Shell, Cargill invest more in Virent for biogasoline

Virent's technology for converting sugar water into replacements for gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel gets a boost with a $46.4 million investment from Shell, Cargill, and existing investors.

Although electric vehicles are often the highlight of auto shows these days, work on advanced biofuels continues with at least some companies making progress on industry goals.

Madison, Wis.-based Virent Energy Systems said on Tuesday that it raised $46.4 million in a third round of funding, which included follow-on investments from Shell and Cargill.

An employee at Virent holds sugar bagasse, the residue from sugar cane harvesting, which can be turned into a gasoline equivalent liquid fuel.

The money will be used to expand the company's existing demonstration plant, which makes a gasoline equivalent, called biogasoline, from plants at a rate of 10,000 gallons per year. The investment agreement also calls for research on making diesel fuel with the company's technology.

Virent's technology is unlike most alternative-fuel companies in that it uses a catalyst to convert the sugar in plants into a fuel that can be used to replace gasoline. Many advanced biofuels companies are developing techniques to turn the cellulose in plants into ethanol or to make biodiesel from algae.

By making hydrocarbon replacements, Virent expects that its fuels can be easily sold and distributed through the existing fuels pipelines.

In a statement, Cargill Vice President Scott Portnoy said that Virent's technology has the potential to work with different feedstocks, including sugars derived from nonfood sources.

In addition to agricultural giant Cargill and oil and gas company Shell, Honda is also an investor in the company.

 

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