Amyris hits production snags in biofuel operations

Startup Amyris has hit a speed bump producing chemicals and fuels from sugar cane, another sign of the technical difficulties biofuel companies have had.

In an earnings call last week, Amyris CEO John Melo said the company had trouble maintaining reliable production of its operations in Brazil. "We showed conclusively that our technology does work at scale, but also learned that it takes time to translate from peak yield levels in the lab to maintaining those yields over longer operational periods in the field," he said on a conference call with investors last Thursday.

As a result, Amyris … Read more

Amyris cranks up biochemical production in Brazil

Amyris announced today a contract manufacturing deal to make specialty chemicals from sugar cane in Brazil, marking the first time the chemical and biofuels company will produce at industrial scale.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company has contracted with Biomin do BrasilNiutrciao to use its facilities to manufacture a chemical called farnesene, which is used for cosmetic products and lubricants. Production is slated to begin next month.

Amyris will supply sugar cane syrup and fermentation equipment while Biomin will operate the plant, an arrangement that allows Amyris to begin production at commercial scale quicker than building its own facilities, said Jeri Hilleman, the company's chief financial officer.

Through a joint venture, Amyris is in the process of building its own facility in Brazil, which will take 18 months (and is scheduled for completion next year), while the deal with Biomin took about six months and relatively little capital, Hilleman said. Amyris has other contract manufacturing arrangements in Europe and the U.S. … Read more

Sugar-to-diesel maker Amyris files for IPO

Biofuel company Amyris Biotechnologies said it plans to raise $100 million through an initial public offering, one of a number of energy start-ups now seeking to tap the stock market for capital.

The Emeryville, Calif., company on Friday filed its S-1 document with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which it laid out its plans to tap sugar cane from Brazil, now used for producing ethanol, to make different chemical products, including diesel fuel.

The S-1 also spelled out the many risks that the Amyris faces, including the high costs of building biorefineries and the potential backlash against using genetically … Read more

Amyris opens plant to make diesel from sugar cane

Amyris Biotechnologies on Wednesday announced the opening of a pilot facility in Emeryville, Calif., that turns sugar cane into diesel fuel through genetically designed microbes.

The company is at the forefront of a commercial movement to use biotechnology to convert plants into fuels that resemble petroleum-based hydrocarbons.

Amyris' technique is to genetically engineer a yeast that can metabolize sugar into the desired molecules. Its first effort was to develop a malaria vaccine, which it continues to do, and it has since developed a focus on renewable fuels.

"We're engineering the yeast, reprogramming it from making alcohols to making … Read more

Sugar cane diesel, gas, and jet fuel coming from Amyris

Amyris, a rapidly growing biotech company that coaxes genetically enhanced microbes to produce fuel and medicine, has signed a deal with two Brazilian companies to come out with a sugar-cane-based diesel and other fuels by 2010.

Right now, Brazilian sugar cane growers convert a substantial amount of their crop into ethanol. Ethanol, however, isn't as flexible a fuel as biodiesel. For one thing, only certain types of cars can run on ethanol-heavy fuels like E85. Biodiesel works pretty much in any diesel engine. Ethanol is an alcohol. Biodiesel and other fuels produced via Amyris' process are hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons … Read more

Maker of microbe-inspired jet fuels gets more funding.

Amyris Biotechnologies, which is working on make jet fuels, gasoline and medicines through biologically inspired processes, has raised part of a $70 million funding round that it hopes to complete by the end of the year.

The company also said that it will try to come out with its bio-diesel, bio-gasoline and bio-jet fuels as early as 2010.

Amyris specializes in synthetic biology. It studies metabolic processes in bacteria and other microorganisms and then tries to replicate those processes artificially in labs. One of its first projects was developing a synthetic form of artemisinin, a medicine for malaria that grown … Read more

Hydrogen is real--50 years from now

DAVIS, Calif.--UPDATE: John Melo, CEO of alternative fuel (and medicine) maker Amyris Technologies, told an audience at the GoingGreen conference that when he worked at BP two years ago, he was part of a project to determine if hydrogen made sense as an auto fuel.

The answer was yes, decades from now.

"We determined that it would take 40 to 50 years to get hydrogen at scale," he said."It will be a reality. It will just be further out."

In the meantime, there will be a biofuel boom that will go for 20 to … Read more