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British Firm Will Convert Minnesota Ethanol Plant to Ag-Based Chemical Production

16:59PM Jan 21, 2015

Green Biologics Ltd., a U.K.-based company that makes chemicals from agricultural waste and sugar cane, raised $76 million to expand production, including converting a Minnesota ethanol plant to make butanol and acetone.

Green Biologics is receiving $42 million in equity, led by Swire Pacific Ltd. and Sofinnova Partners, and $34 million in debt financing led by Tennenbaum Capital Partners, the Oxfordshire-based company said Wednesday in a statement. Green Biologics had raised about $25 million in equity in December 2013.

The latest funding will help support the acquisition of a 21-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant in Minnesota that’s being renovated to produce butanol and acetone, beginning as soon as next year, Chief Executive Officer Sean Sutcliffe said in a phone interview Tuesday. The company already has produced chemicals at smaller plants.

“This is the third stage in the process, to commercialize the technology, having proven it at pilot scale, having proven it at demo scale,” Sutcliffe said. “By repurposing the existing ethanol plant, we’re able to be more capital efficient.”

The company has a pilot production facility in Ohio and a demonstration facility in Iowa. Butanol is used in paints and perfumes while acetone is an ingredient in rubbing alcohol.

Green Biologics uses feedstocks including corn waste and sugar cane to produce chemicals that can be used in consumer products and biofuels. The company produced about 300 tons of butanol last year in China with a partner, Sutcliffe said.

“We’ve had good feedback from customers in paints, coatings, perfumes and other applications where they’ve bought our renewable butanol made in China,” he said. “The core market for us is renewable chemicals. Fuels are in the long term, and one of our investors -- Swire Pacific -- is interested in the potential for renewable jet fuel.”