Bunge, SG Biofuels, Rentech, in major announcements at Advanced Biofuels Markets

November 10, 2010 |

In California, major announcements from Rentech, SG Biofuels and Bunge were among the highlights as the second day of Advanced Biofuels Markets gets underway in San Francisco.

Day one at ABM

On the first day, the morning session on scale-up issues, as well as renewable chemicals and other co-products featured major addresses from Codexis, Solazyme, Genencor, LS9, Ceres, SynGest, American Process, AE Biofuels, and POET. In the afternoon, financing was the subject of panel discussions including key players from CMEA, Credit Suisse, Burrill & Co, Mintz Levin, Stern Broehter, Kreig DeVault, the California Clean Energy Fund, Waste Management, Syntroleum and Coskata.

In the evening, Amyris, Qteros, Algenol, Butamax, ClearFuels, Dupont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, Novozymes, Gevo,. UOP Honeywell, OriginOil, PetroAlgae, Sapphire Energy and Verenium were among companies receiving awards in the Transformative Technology 30 Awards.

“What kind of oil would you like?” Solazyme president Harrison Dillon said was the question they asked that had led to the numerous partnerships Solazyme has been signing this year, noting that most of their new partners were used to working with “you get what you get” petroleum, and working around the limits of their feedstock source.

Codexis CEO Alan Shaw said that “people think of us as an enzyme company, but the future of our company is in the direct fermentation of sugar to fuels and chemicals.” Shaw told the delegates, “I am an industrialist, I live in the real world, where I want to make products for people that they can use and afford.”

LS9 chief Bill Haywood said that the company is active in developing Brazilian opportunities and said that there were “no show stoppers” remaining in the path of LS9’s development of its one-step sugar-to-renewable diesel conversion, and that the company remained on track in developing its demonstration-scale facility in Florida.

Meanwhile, AE Biofuels chief Eric McAfee challenged the group to accept that the Renewable Fuel Standard could not function as a market-maker until the mandated production volumes were enforced and advanced biofuels were supported with the same market-creating mechanics as corn ethanol . “If you ask an oil company to choose between investing in advanced biofuels and then be obligated to invest in blending that product, or not invest in biofuels and not be obligated to blend [freeing up capital for other purposes], which path do you expect they will follow?”

News from Rentech

In other major news announced at the conference, Solena has signed a letter of intent to license Rentech’s proprietary Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel technology in Solena’s sustainable BioJetFuel project – GreenSky – in the United Kingdom. The facility will convert more than 500,000 metric tonnes of waste biomass feedstock into synthesis gas every year, using Solena’s proprietary plasma gasification technology.  The BioSynGas will then be processed by Rentech’s Fischer-Tropsch technology into 16 million gallons of sustainable synthetic jet fuel (“BioJetFuel”) and nine million gallons of BioNaphtha  The facility will also export more than 20 megawatts of baseload renewable power to the grid after powering the entire facility with clean electricity.

SG Biofuels, Bunge sign partnersship

Overnight, SG Biofuels announced it has established a strategic partnership with Bunge North America to research and develop a model to process Jatropha seeds into a biofuel feedstock. With the announcement, Bunge joins Flint Hills Resources, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, and Life Technologies among strategic partners working with SG Biofuels’ technology to develop Jatropha as a viable source for cost- effective, sustainable crude plant oil.

The move represents the latest of a series of tie-ups between Bunge and a selection of the most promising advanced biofuels technologies. In the last year, Bunge has signed agreements with Amyris and SG and invested in Solazyme, as part of what the company described as a $2.8 billion plan in 2010-12 to expand Bunge’s oil, sugarcane and ethanol interests, following the firm’s $1.5 billion acquisition of Moema. The Moema deal earlier this year made Bunge the third-largest ethanol producer in Brazil, following only Cosan (CZZ) and Louis Dreyfus. Bunge execs said that they have set a target of 30 million tons in crushing capacity by 2012 and will raise capacity to 20 million tones by June.

Bunge is also one of the world’s largest originators and distributors of vegetable oils and one of the largest sugarcane processing companies in Brazil.

SG Biofuels’ take

“This partnership and our ability to provide world-class processing to our customers are key components to ensuring success for large-scale deployment of Jatropha plantations globally,” said SG Biofuels CEO Kirk Haney. “The development of a successful market for Jatropha requires that all aspects of the value chain are met, from crop science and proper agronomics all the way through processing and refining. Bunge, together with Life Technologies and Flint Hills Resources, provides a fully integrated platform from which our customers can develop, produce and profit from large volumes of crude Jatropha oil.”

More on Bunge

In August, Solazyme announced that Bunge has joined its Series D round as a strategic investor. According to Solazyme, the strategic investment represents a foundational step for the two companies to collaborate at critical portions of a new value chain enabled by Solazyme’s sugar to oil technology platform.

In April, Bunge (BG.N) announced that it will invest a further $750 million in its Brazilian sugar cane operations, specifically in this case to fund expansion of its three largest mills.

At the time, Bunge agreed to acquire Usina Moema Participacoes for $416 million in stock and $480 million in assumed debt, and said it would decide within 90 days whether to acquire the entire Moema sugar and ethanol mill portfolio. The Moema portfolio, as a whole, has a capacity of 815,000-990,000 tons of sugar and 190-220 Mgy of ethanol, depending on the production configuration.

Last May, Reuters reported that Bunge was promoting a $100 million investment fund that would be dedicated to agricultural land investments in Brazil. Bunge’s management said that the fund would invest in multiple types of crops, but would focus on sugarcane production, noting that domestic demand for Brazilian ethanol has been growing at a rapid pace. Bunge CFO  Jacqualyn Fouse told Reuters that “Sugar is preferable to corn for ethanol production. We think long term … the future for sugar-based ethanol is very good.”

Last December, Amyris Brasil signed a partnership LOI with Bunge to develop renewable specialty chemicals and fuels from sugarcane. The products will be distributed by Amyris. The letter of intent agreements with Bunge, Cosan and Guarani should cover Amyris’s planned production through 2013-2014.

More on Bunge.

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