Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Summer Of Algae

From the Wall Street Journal's Venture Capital Dispatch (now with bloggy goodness):

All of a sudden, the sun is shining on early-stage companies developing algae-based fuel. Call it the summer of algae.

Oil giant ExxonMobil’s commitment to invest $600 million in research and development alongside venture-backed Synthetic Genomics Inc. is just another in a string of recent announcements of either new fund-raises or strategic partnership with established companies.

n late June, start-up Algenol Biofuels Inc. formed a partnership with The Dow Chemical Co. to develop a $50 million, algae-to-fuel pilot-scale plant employing Algenol’s technology, which involves linking the production of sugar from photosynthesis with the enzymes required to produce ethanol within an individual blue-green algae cell.

There were also at least two funding rounds in June. Solix Biofuels Inc. closed on $16.8 million to complete construction of a demonstration-scale facility, with investors including Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd., London-based I2BF Venture Capital, Bohemian Investments, Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC, petroleum refiner Valero Energy Corp. and Infield Capital. Solazyme Inc. added $12 million in an interim round standing at $57 million, which was led by Braemar Energy Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners and brought in new investor VantagePoint Venture Partners.

And then there’s the government funding opportunity - an overall pot of almost $800 million - for pilot-stage biorefineries that is open to algae technology as well, making available significant amounts of federal money for this biomass for the first time since the Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program launched in 1978 (funding for the ASP was cut in 1995)....MORE