The Top 100 People in Bioenergy 2011-12: #51 through #75

December 29, 2011 |

The Top 100 People in Bioenergy – what are the stories behind the list? Today, we look at the personalities ranked #51 through #75.

In Florida, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack headed the “Top 100 People in Bioenergy” as voted by the readers of Biofuels Digest and the Digest’s editorial board, just edging out BP Biofuels chief Philip New, and the heads of Raizen, POET, Solazyme and Amyris. In today’s Digest, we profile the Second 25 in depth.

The first 25 are here, profiled in depth.

The second 25 are here, profile in depth.

The complete Top 100 list is here.

51. Bill Sims, CEO, Joule Unlimited

It’s a startling proposition – sunlight, CO2 and water, fashioned directly into drop-in renewable fuels as well as ethanol and other bio-based materials, and available (at scale) for operating costs below the cost of today’s fossil petroleum. You don’t see CEO Bill Sims too often on the conference circuit, and he doesn’t have to thunder from the pulpit to make quite a stir. We’ll know a lot in 2012-14, as Joule moves towards demonstration of its technology and towards commercial scale – but Sims, in his low-key but forceful way, has already won the attention of the global readership which awarded him a slot at #51.

52. Hunt Ramsbottom, CEO, Rentech

One of the pioneers on aviation biofuels and drop-in fuels in general, Hunt Ramsbottom has pioneered one of the most extensive airline deals – supplying drop-in fuels to airports at LAX and to a consortium of airlines – and has commercial-scale projects in Ontario and Mississippi to supply them. Put that together with a clever financing strategy which includes spinning off the company’s highly profitable fertilizer business to raise cash through an IPO, and you have the formula for the rise of Rentech’s CEO in the Top 100 poll from #99 last year to #52 for 2011-12.

53. Niels Henriksen, CEO, Inbicon

Currently the largest producer of cellulosic ethanol in the world, Inbicon is working on a series of deals to expand capacity at home in Scandinavia as well as in China and North America. Henriksen shepherded the transformation of a promising technology into an enzymatic hydrolysis reality, and with scale, is poised to rise much higher in future polls. Readers rewarded Inbicon’s achievements to date with a first appearance in the top 100 this year for its leader.

54. Bill Lese, MD, Braemar Energy Ventures

A veteran VC with 20+ years in the energy and environmental businesses, the co-founder of Braemar is an investor in a widerange of the the hottest companies in bioenergy. He currently serves on the board of directors of OPX Biotechnologies, and Solazyme, and as a board observer for Enerkem, and previously invested in signature cleantech companies like Verenium and Enernoc. Before Braemar, he was investing in emerging technologies for converting industrial waste streams into value-added products. For sure, one of the go-to nodes in cleantech investment.

55. Jose Olivares, PhD, Director, National Alliance For Advanced Biofuels and Bio-Products

“It’s the first time I’ve put a consortium of this size together,” said Jose Olivares of the NAABB when we visited with him for a profile on the consortium’s work. “You learn as you go. We had several principles. One, inclusiveness, to make sure you had a broad perspective, from the national labs, academia and industry. Two, understanding the  algae value chain as best as we could, and making sure we had good organizations in each area. The third, I think may be the one that made us click, was being transparent and being supportive. Not coming in with “mine is better than yours” but how could we build this together. When it came to the hard decisions, it made it possible to have an attitude that the “best outcome” was important. That helped.”

56. Tim Cesarak, MD, Organic Growth Group, Waste Management

Tim Cesarak serves on the Enerkem board and is MD of the strategic investment arm of Waste Management. Enerkem, as you may recall, has broken ground on its first commercial-scale advanced biofuels plant, putting it in the lead in terms of developing advanced biofuels from MSW.  Meanwhile, WM has invested in Fulcrum Bioenergy, Enerkem, Terrabon, S4 and others, and put together an at-scale financing package for Fulcrum – turning discussion of the company’s waste streams from “low-growth” to “high value opportunity” along the way.

