Sweetwater Energy to convert CO2 to sugars in JV with Naturally Scientific

October 11, 2013 |

In New York, Sweetwater Energy announced a 50/50 joint venture with Naturally Scientific, Inc. to produce sugar from waste carbon dioxide.

The new technology converts carbon dioxide taken directly from the emissions of industries such as ethanol refineries, natural gas power plants and many others, into usable sugars.

The joint venture expands Sweetwater’s sugar-production reach beyond biomass-based, second-generation feedstocks into third-generation feedstocks. Sweetwater’s new ultra-flexible feedstock model opens up multiple new ways of delivering quality sugars to customers for a cost believed much lower than the current market can provide.

Sweetwater currently extracts sugars from many types of plant material. Those sugars are in essence a renewable alternative to petroleum because most products built from petroleum— such as plastics, fuels, and many chemicals—can also be built from Sweetwater’s sugars.

Adding the ability to create sugar from carbon dioxide means Sweetwater can supply biomass- based sugar to an ethanol refinery, for example, and then also capture the carbon dioxide that’s a byproduct of the ethanol production to create emission-based sugars, which can be turned into oils, biodiesel, or other products.

Naturally Scientific, Sweetwater Energy’s first tie-up

In March, Sweetwater Energy announced a project today to provide Naturally Scientific with customized industrial sugars over the course of 15 years in a transaction valued at $250 million.

Sweetwater will use its patented, decentralized process to convert locally available cellulosic material, such as crop residues, energy crops, and wood waste into sugar, which Naturally Scientific will utilize to process into high-value vegetable oils in the United States.

Sweetwater will use its patented, hub-and-spoke process to convert locally available cellulosic, non-food biomass, such as crop residues, energy crops, and woody biomass into highly fermentable sugar, The company’s sugar solution is sold to refineries, which use it to produce biofuels, biochemicals, and bioplastics. Unlike petroleum-based technologies, Sweetwater Energy’s process uses renewable plant materials that are both grown domestically and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re creating a wraparound solution,” says Chesonis. “We’re helping customers stabilize their feedstock price volatility, and helping with their emission issues. It’s not just the technology on hand, but Sweetwater’s modular business model that allows it to happen.”

The technologies

Sweetwater’s business model was patented in 2012 for the manufacture and deployment of distributed pretreatment units designed for the extraction of sugars from any cellulosic feedstock. This proprietary process allows Sweetwater to provide broad scale diversity for cellulosic ethanol production that takes full advantage of economic and capacity constraints surrounding cellulosic biomass.

Naturally Scientific unveiled its patented solution in 2010 which converts waste CO2, water & light in a photosynthetic reaction to grow palisade layer plant cell culture that produces low-cost sugar – glucose and sucrose. This natural sugar can be sold in crystallised or concentrated liquid syrup form or alternatively it is used in the second process as the necessary carbon source for vacuole cells of rapeseed (or other oil seeds) to produce pure vegetable oils (PVO) and their valuable derivatives.

The company has constructed a demonstration plant in Nottingham, UK, that has been fully operational for two years, producing sugar and vegetable oils from carbon dioxide. The demonstration plant uses full-sized equipment that proves the technology, automated process control systems, yields and unit economics at a commercial scale.

The partners respond

“It’s exciting to be able to take a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide that is being vented into the atmosphere, turn it into sugar, and ultimately into useful products like biofuels and bioplastics,” says Arunas Chesonis, Chairman and CEO of Sweetwater. “The team at Naturally Scientific has developed a truly remarkable process. The more we learned, the more we realized that a joint venture between our companies to expand our feedstock portfolio beyond biomass was going to have a tremendous impact on the industry. The flexibility we now have to address both a customer’s sugar needs and emission issues is extraordinary.”

“We’re thrilled about the potential in this joint venture with Sweetwater,” says Geoff Dixon, CEO of Naturally Scientific. “Their expertise in sugar platform technologies meshed so well with our own aims that this venture is a sweet deal in every sense of the word.”

A cautionary note

Back at the 2010 Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in Washington, DC Naturally Scientific CEO Geoff Dixon said that his company had inked its first five commercial installations, a series of five $50 million projects that would be erected in China over the next five years. The deal ultimately did not materialize.

Sweetwater CEO Chesonis was philosophical about the deal. “In business, I am a skeptic. Nothing is proven until it is reality. Having said that, the technology absolutely works. Making anything working economically, at scale — that’s something that will be proven, to others and ourselves — in time.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: ,

Category: Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.