VCs still funding next-gen biofuel companies

AltraBiofuels Spins Out Edeniq for Cellulosic, Led by Gross

Despite continued struggles for next-gen biofuel makers, venture capitalists are still putting money into startups, particularly when it comes to follow-on rounds. On Wednesday EdeniQ, which was spun out of AltraBiofuels in 2008 to focus on cellulosic ethanol processing, announced that it has raised another round of more than $30 million in equity and debt from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and The Westly Group.

A large ethanol producer and subsidiary of Koch Industries, Flint Hills Resources Renewables, also joined EdeniQ’s round as a new investor. Comerica and ATEL Ventures provided the debt. Flint is interested in EdeniQ because the startup has technology that can help a corn ethanol producer transition to cellulosic biofuels, which are made from energy crops or waste and are widely considered the future of biofuels.

EdeniQ originally raised $30 million when it launched back in 2008, and later raised $12.4 million, so the company’s total investment is close to $75 million. AltraBiofuels was also backed by substantial money — some hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cellulosic ethanol is facing a really tough road in the U.S. Amyris, which was one of the leaders a few short years ago after it went public, has hit a wall and recently reorganized its management team. MIT Tech Review reported that Amyris was very far away from being able to produce biodiesel profitably, leading to the company getting out of the biofuel business for the time being. Amyris’ stock is trading at $1.96 per share, far below its $16 per share price debut.

Another charticle from the MIT Tech Review this week shows just how far away the U.S. is from meeting its (ridiculous) renewable fuel mandates, particularly because very little cellulosic ethanol is being produced. Biofuel exec, and blogger, Robert Rapier tweeted to me that he predicts that the actual amount of cellulosic ethanol production in 2012 will be less than 5 million gallons (and probably less than 2 million gallons). The EPA is predicting the industry will make 10 million gallons 2012, down from the amazingly-off prediction goal that the industry would make 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2012.


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