Virent: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

January 26, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoVirent is in the business of replacing crude oil by applying clever chemistry to create the fuels and chemicals the world demands using a wide range of naturally-occurring, renewable resources.

Virent’s patented technology features catalytic chemistry to convert plant-based sugars into a full range of products identical to those made from petroleum, including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemicals for plastics and fibers.

Virent’s products are ‘drop-in’ replacements that enable full utilization of existing logistics infrastructure without blending limitations.

The development of Virent’s BioForming technology platform is supported through our strategic partners, including Shell, Coca-Cola, Cargill, and Honda, as well as 130 employees based in Madison, Wisconsin. The company has received several grants from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Energy and Agriculture and has been recognized with many honors, including the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer award, and the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. Virent has a large intellectual property folder, with over 45 issued patents and over 150 pending patent applications, covering 28 different technology families.

The Situation

Fuels, chemicals and biobased materials — Virent can pretty much make it all.

Case in point from last November, Virent and the PlantPET Technology Collaborative (PTC) have signed an Expression of Interest that provides individual members of the PTC an option on preferred access to Virent’s 100% plant-based BioFormPX paraxylene (PX) to be produced at the company’s first industrial manufacturing facility. The plant-based PX, when combined with existing PET technology, allows manufacturers to offer customers 100% renewable, recyclable, PET packaging and polyester fibers.

The PTC is comprised of world class companies, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Ford Motor Company, H.J. Heinz Company, NIKE, Inc., and The Procter and Gamble Company, all of whom are large users of PET for packaging materials or PET polyester fiber for textiles. The PTC was formed to accelerate and support the commercial production of bio-based PET polyester.

Rankings

50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #19, 2014/15

30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals & Biomaterials: #10, 2014/15

40 Hottest Small Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy: #2, 2014/15

Biofuels Digest Awards: Best Project (pilot) Award: Gevo, Virent, Avantium — renewable paraxylene

Major Investors

Royal Dutch Shell

Cargill Ventures

Honda Strategic Ventures

Venture Investors LLC

Stark Investments

Top Past Milestones

In September 2014, Virent’s partnership with Coca Cola was extended with an additional investment of an undisclosed amount for Viret to scale up production of the paraxylene chemical which Coca Cola is using in their PlantBottles. The investment will fund purchase and installation of new equipment that is needed to chemically produce and purify paraxylene from one of the byproducts of Virent’s biofuel production process, said Kieran Furlong, director of chemicals business development.

In August 2014, Virent announced it has successfully received fuel registration from the EPA for its BioForm Gasoline in blends of up to 45%. As a registered fuel, Virent’s biogasoline can now be used in on-highway motor vehicles. Virent BioForm Gasoline blended with conventional gasoline underwent testing at Southwest Research Institute with the results demonstrating that the emissions from the blended fuel were well below the maximum permitted by current regulations.

In May 2013, Virent announced the delivery of 100 gallons of its bio-based jet fuel to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for testing purposes. Product testing will begin at Wright Patterson Air Force Base to validate Virent’s jet fuel against the standards required for qualification and approval of new aviation turbine fuels established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The validation plan includes fit-for-purpose, fuel system and combustor rig testing. The jet fuel was produced at a new Virent demonstration plant built to produce drop-in jet and diesel fuels from 100% renewable plant sugars.

In 2011, Virent produced Paraxylene from plant sugars, producing the missing 70% needed to create 100% renewable PET packaging. IN 2011, Virent and Coca-Cola announce partnership to use Paraxylene to make 100% plant-based bottles.

Future Milestone Goals for 2015‐17

1. Improve biomass deconstruction capabilities of corn stover, wood and bagasse to demonstrate cost effective conversion to chemicals and drop-in fuels.

2. Form additional strategic partnerships in the chemical supply chain to accelerate commercialization.

3. Gain necessary financial and partnership commitment to construct and commission initial commercial plant.

Business Model

Owner/operator and licensing within strategic relationships.

Competitive Edge

Virent’s BioForming technology provides numerous competitive advantages:

Premium Liquid Fuel Products:

Virent’s renewable hydrocarbons can be used as chemicals or blended to make premium quality gasoline, diesel and jet fuels with global market acceptance. Virent’s fuel products can readily enter the market using existing pipelines and fuel pumps to power today’s vehicles at high blends.

Feedstock Flexibility:

Unlike other biofuel companies which are limited to using a small number of conventional feedstocks, Virent is able to use a wide variety of cellulosic feedstocks. Sugar mixtures, including 5 and 6 carbon sugars, disaccharides, and other water soluble polysaccharides derived from sugar and energy crops, as well as agricultural and forestry residues, are possible feedstocks. This flexibility translates into more biomass options and lower input costs.

Robust Catalytic Process:

Catalysts provide increased productivity due to faster chemical reactions, proven process reliability, reduced energy requirements, and demonstrated scalability to large production volumes. In contrast to biological processes, which depend on living enzymes or microbes, using catalysts allows Virent the capability of utilizing variable feedstocks and of producing a range of fuel and chemical products.

Cost-Competitive Biorefinery Solution:

Feedstocks and end products can be optimized based on local market conditions. This fast and continuous (versus batch) process lowers capital expenditures, while low energy requirements reduce operating costs. Together, these attributes provide a biorefinery solution with a broad mix of high value products and attractive market returns.

The BioForming process is a practical biorefinery alternative that can speed the use of nonfood plant sugars as an energy source in place of petroleum, thus decreasing dependence on fossil hydrocarbons while minimizing the impact on global water and food supplies. Virent’s ability to produce hydrocarbon products that are both sustainable and economical is truly transformative.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.

Strategic Partners: Shell began collaborating with Virent on liquid fuels research and development in 2007 and invested in Virent in 2010, positioning the BioForming process for commercial deployment. In parallel, Coca-Cola has been funding development of the Virent process since 2011 for cost effective manufacture of Paraxylene. Cargill has provided key input on feedstocks for the BioForming process since its original investment in 2007. Finally, Honda has provided engine testing services and guidance of their requirements and outlook on transportation fuels and related policy issues.

Other Partners on Government Grants: NABC, NREL, Catchlight Energy, Iowa State University, BP, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University, Pall Corporation, Albemarle, and TESORO.

Strong Intellectual Property Portfolio: Virent has a strong intellectual property folder, with over 45 issued patents and over 150 pending patent applications, covering 28 different technology families. These patents, coupled with a strong trade secret portfolio, protect every phase of Virent’s technology, including methods, processes, the systems in use, and the activities undertaken to produce products. The ongoing issuance of patents, along with prudent management of new and existing filings, is vital to Virent’s competitive advantage. The strength of Virent’s IP portfolio is confirmed by the industry knowledgeable strategic collaborators that have funded Virent both through investment and development dollars.

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