The Top 100 People in Bioenergy 2011-12: #26 through #50, in depth

December 28, 2011 |

The Top 100 People in Bioenergy – what are the stories behind the list? Today, we look at the personalities ranked #26 through #50.

In Florida, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack headed the “Top 100 People in Bioenergy” as voted by the readers of Biofuels Digest and the Digest’s editorial board, just edging out BP Biofuels chief Philip New, and the heads of Raizen, POET, Solazyme and Amyris. In today’s Digest, we profile the Second 25 in depth.

The first 25 are here, profiled in depth.

The complete Top 100 list is here.

26. Guido Ghisolifi, CEO, Chemtex

New to the list this year, and the highest new entry, as well as one of the highest ranking CEOs outside of Brazil and the US. As Codexis CEO Alan Shaw observed, “you will not find a person that has put more of his own money on the line, nor as knowledgable, nor as passionate about opportunities in the space, than Guido Ghisolfi.” Chemtex itself, through its Beta Renewables subsidiary, is in the process of building the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world (when completed), and recently partnered with Codexis as it readies for its global commercialization drive.

27. Bruce Dale, PhD, Professor, Michigan State University

As with the 2010 poll, second among all academics in this year’s poll is Dr. Bruce Dale at Michigan State, who in addition to being a noted pioneer in cellulosic ethanol has been out in front in terms of opposing some of the excesses of indirect land use change theory, measurement of which has bedeviled efforts to stabilize the demand for various biofuels feedstocks and fuels.

28. Javier Salgado, CEO, Abengoa Bioenergy

One of the top rated CEOs based outside the US, Salgado has been building not only an advanced biofuels platform in their cellulosic ethanol project in Kansas – they also own and operate a formidable set of first-generation assets in Europe.

29. Chris Somerville, PhD, Professor,  UC Berkeley Director, EBI

Chris Somerville checked in at #29 as one of the highest rated academics in the poll, supervising a huge BP-funded effort on biofuels at the Energy Biosciences Institute, as well as participating in the founding of LS9. A godfather in West Coast research.

30. Jim Imbler, CEO, ZeaChem

Up sharply from #72 in last years poll, paralleling an astonishing leap by ZeaChem into the top 10 in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy. One reason? ZeaChem is putting steel in the ground, expecting to complete construction of its demonstration-scale unit this month. As we wrote in “25 people worth knowing in bioenergy”: “Jim’s been one of the most accessible CEOs in cellulosic ethanol, always available for a quote. More importantly, you can go to school on his knowledge of refining operations, and I have availed myself of the opportunity from time to time. I asked Jim to speak this time not only because he’s a good storyteller, but because ZeaChem was fuels and chemicals before everyone went for co-products, had a low-cost approach before “capital light” was all the rage, and has an excellent analysis of the chems markets and the process of achieving scale-up while staying solvent.”

31. Bill Glover, MD, Environmental Strategy Boeing

Up from #68 in last year’s poll, as aviation biofuels has become more and more central to the early-stage commercialization of advanced biofuels.Whether made from jatropha, algae, soybeans, coconut oil or camelina, Bill Glover and his colleagues at Boeing have been figuring out ways to put a wide assortment of renewable fuels into Boeing jets, certify them, and assemble the partnerships necessary to build the supply chain. Most prominently associated with the development of algal aviation fuels through Boeing’s active membership in the Algal Biomass Organization, he’s been less visible though just as active in the development of camelina-based jet fuels and utilizing other feedstocks.

32. Paul Woods, CEO, Algenol Biofuels

Readying a demonstration of Algenol’s unique algae-to-ethanol process, Paul Woods has his company from a little-known start-up to near household-recognition status within biofuels, landing a signature partnership with Linde and a massive grant from DOE along the way.

33. Lee Edwards, CEO, Virent / Randy Cortright, PhD, CTO, Virent Energy Systems

Lee Edwards recently completed his term as chairman of the Advanced Biofuels Association in addition to helming Virent; of late, Virent has been attracting attention for a multi-million dollar investment and partnership agreements with Coca-Cola. The goal? To accelerate development of the first commercial solutions for its next-generation PlantBottle packaging, using renewable PX. As in 2010, voters recognized not only Edwards with strong votes, but also CTO Randy Cortright, who heads the efforts to bring the sugar-to-diesel technology (via bioforming) from lab to commercial scale. We’ve paired them at #33.

34. Jason Pyle, CEO, Sapphire Energy, Cynthia (C.J.) Warner, President

As in 2010, the voting for Sapphire president CJ Warner and CEO Jason Pyle of Sapphire was so evenly and closely paired, that we’ve jointly awarded them the #34 slot in this years poll. The company has been in relatively quieter phase in 2011. Most recently, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the closing of a loan guarantee to Sapphire Energy, which intends to design, build and operate a $135 million integrated algal biorefinery (IABR) in Columbus, N.M., for the production of drop-in, advanced diesel and renewable jet fuel. The IABR will be capable of producing 100 barrels of refined algal oil per day, equivalent to at least one million gallons per year. The oil will be shipped to the United States Gulf Coast to be refined by Sapphire’s refinery partner, Dynamic Fuels, located in Geismar, La. Its Phase I demonstration will be open in 2012, and the company aims for a proposed 100 Mgy plant by 2018.