57. K’Lynne Johnson, CEO, Elevance Renewable Sciences

Elevance is in a quiet period now after filing for a $100M IPO late this past year, but analysts keep the chatter up and have marked this as one of the most promising companies in the IPO queue – more for its prominence in renewable chemicals than fuels, opinion that lifted the company to a #15 ranking in the 2011-12 “30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals and Materials” poll. The proprietary metathesis technology platform is based on Nobel Prize-winning innovations in metathesis catalysis. The platform enables them to produce high-value specialty chemicals and direct replacement intermediate chemicals that are cost-advantaged compared to those available from conventional production methods. Johnson has set the strategy correctly – seeing Elevance as a refiner and partnering up with companies that have world-class sales & marketing capabilities for this sector. That’s lifted her, along with a track record in bringing 3 commercial-scale projects towards completion by 2014, into the Top 100 for the first time this year.

58. Marcos Lutz, CEO, Cosan

Nothing like a $12 billion biofuels JV / merger to propel an executive into the Top 10 faces in bioenergy. Though the Raizen JV has yet to articulate its advanced biofuels vision, Cosan has proven its Branson-like ability to grow and attract attention like no other bioenergy venture since, well, Sir Richard Branson. Meanwhile, the company continues to stake out some interesting opportunities in renewable chemicals and materials, outside of the Raizen unit.

59. Robert Brown, PhD, Professor,  Iowa State University

That one of the most comprehensive and compelling biofuels research centers is based in Iowa is not entirely surprising, but its still an impressive array of research on both first- and second-generation biofuels. Recently, Robert Brown was organizer of a well-received international conference on pyrolysis and other thermal and catalytic approaches to bioprocessing, and the wide praise heard there is reflected also in the heavy voting for Brown in this year’s poll, where he placed among the top academics in the field. The fact that pyrolysis and thermocatalytic technologies are gathering momentum hasn’t hurt his profile among the readers one little bit.

60. Bill Hagy, Director, USDA Director of Alternate Energy Policy; Dallas Tonsager, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development; Sarak Bittleman, Sr, Advisor, USDA

At #60, we paired Bill Hagy, Dallas Tonsager, and Sarah Bittleman (who polled strongly in the write-in ballots) – and likely the trio would have secured a higher slot if better known among international voters. As we wrote of a Bill Hagy’s address at Advanced Biofuels Markets:  “As director of the USDA’s bioenergy policy team, I can think of a boatload of reasons why every person in the industry should take notes on his views of the path forward. But also, we have the USDA bioenergy roadmap just out this summer, and this is one of the first opportunities the industry will have to interact at the high-level with USDA on the practical aspects of converting that vision into practical rural development.”

61. Matt Horton, CEO, Propel Fuels

The downstream maestro of biofuels, Propel is poised to take advantage of the massive increase of E30+ ethanol and biodiesel in the US Renewable Fuel Standard annual targets. In an address to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, CEO Matt Horton suggested a comprehensive tax policy to make large volumes possible in terms of distribution as well as production, noting that: “With the primary location of the existing E85 and biodiesel fueling sites in the upper Midwest, much of the balance of the nation remains without such fueling facilities while Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford continue to produce almost 50 percent of their entire production as Flexible Fuel Vehicles.” Readers have responded with a first-time ranking for Horton in the Top 100 poll.

62. Valerie Reed, Acting manager, DOE Biomass Program

With Paul Bryan just now making the switch from manager of the DOE’s critical Biomass Program to the private sectorreaders were split between interim head Valerie Reed and Bryan, so we have paired them at #27. Reed for a job well done in keeping the Biomass Program evolving while the search is on for a permanent head.

