GBL is developing Butafuel™, a superior and more sustainable liquid biofuel for transportation. ButafuelTM is based on an alcohol called butanol produced by a naturally occurring microbe in a sugar fermentation process that was first commercialised in the UK during the First World War but largely displaced by the 1960s with a cheaper petrochemical method. In addition to butanol, the fermentation process also produces acetone, an important solvent and chemical precursor for polymers and plastics.
GBL is ‘recommercialising’ the bio-butanol fermentation process by applying its skills in microbiology, molecular biology and fermentation, and has developed novel microbes and advanced high temperature fermentation processes. In addition, the Company targets waste feedstocks for fermentation from agricultural and industrial processes, such as paper and pulp, sugar processing, biodiesel production and food waste. This reduces the need for expensive waste treatment and diverts waste away from landfill. Utilisation of waste feedstocks for fermentation is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than use of food crops such as sugar beet, sugar cane, maize and wheat, the current feedstocks for bio-ethanol, a “first generation” biofuel. By optimising the fermentation process, and using cheaper waste feedstocks, GBL aims to achieve a two to three fold reduction in cost.
Green Biologics will use part of the new funding for a scaled-up, pilot demonstration of its proprietary fermentation process for bio-butanol on a range of model waste feedstocks in its extended laboratory facilities.
Dr Edward Green, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, of Green Biologics said: “We are delighted to have secured the new investment we need to scale up our butanol fermentation process. It is great to have the support of our existing shareholders and we welcome Carbon Trust Investments Limited and Oxford Capital Partners on board as new investors.
“First generation” biofuels such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel have their limitations. These biofuels do not fit neatly into the existing fuel infrastructure and there are some concerns over their sustainability and longer term environmental impact. However, they are a good start and pave the way for “second generation” biofuels, such as butanol, which is a better fuel offering greater sustainability and environmental benefits. We believe that our Butafuel™ product will supersede “first generation” biofuels within five to ten years as a fuel extender and it ultimately has the potential to completely replace fossil fuels for road and air transport.”
Jonathan Bryers, Partner at Carbon Trust Investments, said: “Biofuels that are both cost effective and renewable will have a key role to play in creating a low carbon economy in the UK. The market is clearly interested in advanced biofuel technologies that can cost effectively process non crop feedstocks and in this case generate butanol with its associated benefits over ethanol. A key part of the Carbon Trust’s role is to provide investment in exciting companies like Green Biologics in order to bring low carbon businesses like this to market more quickly and we are delighted to come on board as a new investor.”
Dr Victor Christou, Investment Manager at Oxford Capital Partners, said: “Strong IP and know-how coupled with a unique technology skill base and proprietary micro-organism library means that Green Biologics is one of the most promising companies in the rapidly growing global biofuels sector. Oxford Capital Partners’ support for this Oxfordshire business reflects our confidence in the Green Biologics technology and together we aim to build another world class business based in the Oxford technosystem.”
Rick de Blaby, Chief Executive Officer of MEPC Milton Park, said: “Green Biologics is a superb example of the innovative, technology companies that thrive and grow at Milton Park. The Company has doubled in size over the past year and we were pleased to work with the Green Biologics team to provide the additional laboratory facilities needed to support the technical development of their Butafuel™ product. We wish Edward Green and his team every success with their demonstration tests.”
Biofuels are increasingly being adopted by key industry players in response to climate change proposals and the demands of environmentally aware consumers. In 2006 BP and Dupont announced plans to collaborate with British Sugar to manufacture butanol in the UK. BP provides a route for butanol into the transport fuel market and aims to blend butanol with conventional fossil fuels.
In addition, in an attempt to curb C02 emissions, the European Commission has proposed that biofuels should make up 10% of total fuel sales by 2020 which represents a huge increase in the market for biofuels. Within the UK, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation will, from April 2008, require fuel suppliers to ensure that 2.5% of their total fuel sales are made up of biofuels, rising to 10% by 2020. The Government intends that butanol should count as a renewable transport fuel under the RTFO.
Dr Green concluded: “The fuel and chemical markets are ready for the re-introduction of butanol using our new fermentation techniques that both enable cost-effective production and avoid adverse environmental impact. We are attracting a network of potential partners who are interested in working with us to take forward the production of Butafuel™ as a viable alternative to petrochemicals and “first generation” biofuels.
“We envisage our Butafuel™ production units being fitted alongside plant sources, such as paper mills and sugar production facilities, so that we are located right next to the suppliers of waste materials. Plants with existing ethanol units could also be retro-fitted for butanol production. Longer term, the Company is committed towards the development of bio-refineries for the production of a range of biofuel and biochemicals from waste and a full range of cellulosic feedstocks.”
Margaret Henry | alfa
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