Even though we heard about two companies (Iogen and Alico) canceling plans to build cellulosic ethanol plants in the U.S. this week, Verenium doesn’t seem to be getting cold feet. Just last week the company opened up its demonstration facility and this morning an executive said at the Jefferies conference that the company is actually working on 10 different sites mostly in the Southeast of the U.S. that are in various stages of development, which it could tap for commercial cellulosic ethanol plants.
John McCarthy, Verenium’s executive vice president of CFO, said the idea is that once the technology is proven in the demonstration scale facility by the end of this year, the company can have these sites waiting to scale up to commercial production. He called proving the technology in the demo plant a “gating item.” McCarthy said the company plans to announce locations and partnerships in the near future for some of these sites.
McCarthy also said Verenium has planted three plots of “energy cane” at three sites in the Southeast, “not because we want to be in the farming business” but because the company wants to understand the agribusiness. He said those three sites could fuel a cellulosic plant if the company wanted to.