LS9 to conduct renewable testing in Brazil, extends Chevron work
San Francisco-based synthetic biology technology developer LS9 Inc. deepened its presence in Brazil when it entered into a collaboration with MAN Latin America, a leading Brazilian engineering and vehicles manufacturing firm to test its trademarked UltraClean Diesel product in both stationary engines and operational fleet vehicles. The collaborative testing project will test performance, emissions, fuel consumption, as well as field testing LS9’s renewable diesel in Volkswagen trucks and buses.
LS9 employs fermentation-based techniques with the use of designer microbes that convert sugars, not lipids, into various diesel fuel substitutes, such as its UltraClean Diesel product, that meet or exceed relevant diesel fuel standards. The company’s current FAME product has achieved the key parameters of B100, such as ASTM 6751 (U.S.), EN 14214 (EU) and ANP 7 (Brazil) standards. In April, LS9 gained U.S. EPA registration to sell its fuels into commercial markets. The company also has a hydrocarbon-only diesel product under development.
While it’s not an exclusive area of focus for LS9, the attractiveness of expanding into Brazil “is multiple,” according to CEO Ed Dineen. One of the obvious reasons would be to tap into Brazil’s established and cost-competitive sugarcane industry for sugar syrup to be used as feedstock for its fuel and chemical products.
In early July, the company announced the opening of LS9 Brasil Biotecnologia (LS9 BB) in Sao Paulo. LS9 BB will be led by Lucila de Avila as Managing Director for all LS9 business activities in Brazil and South America and Michael Rinelli, Director, responsible for Business Development and Government Relations.
“As we look at our technology, which can take virtually any source of sugar and convert it into fuels and chemicals, Brazil is clearly of interest and we have a number of discussions going on down there with potential partners and feedstock suppliers,” Dineen told Biorefining Magazine, adding that LS9 has similar interests to expand in the U.S. as well.
Dineen cited Brazil’s robust economy and developing diesel market as additional factors that make the country an attractive location for commercializing LS9’s biobased fuel and chemical products. “We think our technology fits [the diesel] space and allows Brazil to not only take its sugarcane into the gasoline part of petroleum, but also in the diesel part of petroleum,” Dineen said.
LS9’s collaboration with MAN Latin America comes at an important time for Brazil, which recently enacted new environmental policies and is gradually implementing new quality standards for fuels and engines to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
LS9’s technology has been tested for two years at its 1,000-liter pilot plant in South San Francisco. The firm also has a demonstration production facility located in Okeechobee, Fla. According to Dineen, plans are to ramp up fermentation capabilities to about 4,000 or 5,000 liters in August and eventually increase output to 140,000 liters by fourth quarter. Existing on that capacity, he added, are additional fermentation vessels in the 800,000-liter range that could be bolted on to switch the facility from demonstration-scale to commercial-scale production, but that is “if we find the right opportunity,” Dineen said.
Subsequent to its announced testing collaboration with MAN Latin America, LS9 extended its research into synthetic hydrocarbon products with Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA Inc. The program will further improve LS9’s platform technology to produce specific pure hydrocarbon products. The project follows Chevron’s initial testing and evaluation of LS9’s technology. While terms of the funding program weren’t disclosed, Dineen said the research with Chevron is anticipated to bolster LS9’s product portfolio and enable increased fungibility within target markets in select regions of the world, such as Brazil.
“I think [the research with Chevron] is consistent with our model and strategy,” Dineen said. “I think both in the fuels arena, as well as the chemicals arena, our vision is to bring an array of products to the market because, as you look at each region and even each country for fuels due to government policy and regulation, the fuel needs will differ. The specifications may differ how clean the fuel is, the split between diesel, gasoline and aviation fuels is going to vary and some of the government incentives are going to vary. We envision bringing a variety of diesel and, ultimately, aviation fuel capability to the market.”