Amyris begins pilot-scale renewable diesel plant

By Kris Bevill | November 13, 2008
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Web exclusive posted Nov. 17, 2008 at 4:36 p.m. CST

Amyris Biotechnologies Inc. has commenced operations at a pilot-scale renewable diesel facility in Emeryville, Calif., as part of its strategy to ultimately commercialize renewable diesel production in Brazil.

The biotechnology company will use the California facility to perfect the production process for its trademarked No Compromise renewable diesel fuel, according to company spokesman Josh Wozman. Another larger pilot-scale plant is scheduled to open in Campinas, Brazil, in the spring of 2009. The company plans to finalize the process for its Brazilian operations there, although findings from the California facility will also be applied to the Campinas plant.

Wozman told Biodiesel Magazine that the Emeryville facility houses two 75-gallon tanks and has the capacity to produce up to 2 million gallons of renewable diesel annually, although that level of production is not expected. The company is using sucrose obtained from U.S. wholesale stores as the feedstock in Emeryville. Brazilian sugarcane will be the preferred feedstock at a commercial-scale. "During the production process, Amyris will do certain things to the sucrose to ensure that it resembles Brazilian sugarcane, which has more impurities," Wozman explained, adding that the pilot facility in Brazil will use sugarcane from the onset.

Earlier this year, Biodiesel Magazine reported the partnership between Amyris and Crystalsev, one of Brazil's largest ethanol distributors and marketers, in order to scale up Amyris' production of renewable diesel in Brazil. (Read "Amyris, Crystalsev form joint venture to produce renewable diesel by 2010.") The partnership helped to secure two million tons of sugarcane crushing capacity by SantelisaVale, one of the country's largest ethanol and sugar producers.

Amyris plans to commercialize its process by 2010. The company believes its renewable diesel will be compatible with existing infrastructure, unlike other forms of biodiesel on the market, and that it will be capable of being blended with petroleum-based fuels at higher percentages than other biofuels.

"This new diesel fuel has all the characteristics to make an important contribution toward solving our global transportation energy and climate crisis," Amyris Chief Executive Officer John Melo said. "The opening of our pilot plant is a significant business marker for us, taking us one step closer to bringing our diesel fuel to market."
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