4 minutes with… Mitrajit Mukherjee, President, Exelus

July 23, 2015 |

06d8a82Tell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Exelus is developing a first-of-a-kind process to convert virtually any type of ligno-cellulosic biomass into a clean, environmentally friendly “Bio-naphtha” a paraffinic hydrocarbon similar to fossil-based light naphtha. Bio-naphtha can then be converted in a conventional refinery or petrochemical complex into a whole host of products.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

A key factor limiting the adoption of biomass based process in industry is scale. Even the largest North American paper mill is small compared to a petro-chemical producer or a small oil refinery. As a result, the economies of scale hurt the viability of most bio-fuels and bio-chemicals processes.

Bio-naphtha is the ideal bridge between biomass and conventional oil refineries or petrochemical complexes. I am currently working with a team of researchers to develop a simple process to convert biomass into bio-naphtha using mild reaction conditions and a hydro-thermally stable catalyst. Bio-naphtha can then be converted in a conventional refinery or petrochemical complex into a whole host of products including isomerate, light olefins or aromatics.

This new process finds the “middle ground” between the slow, low temperature reactions catalyzed by enzymes and the fast, high-temperature,and un-selective reactions occurring in pyrolysis or gasification

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

Honestly speaking the industry needs a healthy dose of commonsense and a little less hype – the whole bio-fuels/chemicals space is filled with companies whose mission defies common sense and economics. Until that happens, this industry will never make any real progress.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

Unrealistic expectations – breakthrough process technologies typically take about a decade to develop and deploy. Innovation can never be accelerated by pumping a ton of $$$ into a company. Its high time VCs realized that!!

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

pend one week in any large Asian city, and the answer will become abundantly clear. There are no blue skies in all of SE Asia (except for Singapore).

Where are you from? 

Calcutta, India

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. It’s India’s MIT and all bright kids in India attend that school.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution. I (and 1 billion SE Asians) are alive because of him. Scientists don’t do their research to become enormously wealthy – they do so because they love science. In the case of Dr Borlaug, his research lead to the development of high yield wheat and rice crops which saved 1 billion SE Asians from starvation. I would be happy to make a difference the in life of one person.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

The cliched Murphy’s Law is very, very true – anything that can go wrong will go wrong – specially when you are least expecting it.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?




What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island

Dubliners: James Joyce

Mad Magazine

A blank diary so I could write in it daily

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

The Pleasures & Sorrows of Work: Alain de Botton

The Stranger: Albert Camus

The Paris Review: Summer 2015

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Barcelona, Spain

Great food, great weather and a lovely city.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: ,

Category: Million Minds

Thank you for visting the Digest.