35. Gary Luce, CEO, Terrabon

Up from #96 last year, as the company won the 2011 Transformative Technologies knock-out tournament in Biofuels Digest and became one of the leaders in the growing alcohol-to-jet fuel movement.  “My view,” explains Luce, “in this industry you really have to create a technology not only that adds value, but really enables the feedstock supplier to do something fundamentally different. In our case, creating drop-in fuels at the refinery rather than at the terminal, we offer some extra degree of freedom at the refinery level, and that’s been attractive to our partners.”

36. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil

Appearing for the first time in the poll is Brazilian president Rousseff, who is a former Brazilian energy minister and one of the architects of the country’s remarkable biofuels success. Most recently, her government has moved froward on its climate change agreement obligation, which include transforming Brazil’s sugarcane industry to mechanical harvesting by 2017. Her government has established an astonishing 63 million hectare zone suitable for cane cultivation, and promised to back sugarcane ethanol producers in their efforts to finance expansion, as well as putting pressure on Petrobras to increase biofuels investment. We looked at Brazil’s progress sin “Attitude before Altitude” series, here.

37. Mary Rosenthal, Exec Director, Algal Biomass Organization

The ABO’s first full-time director is once again one of the top women in this year’s poll. this veteran of Cargill’s NatureWorks unit has been helping to marshal a formidable US effort on algal fuels, which this year included bringing in K&L Gates as the industry’s first full-time lobbyists, hosting a remarkably successful annual meeting in Minneapolis, and continuing to shepherd efforts to revise the Renewable Fuel Standard and other advanced biofuels supports to fully include algae-based fuels.

38. Brooke Coleman, Executive Director, Advanced Ethanol Council

Making his first appearance in the poll, Coleman is a long-time veteran of the food-vs-fuel and other ethanol wars as head of the New Fuels Alliance, taking on the leadership at AEC when it was formed this year. A passionate defender of the Renewable Fuel Standard, writing in October at the time of the National Research Council’s report on the Stndard: ““It is discouraging to see the National Research Council (NRC) miss an opportunity to cast the RFS in the proper light. The most glaring problem is the Council analyzed the ongoing development of the biofuels industry in a vacuum, as if these fuels are not displacing the marginal barrel of oil, which comes at great economic and environmental cost to the consumer.”

39. Rich Altman, Exec Director, CAAFI

Back in the top 40 again this year, Rich Altman, heading the Civil Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, continues to be a key driver on aviation biofuels, which has had a remarkable year filled with airlines moving from testing to small-scale commercial deployment, the rise of alcohol-to-jet fuels, and large orders placed by the US Navy. He was a founding member of the US Transportation Research Board Committee on Aviation effects on the Environment and a member of the PARTNER Center of Excellence Advisory Board.

40. Ed Dineen, CEO, LS9

LS9 has been trailing Amyris on its timeline towards commercialization, but in October, Ed Dineen showed why he has proven popular with voters, when the company announced that it has successfully scaled its technology 20X to the 20,000 liter scale, demonstrating continued progress in the scale-up and commercialization of its bio-based chemicals and fuels technology platform, and produced one ton of a specific chemical for its strategic partner, Proctor & Gamble.

Through the first quarter of 2012, LS9 expects to make additional runs at the 20,000 liter level and continue to increase production to 50,000 liters with both their chemicals and fuels products. These increases in production runs will lead to the start-up of the 135,000 liter fermentation vessel at the Company’s facility in Okeechobee, Florida. This will be the stepping stone to a commercial plant, which would require only a 4 or 5-fold further increase in scale. The Okeechobee facility is currently being retrofit and is expected to be online by the first quarter of 2012.

41. Bill Brady, CEO, Mascoma, Michael Ladisch CTO

Moving up from #74, Bill Brady is still relatively new to Mascoma, but he’s been busy for sure. Since arriving last year, he pulled off the acquisition of SunOpta’s biofuels unit, which specializes in pretreatment, filed an IPO registration, and secured commercial-scale financing from Valero. He’s taken Mascoma from a science project to the verge of commercial scale success in a very short time. About advanced biofuels, he says simply: “The world doesn’t really change unless someone unlocks the potential of cellulose. That means changing the recalcitrance. In the end, cellulose has to be at or below the cost of processing corn.”

