SunEthanol secures VeraSun as investment partner

By Nicholas Zeman
When a company in the field of cellulosic ethanol research and development starts to secure investment partners like VeraSun Energy Corp., one of the nation's leading ethanol producers, it's going to draw a considerable amount of attention.

"It's been very busy around here," said Jef Sharp, CEO of SunEthanol in Amherst, Mass. "VeraSun is an important player in the established ethanol industry, and they can be very helpful in the development of our technology."

SunEthanol's technology platform is based around the "Q Microbe," a unique, naturally occurring bacterium discovered in the New England soil by University of Massachusetts microbiologist Susan Leschine. Because this bacterium can convert cellulose from a number of feedstocks, it has a significant commercial feasibility, which VeraSun tells Biomass Magazine is the reason for its investment in SunEthanol. "Because this is a naturally occurring bacteria, we think we can convert cellulose in a simpler step, which takes some of the cost out of the process," Sharp said. "That gives us an advantage over other technologies that may be more complex and gives us more flexibility in terms of feedstock."