in Kalundborg. Overall, Statoil has bought the first five million litres of Inbicon second generation bio ethanol, produced from wheat straw and other agricultural and forestry waste, using enzymes from Novozymes.

Our take: Let’s see, open the largest cellulosic plant in Europe, commnce shipping ethanol to Statoil, and announce potential projects in the US and China. Result? Potentiall drop out of the Hot 50. Hmmm, we don’t see the logic.

SG Biofuels (now at #57)

Latest news: “In September, SG Biofuels announced it has completed a $9.4 million Series A financing with proceeds from Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, Life Technologies Corporation and participation from existing investors. The company also confirmed previous reports that Life Technologies had invested in the company in Q4 of last year in a seed round.

Our take: Jatropha has fallen on hard times indeed if investments by Koch and Life Technologies don’t excite the voters. We’ve seen this company pouring on the steam all year, including the launch of its JMax optimization platform, which is producing sharply higher yields. Well worth another look after entering the Hot 50 last year for the first time.

Fulcrum Bioenergy (now at #59)

Latest news: Fulcrum BioEnergy announced earlier this month that the U.S. Department of Energy has selected Fulcrum’s Sierra BioFuels Plant to enter the final phase of DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program. Fulcrum has received a detailed indicative term sheet from DOE and has begun the negotiation process to advance the loan towards closure and funding. The Sierra BioFuels Plant will be located approximately 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada in Storey County.

Our take: First biofuels company to get a DOE loan guarantee term sheet – slam dunk! Where are the “Red Hot” votes?

Dyadic (now at #62)

Latest news: In August, Dyadic International announced that it completed a private placement of $3,000,000 in convertible subordinated secured notes with two investors. The notes will be convertible into shares of Dyadic common stock at a conversion price of $1.82 which represents 120% of the average closing price for the 30-day period preceding the closing date. The notes mature on January 1, 2013.

Our take: “Codexis’ Alan Shaw lathered praise on Dyadic’s technology platform as key to Codexis’ progress, in remarks at the Advanced Biofuels Markets. That sure grabbed attendees’ attention. We’ve been surprised that the company hasn’t developed more traction in the voting.”

KiOR (now at #63)

Latest news: In August, the Mississippi state legislature approved Governor Haley Barbour’s special session request for a $75 million loan to KiOR for a proposed development of five biofuel plants in Mississippi by the Houston-based pyrolysis group. The state approved $51 million in new bonds to support a total of $81 million in incentives supporting the project, even as legislators question the viability of a process that has, to date, been proven only at pilot project levels.

Our take: KiOR has come on strong, rising to #63 out of nowhere, but is best by a large crop of “I don;t knows” in the voting. Well worth getting to know.

Mendel Biotechnologies (now at #64)

Latest news: In September, Oxford Resource Partners and Mendel Biotechnology announced a collaborative agreement to develop a pilot project to produce Mendel’s proprietary Miscanthus varieties on land previously reclaimed from mining operations by Oxford. The goal of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility and economic viability of biomass production from dedicated energy crops in eastern Ohio.

Our take: Mendel made the AlwaysOn 100, a list which covers all of cleantech and featured just 14 bioenergy companies – and the company has been highly praised in the invited selectors – but with readers, no traction. Forgetting to file for the Hot 50 this year was a PR flub, but the company does deserve a long look in any case.”

GlycosBio (now at #67)

Latest news: In September, Glycos Biotechnologies announced that it created the first ever microbial platform for the efficient synthesis of biofuels and biochemicals from fatty acids.  This revolutionary advancement builds on GlycosBio’s microorganism platform and further diversifies the set of feedstocks and co-products the company offers enabling greater cost savings and product flexibility for producers.  This research was done in collaboration with GlycosBio’s Scientific Advisory Board Chairman Prof. Ramon Gonzalez and his group at Rice University.

Our take: The company is in the process of putting steel in the ground in Malaysia – a long ways away fro many readers, but this DFJ Mercury-financed company has been making strong progress all year towards a series of renewable chemicals and fuels.

Envergent (Now at #73)

Latest news: In September, the Malaysian national government announced a deal to construct nine fast pyrolysis plants by 2015, using Ensyn and UOP technology, that will convert palm waste into 316 Mgy of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Ensyn and UOP’s joint venture, Envergent, will provide technical assistance to the project.

Our take: We sure like the sound of 316 million gallons of biofuel in Malaysia by 2015 – what’s not hot about that?

TMO Renewables (Now at #77)

Latest news:
TMO Renewables has signed a deal with Fiberight in the US for a 20-year, $500 million deal to supply the American company with its proprietary GM bacteria used to break down MSW into biofuels. Fiberight claims that TMO’s technology is three to five years ahead of the US, while TMO claims it could supply up to 50% of the US’s second generation biofuel requirement under the RFS2. Fiberight expects to build 15 plants in the US using TMO’s technology in the next five years.

Our take: TMO just missed out on the Hot 50 last year and, despite an astounding $500M deal with Fiberight, has been backing up in the voting. We don’t get it!

Phycal (Now at #84)

Latest news: In July, Phycal picked up a $24M DOE grant to complete development of an integrated system designed to produce liquid biocrude fuel from microalgae cultivated with captured CO2.  The algal biocrude can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into a variety of renewable drop-in replacement fuels such as jet fuel and biodiesel.  Phycal will design, build, and operate a CO2-to-algae-to-biofuels facility at a nominal thirty acre site in Central O’ahu (near Wahiawa and Kapolei), Hawaii.  Hawaii Electric Company will qualify the biocrude for boiler use, and Tesoro will supply CO2 and evaluate fuel products.

Our take: Phycal has been one of the hottest algae companies this year, and will score well with the invited selectors. Readers may well wish to take another look.”

SynGest (now at #85)

Latest news: In July, SynGest announced that the Iowa Power Fund and Iowa Office of Energy Independence are in final negotiations for a contract in the amount of $2.5 million for the development and commercialization of SynGest’s bioammonia production technology in the state of Iowa.

Our take: This bioammonia project had a lot of influence on the structure of in our “bioenergy project of the future” earlier this year, in which step 6 was described as “add bioammonia”. Good credibility, low visibility. Though still at an early stage, its a company with a vision that deserves lots of attention.

American Process (now at #113)

Latest news: In August, American Process commenced construction on its $32 million, 0.9 Mgy wood-waste based cellulosic ethanol plant in Alpena.  The company’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was headlined last week by Governor Jennifer Granholm. The pilot-scale plant,  which will be completed by the end of 2011, has received $17.9 million in support from the DOE and $4 million from the state of Michigan.

Our take: Perhaps the biggest shocker in the voting. A major DOE grant recipient last year – already breaking ground on its pilot wood waste-to-ethanol project in Michigan this year. How is this company backed up all the way to #113. Readers, awake!

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