63. John May, Stern Brothers; Mark Riedy, Mintz Levin; John Kirkwood, Kreig DeVault

At #63, three executives who have collectively transformed the commercial-scale bioenergy financing picture by pioneering opportunities for project finance based on the bond market rather than conventional bank loans. The architects of the strategy: investment banker John May, long-time renewable energy attorney Mark Riedy (known widely across the spectrum of renewable energy technologies, and a long-time Jedi master in markets such as India); and John Kirkwood, another widely-regarded renewables attorney who also serves Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy.

64. Gary Roth, CEO, Syntroleum

The Dynamic Fuels project owned jointly by Tyson and Syntroleum is, by a factor of 18, the largest operating advanced drop-in biofuels plant in North America. Which is why we titled our profile of the project “Big Story along the Big Muddy: Dynamic Fuels begins commissioning of 75 Mgy advanced biofuels project in Louisiana.” It’s a heady combination – a drop-in renewable fuel that can be blended with the existing diesel fuels without requiring infrastructure changes. A fuel that does not require a tax credit to be economically viable. Does not require the use of additional land for its production, using instead an existing stream of low-value residues and waste to which it adds a high value. Domestically produced without requiring operations at 5,000 feet below sea level in the Gulf of Mexico. Here now. Producing the 50 percent or more reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to conventional fossil fuels, required to qualify as biomass-based diesel under the RFS. All of which persuaded Digest voters to elevate CEO Gary Roth into the top 65 in his first appearance in the Top 100 poll.

65. Todd Becker, CEO, Green Plains Renewable Energy, Tim Burns, CEO, BioProcess Algae

BioProcess Algae is reported last winter that it had commenced operation of commercial-scale bioreactors at the Green Plains Renewable Energy ethanol plant in Shenandoah. BioProcesss CEO Tim Burns told Ethanol Producer that the goal of Phase II of the $11.5 million project, funded by GPRE, Clarcor and NTR as well as grants from the state of Iowa, is  to “demonstrate the commercial viability of our technology. We plan to utilize third-party verification for productivity, harvest densities and product value concerning lipid content and composition. The company said that, if it can produce algae at the rate of 200 tons per acre per year, it will be able to produce 5.8 million gallons of biodiesel per ethanol facility installation, with a goal of 10 projects completed in Iowa by 2015. The unique nature and promise of commercial-scale algal biofuels grown in the temperate zone attracted much attention from voters this year, and we have paired BioProcesss CEO Tim Burns and Green Plains Renewable Energy CEO Todd Becker together at #65.

66. Rob Vierhout, Secretary General, ePURE

At the top among European association execs was Rob Vierhout, Secretary General, ePURE, who supervises the organization of the EU effort on ethanol. The EU has been an up-and-down market for ethanol in terms of the popularity of proposed 2020 mandates, but producers like Abengoa have been expanding their tentacles for home years now around the globe, and the global readership rewarded that effort with a mid-60s ranking for Rob Vierhout.

67. Tom Foust, PhD, NREL; Director,  National Advanced Biofuels Consortium

Tom Foust gives one of the most clear, concise and yet comprehensive 30-minute overviews of the state of play in advanced biofuels development we’ve ever experienced. It’s low key but packs a punch and has a message. You could say the same about the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium that he organized, and which won a major R&D consortium grant from DOE this past year. One of the gurus of colloborative bioenergy research.

68. Steve Burrill, Managing Partner, Burrill & Co / John Hamer, PhD, Managing Director / Roger Wyse, Managing Director / Greg Young, Managing Director, Ganesh Kishore, PhD, CEO, Malaysian Life Sciences Fund

At #68, we’ve paired a remarkable quintet of partners and investors at Burrill & Company, who expanded out of a key position in life sciences and into biofuels, and have been notable in the development of Gevo, Cobalt Technologies, Chromatin and other key players. They’ve been a major force in driving the commercialization of biobutanol, among other technologies. They are also noted for key roles played in industry associations like BIO, and at industry events such as the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, as well as conducting a series of their own industry events and publishing a lot of research on industry trends. Not to mention the following that “Kish” Kishore built during his tenure at Monsanto and Dupont as well as in the Burrill family of funds.

