Cobalt Technologies: Biofuels Digest’s 5-Minute Guide

October 25, 2012 |

Address: 500 Clyde Avenue
, Mountain View, CA 94043

Year founded: 2006

Company description:

Cobalt Technologies is commercializing cellulosic biobutanol, a versatile platform molecule for the renewable chemicals and fuels. The Company’s technology efficiently converts diverse non-food feedstocks – initially, lignocellulosic extracts from woody biomass and sugar cane bagasse – into biobutanol. Cobalt will offer complete systems for sugar mill, pulp and paper, and biomass power facility retrofits with a cost-effective biorefinery module, taking advantage of benefits of co-location (feedstock supply, logistics, permits) while enhancing overall facility returns. Feedstock for the biorefinery will be low-value hemicellulose and cellulose extracted from bagasse or woody biomass, and other available low-cost feedstocks.

Biobutanol can be used as is in paints, coatings and other chemical products, a 1.2 billion gallon, $7 billion global market. It can also be converted via known chemistry into a wide range of high value products, including 1-butene, isobutene and butyraledehyde derivatives, replacing petrochemicals and accessing a 67 billion gallon, $300 billion market, and full performance jet fuel and diesel. Biobutanol can also be blended with gasoline, diesel and ethanol to reduce emissions.

Engineered to achieve low costs through high productivity, energy efficiency and the use of low-cost feedstock, Cobalt is making biobutanol and its derivatives a cost effective substitute to petroleum-based materials.

Major Investors

Pinnacle Ventures
Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund
VantagePoint Capital Partners
The Whittemore Collection Ltd.
Life Sciences Partners (LSP)
Burrill and Company.
Harris & Harris

Type of Technology(ies):
• Lignocellulose extraction and conditioning, depending upon particular feedstock
• Development of high performing organisms via proprietary techniques
• Accelerated fermentation in patent-pending bioreactor system
• Standard distillation technology optimized for unique attributes of Cobalt process

Feedstocks: Lignocellulose extracts from woody biomass in connection with pulp and paper or biomass power operations, sugar cane bagasse, and energy crops. Also other low cost sugars derived from wastes from industrial processes.

Products: Cellulosic n-butanol and derivative products

Product Cost

$1.70 – $2.50 per gallon, assuming $55 / ton of feedstock, and depending on specific feedstock and degree of pretreatment required to extract fermentable sugars.

Past Milestones

• Pilot plant opening in Mountain View in January 2010 – now over 8,300 hours of operations
• Agreement with U.S. Navy to produce full performance jet fuel (November 2010) and production of initial samples (July 2011)
• Cobalt, Rhodia ink joint development deal for biobutanol demonstration plant in Brazil.

Future Milestones

• Enter into commercial partnerships for feedstock supply, plant construction and offtake
• Build and commence operations of first commercial plant

Business Model:

Joint venture partner contributing technology for equity participation plus cash investment where required for financing (i.e, first commercial plant) and as balance sheet permits.

Competitive Edge(s):
• Proprietary assays for development and selection of high performance non-GMO organisms
• Ability of proprietary organism to convert C5 sugars to solvent, which creates opportunities to use low cost feedstock.
• Bioreactor design that enables high levels of productivity (keeping capital costs low)
• Energy-efficient distillation process
• High value product (butanol price in chemical market is $6 per gallon)

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.
US Navy
Colorado State University
Fluor Corporation

Pilot, currently designing demonstration.

Company website:

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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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