From Pacific Rim Summit: Status of Cellulosic Ethanol Commercialization

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Qteros, ZeaChem and Verenium presented updates on their efforts to bring three unique cellulosic ethanol processes to commercial status. Qteros CTO Kevin Gray described how the company's Q Microbe™ (Clostridium phytofermentans) enables a single step (consolidated bioprocessing) conversion and fermentation process for fuels. This approach can save as much as 40 percent in production costs. Qteros is currently scaling its technology up for a 100 liter laboratory bioreactor. ZeaChem President and CEO Jim Imbler outlined the challenges facing the industry, which include the need for coherent government policy to help the industry make it through the “Valley of Death,” which he described as the stage between proving that a technology works and attracting enough investment to make it a reality. Raising capital for a first-of-its-kind project is particularly difficult, Imbler noted. Traditional project finance is not available; but companies could move forward with a combination of strategic investors and short-term government support. Zeachem uses a Clostridium thermoaceticum found in the gut of termites to produce acetic acid, which is then converted to ethyl acetate and ethanol. They are constructing a demonstration-scale plant expected to be online in 2010. Bill Baum of Verenium then described the status of the company's joint venture with BP, Vercipia Biofuels, which is building a commercial scale cellulosic biofuel plant in Highlands County, Fla. and seeking a site for a second facility. An audio recording of the webinar can be downloaded from BIO.org.