69. Jim Matheson, General Partner, Flagship Ventures / David Berry, PhD, Partner

Whether it is the direct-to-hydrocarbon strategy of an LS9, or the even more exotic “fuel from thin air” conversion of sunlight, CO2 and water directly into biofuels, Flagship has been at the bleeding edge of biofuels investment and company formation. We’ve paired Jim Matheson and David Berry at #69. One notable aspect of Flagship – they don’t just invest in companies – they form them, with Joule being the result of their insights into the potential of new technologies to bypass biomass in the production of biofuels.

70. Heather Brodie, CEO, Biofuels Association of Australia

If you’ve noted the aggressive growth of bioenergy activity in Australia – whether it is developing algal-based fuels and chemicals, advanced sugarcane based ethanol and diesel, or ethanol from municipal solid waste, BAA has been one of the most successful trade organizations around the globe in helping to create the public-private partnerships that drive renewable fuels. Also, a good communicator in terms of driving interest in Australia among project developers and technologies, with a solid international turnout at the group’s initial Australia-wide conference as tribute to the interest they have been building in opportunities down under.

71. Kirk Haney, CEO, SG Biofuels

A recovering teak plantation developer, Kirk Haney and his team at SG Biofuels has been busy defining what we mean when we talk about “Jatropha 2.0″. A landmark commercial agreement with Bharat Renewable Energy, a unit of India’s second largest oil company, Bharat Petroleum, exemplifies the strategy of the company (in this case, elite hybrids of Jatropha across a total 86,000 acres in this phase of development) as it progresses towards a goal of 250,000 acres pledged for deployment by CEO Kirk Haney earlier this year, in this phase of commercialization of its elite JMax hybrid seeds. “The days of selling seed with a service program that consists of ‘good luck’ are over,” Haney told the Digest this year, the kind of frank talk about jatropha that elevated him into the Top 100 this year.

72. John Doerr, Managing Partner, Kleiner Perkins

John Doerr, partner of Al Gore, Vinod Khosla, Tony Blair in the world of Kleiner Perkins, and a godfather of renewable energy, is a Silicon Valley legend who needs no introduction to most. But for those who needed a wake-up call on Doerr’s prescient views on bioenergy could have got one looking at the $66M paycheck Doerr picked up, in the valuation of his holdings at the time of the Amyris IPO. That’s dipped since the IPO, but Doerr has continued to remain highly visible with the high-wattage unveiling of Renmatix as a low-cost cellulosic sugar provider to the biofuels industry.

73. Paul Bryan, former Program Manager, DOE Biomass Program

With Paul Bryan just now making the switch from manager of the DOE’s Biomass Program back to the private sector, he managed to become the highest-ranked write-in vote on the ballot this year, even though his plans are not expected to firm up until early in the New Year. During his tenure at DOE, he was known for shifting DOE strategy towards a “replacing the whole barrel” philosophy that embraced nearer-term commercial opportunities in chemicals and materials as well as opportunities in, say, cellulosic ethanol. All that followed a notable career at Chevron, including tenure as the company’s VP for Biofuels.

74. Jim Sayre, president, Cargill Ventures

Jim Sayre continued to rack up votes from Digest voters this year. He serves as Senior Managing Director of Cargill Ventures and Black River Asset Management, after founding Cargill Ventures in 2000. His signature investment in biofuels? Virent, for sure, though he also serves on the boards of EcoSynthetix, GuardianEdge, and MarkMonitor, and oversees investments in Dust, Redpoint Bio and Proofpoint.

75. Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO, Genencor

The CEO of Genencor at the time of its acquisition of Dupont, Tjerk held a number of leadership positions at Danisco A/S including Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Chief Operating Officer for Cultures, Specialties, and Flavors, and President of Danisco US. In 2004, he was named to the Danisco A/S executive committee.

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