Algae, biomass-based biofuels remain uneconomical - capitalist

30 June 2010 04:37  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON DC (ICIS News)--Algae biofuels and enzymatic conversion of biomass to sugar will continue to be uneconomical if they can't compete with crude oil at $60/bbl (€49/bbl), US venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said on Tuesday.

“The current economics of enzymatic conversion to sugar looks the same as the economics of algae and both will continue to be costly. I could be wrong and in fact, I hope I’m wrong but that’s my personal view,” Khosla said in a keynote presentation at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing in Washington DC.

One major challenge is limited use and adoption of biomass feedstock such as switchgrass and miscanthus.

“My lament is that almost no work is being done in improving the feedstock issue,” said Khosla.

“Government agencies have done a great job pushing biotechnology-based fuels forward and supporting them. This is not happening as much on the feedstock side,” he added.

Khosla is currently investing in several advanced biofuels developers such as Range, Coskata, Mascoma, Lanza Tech, Amyris Biotechnologies, LS9, Gevo and Kior.

In the biotechnology-based chemicals sector, Khosla’s current investment portfolio includes Segetis, Draths and Reluceo.

Segetis is currently working on developing bio-based levulinic acid while Draths is working on replacement of petroleum-based aromatics such as nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Reluceo is developing xylose-based bioplastics and industrial chemicals.

“I am optimistic about bioplastic replacing traditional petroleum-based plastics. However, there are issues such as slow pace of adoption for new chemistries and supply chain for new feedstock takes a while to be established,” said Khosla.

“Most of the biochemicals in the market also cannot have a green premium,” he said.

The BIO World Congress ends on Wednesday.

($1 = €0.82)

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By: Doris de Guzman
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