42. Jim Gillingham, Sr, VP, Biofuels Valero

It’s been a busy year for Valero, providing comecial scale financing for Mascoma, adding corn oil extraction units, and expanding at their Hartley, Iowa ethanol facility. Not to mention co-investing with Waste Management in Enerkem and Terrabon. They’ve become quite a leader in advanced biofuels in the past 24 months.

43. Steen Riisgaard, CEO, Novozymes

Novozymes, like Genencor, DSM and Dyadic, have been aggressively launching product, but enzyme makers were generally down this year with voters, despite cellulosic ethanol moving from pilots and towards commercial scale at projects like POET’s Project LIBERTY and the Abengoa project in Hugoton, Kansas. We are not sure exactly why the cool-off in the romance has occurred, but certainly readers may have overlooked that Novozymes is investing between $160 million and $200 million in an enzyme factory in the eastern part of the Nebraska that will open in the second quarter of 2012.

44. Bill Roe, CEO, Coskata

Moving up to #44 this year after filing its $100M IPO, Coskata is moving towards commercialization in Alabama, and is expected to cross a few Ts and dot a few Is before its IPO is completed, in terms of industry partnerships and financing. In October, Coskata marked 15,000 run hours of operation, using wood biomass and municipal solid waste, at their cellulosic ethanol semi-commercial facility in Madison, Pennsylvania this month. AT the time, Bill Roe commented “The data and operating experience cultivated at this pre-commercial scale facility has conclusively demonstrated that the Coskata technology is ready for commercial production today.

45. Jim Macias, CEO, Fulcrum Bioenergy

Whether it has been filing for a $115M IPO in September, closing a $75M equity round in February,  landing $70M in commercialization financing from Waste Management in Q4, its been a remarkable run for Fulcrum this year under CEO Jim Macias, who appears in the Top 100 poll for the first time this year.  Fulcrum recently began construction activities on its Sierra BioFuels plant, located in Storey County, approximately 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada. The plant is expected to begin commercial operations in the second half of 2013 and is designed to process 147,000 tons of waste per year and produce approximately 10 million gallons of ethanol annually.

46. Richard Hamilton, CEO, Ceres

A perennially popular industry throughout-leader, Ceres CEo Richard Hamilton took his company on the road boards comemrcializwion with a $100M IPO filing in May. In April, Hamilton told ABLC delegates: At the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in April, Ceres CEO Richard Hamilton said that “feedstock is the #1 cost in bioenergy, and to drive results, we need to drive yield.” He said that companies must look to low-rent land for opportunities to produce sustainable biofuels, noting that, for example, salt-intruded fields in represented the most economically advantaged and environmentally sustainable options for producing biomass at scale. In September we wrote: “the intrepid investor that correctly identifies Ceres as one of the platform “Intel Inside” companies of bioenergy, will be well on the way to evaluating price versus the risk, in this IPO.”

47. Peter Williams, CEO; Mark Niederschulte, COO, INEOS Bio

INEOS has been getting down the road fast in 2011, and is ready to open its first commercial facility in 2012 in Florida. Accordingly, both CEO Peter WIlliams and COO Mark Niederschulte have been pulling down a lot more votes this year as voters turned towards commercial-ready projects and companies that have the resources to scale. In August, INEOS New Planet BioEnergy closed $75 million in private financing utilizing the USDA loan guarantee program for its new Indian River BioEnergy Center located in Florida, which concludes all necessary funding to complete the project.

The BioEnergy Center, located near Vero Beach, Florida, will start production in Q2, 2012, producing 8MGy ethanol and 6 megawatts from local yard, vegetative and household waste.

48. Lee Lynd, PhD, Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Rating high again among the academics in the poll, the Czar of Consolidated Bioprocessing himself, Lee Lynd, who hangs out at Dartmouth spitting out technologies that form the basis of Mascoma’s technologies, as well as working globally on the development of sustainable renewable fuels.

49. Christophe Schilling, CEO, Genomatica

It’s been a remarkable year for Genomatica. #1 in the 30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals and Materials, a $100M IPO filing, a $15M series C equity round, a Presidential Green Chemistry Award. From a commefcializarino POV, nothing more welcome than the news, last June, that the company successfully produced Bio-BDO from its first demonstration-scale fermentation, on schedule.  That kind of pace won votes from readers who apparently didn’t care a whit that Genomatyica is a pure-play renewable chemicals company and not directly involved on the energy production side.

50. Nancy Young, VP, Environmental Affairs, Air Transport Association / John Heimlich Chief Economist

In the development of aviation biofuels, a wide group of individuals has been instrumental through groups like CAAFI, SAFUG and in ad-hoc collaborative efforts. At the heart of it is the airline industry, which has been aggressively partnering in the R&D phase of new fuels development. Readers have recognized a wide selection of individuals and association execs, including John Heimlich and Nancy Young of the Air Transport Association, who we have paired at #50, marking a second consecutive year in the top 50. Both have been tireless advocates for, and organizers of, the victories to date in the development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels.

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