LS9 raises funds for sugar-to-diesel tech

Biofuel company gets $30 million from private equity giant Black Rock and others to make designer microbe-driven diesel fuel.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica

Synthetic biology company LS9 has raised $30 million to help fund commercialization of its process of turning plants into diesel fuel.

A diagram of LS9's one-step process for converting biomass into diesel fuel. LS9

The funding was led by giant global private equity company Black Rock. Money also came from investors Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and CTTV Investments, the venture capital arm of Chevron, according to LS9.

LS9 has developed a fermentation-based process for converting sugar in plants into petroleum replacements using genetically engineered e. coli bacteria. The same process can be modified to manufacture different chemicals as well.

Earlier this year, researchers at the San Francisco company published a paper describing the technology which LS9 says can create liquid fuels in one step, making it relatively cost-effective compared with other biofuels technology.

With the money, LS9 plans to continue building a demonstration facility in Florida that uses sugar cane to make diesel fuel and to develop its operations in Brazil.

To scale up their products, many green-technology companies are seeking money from private equity firms, which typically have more capital available for large plants or manufacturing facilities than do venture capitalists. In a statement, LS9 CEO Ed Dineen said that Black Rock's investment will allow it to speed up plans to deploy its technology.