Business magnate Bill Gates and energy giant Total have backed biofuels company Renmatix in a $14 million investment round. Renmatix developed a new process called Plantrose® that makes converting biomass into cellulosic sugars – the critical intermediary for second-generation biochemicals and biofuels – more affordable for biorefineries.
The investment will help fund the process’ commercialization, which will expand the supply of cost-competitive alternatives to petroleum-derived molecules.
“To effectively address climate change, we need to develop an energy infrastructure that doesn’t emit greenhouse gas and is cost competitive,” Gates said. “A critical component in this effort must be to decarbonize the industrial sector. Another is the possibility of cost competitive biofuels. Renmatix provides an innovative process that is an exciting pathway to pursue.”
The patented Plantrose process uses supercritical water to reduce costs in conversion of biomass to cellulosic sugars by creating faster reactions and having virtually no associated consumable-expenses.
After an initial investment in 2015, Total decided to expand its investment and sign an additional licensing agreement with Renmatix for one million tons of annual cellulosic sugar production capacity, at Total’s discretion to build corresponding facilities.
“At Total, our ambition is to become the responsible energy major. We want to make low-carbon businesses a profitable growth driver accounting for 20% of our portfolio in 20 years’ time. Meeting these goals is what has led to setting-up and expanding our collaboration with Renmatix,” said Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of Total.
Renmatix plans to use some of the funding to help license the first wave of Plantrose-enabled biorefineries in global markets such as the U.S., Canada, India, and Malaysia, as well as facilitate further market development of downstream bioproduct applications. From its well-established foundation in industrial sugars, the company also plans to expand its product portfolio with building block intermediates such as crystalline cellulose.
“This continued progress marks the pronounced acceleration of a new, sugar based, chemistry regime. One that can go beyond conventional oil based products for cleaner, more sustainable solutions,” said Renmatix CEO, Mike Hamilton. “While we’re working with partners to capitalize on the vast opportunity for biobased transformation in markets as diverse as the U.S. and India, this investment from Gates and Total together – shows recognition of our technological achievements, and magnifies our commercial momentum. That acknowledgment and Total’s signing of the million-ton license, are compelling indicators of our Plantrose technology’s maturation towards biorefinery scale.”