BIRD funds Israeli enzymatic biodiesel process

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 01, 2009
Web exclusive posted Dec. 23, 2008, at 2:13 p.m. CST

TransBiodiesel Ltd., an incubator project at the L.N. Innovative Technologies Center for the Development of High-Tech Enterprises in Haifa, Israel, has been awarded $1.5 million from the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation based in Tel Aviv, Israel. The company aims to work with a U.S. company to commercialize its patented process that uses enzymes to convert vegetable oils and animal fats into biodiesel, according to Sobhi Basheer, president of TransBiodiesel.

Basheer said TransBiodiesel's enzyme process uses immobilized lipases, which have a high resistance toward the short-chain alcohols that are used in biodiesel production. The lipases are recyclable and highly tolerant of inhibitors present in biodiesel feedstocks.

TransBiodiesel's process is expected to be economically competitive with processes that depend on chemical catalysts for biodiesel production, Basheer said. The glycerin produced during the process is also more pure, and can be used for food and pharmaceutical applications without excessive purification, he added.

TransBiodiesel has been busy perfecting the process at the pilot scale and is quickly working toward commercializing the process, Basheer said. "Very soon, we will have final results," he said.

Basheer is a founding member of The Galilee Society Research and Development Center in Shefa-Amr, Israel, where he has been working on biotechnology and enzymology research. He is also the founder of biotechnology companies Zeituna Ltd., Enzymotec Corp. and SB Biotechnologies Ltd.

In October, the AquAgro Fund LP, an Israeli venture capital fund, invested another $1.5 million in TransBiodiesel. The company also received seed money from Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.
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