Synthetic Diesel: Amyris Working on $62M Round


amyrisimageAmyris Biotech, a startup that’s developing synthetic biological organisms to produce chemical compounds and biofuels, and hopes to commercialize its technology in Brazil by June 2010, is raising a Series C round of $62 million, according to The company had previously raised more than $120 million from investors like Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and DAG Ventures, and has already closed $24.5 million of this latest round.

Amyris opened its first pilot plant in Emeryville, Calif., back in November, when it showed off some of the first few gallons of its synthetic diesel fuel, which it had branded as “No Compromise,” meant to communicate that the fuel is “as good or better performing than petroleum diesel, without compromise to the environment or economics,” Amyris CEO John Melo told us.

Amyris is now fine-tuning that process in Emeryville, looking to hit commercial production next year, starting in Brazil. The startup has already formed a joint venture called Crystalsev, in conjunction with Santelisa Vale, Brazil’s second-largest sugar grower, and the jv aims to produce 200 million gallons of fuel a year by 2011 at several of its existing ethanol plants at a price of less than $2 a gallon.

The Brazilian partnership gives Amyris access to ports and ships, which it plans to use to import the fuel to the U.S. and sell it to large customers like Wal-Mart and the U.S. government. Although foreign ethanol meets with a 54-cent-per-gallon tariff as it comes into the U.S., Amyris says that because it’s importing hydrocarbons, not ethanol, it can avoid that tariff.

This latest round of funding puts Amyris’ funding at close to $200 million, which, while not rare for a biofuel maker, is difficult to achieve in these economic times. The company is also competing with other synthetic biology makers like LS9, Synthetic Genomics and Gevo.


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