Cobalt Adds $25M for Biobutanol Commercialization

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Cobalt Biofuels has raised $25 million in Series C funding for its biobutanol production process. The Mountain View, Calif.-based biofuel startup plans to use the funding to accelerate the commercialization of its low-cost biochemical butanol production process. The round was led by LSP and Pinnacle Ventures and included Vantage Point Venture Partners, The Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, @Ventures, and Harris and Harris.

Biobutanol is more chemically similar to gasoline than ethanol, meaning it can be burned in existing car engines and transported in the current gas pipelines, two things ethanol can’t do. There is also a large market for cheap biobutanol in industrial chemicals. Consequently, Cobalt isn’t the only one going after biobutanol. Khosla- and Virgin-backed Gevo has reportedly raised $10 million for its work with butanol. Meanwhile, chemical giant DuPont has teamed up with BP to make biobutanol.

Cobalt’s intellectual property resides in patents across three processes: microbe development, fermentation management and fluid separation. Like other synthetic biology companies, Cobalt says it will be able to tailor microbes for different regionally available feedstocks, optimizing its process for deployment anywhere. However, the startup is trying something novel by forgoing the standard batch fermentation process, instead managing the fermentation process at peak production for long periods, boosting output and cutting operating costs, Cobalt says.

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