It’s not clear which startups will emerge from the so-called biofuel bubble, but in the wake of the food vs. fuel debate, bigger players are trying their hands at bio-based fuels. UOP, a subsidiary of conglomerate Honeywell, announced today that it has signed a letter of intent with bio-oil veteran Ensyn to form a joint venture to produce second generation biofuels for power generation, heating and eventually transportation. Financial details of the JV were not disclosed, and the parties expect to finalize the details of the venture later this year within the next three years.
The main focus of the joint venture is to crack the transport fuel market. UOP launched its Renewable Energy & Chemicals business in 2006 and has developed its Eni Ecofining process to produce renewable diesel and jet fuels. Ensyn brings to the table its Rapid Thermal Processing technology, which converts second generation biomass like forest and agricultural wastes to bio-oil in a flash using “a tornado of hot sand.” Seconds after being heated up to 500º C for pyrolysis, the process yields pourable, liquid fuel. Currently, this fuel is relatively low-grade and is used as home heating oil, but through this partnership, the companies hope to refine the process to make high-quality greener alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
We’ve seen similar joint ventures come from large, multinational companies like Monsanto, Dupont and General Motors, all of whom are working to take the lab bench successes of biofuel startups and scale them.
Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Toronto, Ensyn operates seven commercial biomass processing plants in the U.S. and Canada. The company makes a variety of bio-based chemicals including home-heating fuels, pharmaceuticals, food additives and adhesives.