Who said what: The hottest slides from ABLC 2015

March 15, 2015 |

ABLC2015-sm-nodateABLC 2015 has come and gone. Here are new priorities, lessons learned, new advances, and cautionary tales.

ABLC 2015 ended last Friday, and from the annual bioeconomy leadership conference in Washington DC., we have selected slides presented by CEOs from Abengoa, Algenol, Amyris, Aventine, Enerkem, Fulcrum, GranBio, Green Biologics, Iogen and LanzaTech — at the top rank in terms of thought-leadership this week in product mix and company focus.

ABLC this year looked at disruptive change in technology, finance and policy — from the development of new routes to financing at scale through changes to structure of the Renewable Fuel Standard — to disruptive technologies coming to scale both in fuels and chemicals, attacking the barrel of petroleum, as it were, from both ends.

Here are selections from 10 of the hottest slides presented at ABLC.

Abengoa: Expand, but asset light

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Abengoa has had a lot of visibility in the past six months owing to completion of construction of its cellulosic biorefinery in Huguenot, KS — currently the world’s largest (nameplate capacity) at 25 million gallons per year.

In this slide, EVP Chris Standlee focused squarely on the future — outlining an “asset light” strategy built around relationships with oil & chemical companies, existing 1G ethanol plants, ABSL plants, municipalities and butanol producers — with new technologies coming on stream to deliver value-add opportunities. The mandate from Abengoa: low equity investment, reducing corporate leverage, and reducing corporate CAPEX — all while maintaining growth.

Algenol: Make money from carbon capture

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Algenol is the #3 hottest company in the sector this year — possibly because it is the only algae play nearing commercialization that still has a focus, primarily, on fuels. Essential to their strategy is tapping low-cost sources of CO2, and that means making “carbon capture and use” a preferred strategy over “carbon capture and sequestration”, from a policy point of view.

In this slide, Algenol CEO Paul Woods went through the arguments for CCU — a brand new commodity market, making money for utilities and their rate-paying customers by buying CO2, displacing fossil fuels and also launching a $1.30 per gallon wholesale fuel into the huge fuels market.

Amyris: Building strong margins and customer groups in advanced industrial biosciences

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Amyris has been staging quite a comeback over the past two years, after a slow launch of production in Brazil.

In this slide, Amyris CEO John Melo showed us why: 100% year-over-year growth expected, gross margins of 50-60%, 20 molecules in the pipeline and an average selling price near $10 per liter. Larger markets will bring lower prices, but you see Amyris starting to look something like an oil company, deriving enough value from the higher value products that it might well be able to reach scales and costs where fuel markets open .

Aventine — what are the criteria for getting deal with first-gen ethanol producers?

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When discussing the Aventine presentation at ABLC, we asked CEO Mark Beemer to give a no-holds-barred look at the evaluation criteria that first-gen producers like Aventine would set in order to partner with advanced technologies.

Beemer obliged, and in this slide, we see the 12 top criteria, starting with management talent, moving into yields, the quality of the engineering, the deal terms and the ROI including the timing and risks.

Enerkem — how big could waste-to-fuel now get?

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Last year, Enerkem reached scale and opened plant #1 in Edmonton, Alberta — so, what’s next?

In this slide, CEO Vincent Chornet looked at the big picture of potential, and it is big. Although there are 1.3 billion metric tons of MSW, about 420 million of them are suitable for Enerkem. That’s as much as 160 billion liters (42 billion gallons) of renewable fuels (or chemicals) from one sector alone — more than doubling the addressable market for biofuels with just the one feedstock — and vastly outstripping the current $$ being brought in via waste to energy (incineration) technologies, which is around $7.6B, or a fraction of the $70B+ market available with the new technology.

Fulcrum — turning stakeholders into partners and partners into investors across the value chain

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Speaking of MSW to fuels, another technology is coming along and that’s Fulcrum — in their case, looking towards the diesel and jet fuel markets. We asked CEO Jim Macias to detail out how you build a platform of partners in order to reach commercial scale and beyond, and he obliged with this slide that looked at the capital injected into this effort across the value chain. From equity injected by feedstock partners, to massive amounts of capital and loan guarantees from “equipment and system partners” in the midstream, and then downstream to the fuel customers themselves who have injected to date some $95M of capital. The takeaway message is to utilize partners who have a stake in the technology as a source of capital for the first commercial project, and raise from field to fleet in every part of the supply chain.

GranBio – how much could cellulosic add in Brazil, and will it require land-use change?

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Now that GranBio has reached mechanical completion of its plant #1 — bringing cellulosic ethanol to Brazil — how big could Brazil get? We’ve had a number of rosy assessments over the years — but there have been fears expressed that expansion into cellulosic ethanol via energy crops would invariably lead to land-use change and Amazon deforestation.

Not the case at all, says GranBio CEO Bernardo Gradin, who takes us through the hard numbers, detailing how Brazil’s 851 million hectares available for agriculture are likely to be used. Sugarcane for ethanol? Just one half of one percent of the available land, 65% of which will be reserved for conservation and native vegetation. Leaving 258 million acres for agriculture and the vast majority of those dedicated to pastureland. It doesn’t take much, says Gradin, to make a huge difference with cellulosic ethanol — especially as the new technologies can not only utilize energy cane crops with super-high yields (more tons per hectare than conventional cane), they also utilize sugarcane bagasse, tops and leaves, which are currently landfilled or burned.

Green Biologics – the things that matter to make Bio n-butanol a reality at scale

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Now that Green Biologics has acquired the plant for its first commercial — in Minnesota — what are the critical issues s it heads for its first plant conversion at commercial scale from first-gen ethanol to next-gen n-butanol?

#1 – scale is everything, says North American chief Joel Stone, and partnerships across the value chain for products as well as leverage will be key. Oil will be expensive again, warns Stone — but continued innovation of a company’s “workhorse” microbial platform will be key to achieving growth through new projects. In the case of Green Biologics’s platform in clostridia, they’re counting on a long global history of work with the organism to help mitigate scale-up risk. Plus, they know that clostridia also is able to utilize the C5 sugars that make up much of the sugars available from cellulose — and that means a long-term advantage in a world where, as Stone notes, “commodities will always be commodities”

Iogen – Taking the Economics of Cellulosic to the next level

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The attention has been so long on cellulosic technologies just getting up and running at commercial scale that we spend less time than we should looking at further opportunities to drive value. In this slide, Iogen CEO Brian Foody tackles the issue after having noted that the current generation of technologies do well, but only access 50-55% of the available cellulosic biomass. His solution — look at technologies that can access the rest, such as generating cellulosic biogas and thereby accessing hydrogen that can be used to make renewable gasoline or diesel. Iogen says that they have 3 patents that are a part of uncovering a route to 20-25% increases in biogas production — and that could take the cellulosic ethanol sector for a 5B gallon potential market into the 250B gallon market for drop-in fuels.

LanzaTech – on the verge in 2015

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LanzaTech is the #1 hottest company in the sector — and a great deal of that “heat” comes from the imminent sense that LanzaTech is ready to go to scale. In this slide, CEO Jennifer Holmgren confirms that 2015 is the year — tipping that they expect to announce major projects in the next 6-9 months. And noting that the BaoSteel first commercial project is at the point where the project site is identified, the feasibility study competed, the financing approved and the design complete. With now 1000+ hours of the process proven at demonstration-scale — it definitely is the hour in which a completely new technology debuts, yet based on one of the oldest basic processes that organisms learned in the earliest days of life on earth — how to extract energy from gases and make valuable molecules from the air around us.

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