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Companies Build World's First Cellulosic Biobutanol Refinery

Cobalt Technologies and American Process Inc. announced an agreement to build the world’s first industrial-scale cellulosic biorefinery to produce biobutanol.

Mountain View, CA and Atlanta, GA -- Cobalt Technologies, a leader in commercializing biobutanol as a renewable chemical and fuel, and American Process Inc. (API), a leader in development and commercialization of lignocellulosic sugar production and bioenergy process technologies, today announced an agreement to build the world’s first industrial-scale cellulosic biorefinery to produce biobutanol.  Additionally, the companies agreed to jointly market a GreenPower+™ Biobutanol solution to biomass power facilities and other customers worldwide.

GreenPower+™  Biobutanol technology selectively converts part of  a boiler cellulosic biomass feedstock into renewable biobutanol, a valuable industrial chemical, widely used in paints and other coatings and a platform for production of renewable jet fuel and other valuable compounds.

Under the agreement, Cobalt Technologies and American Process will integrate Cobalt's patent pending continuous fermentation and distillation technology into American Process’s Alpena Biorefinery, currently under construction in Alpena, Michigan. Slated to begin ethanol production in early 2012 with a switch to biobutanol in mid 2012, the API Alpena Biorefinery will produce 470,000 gallons of biobutanol annually, which will be pre-sold to chemical industry partners.
“We are excited to be partnering with American Process to commercialize our technology,” said Rick Wilson, Ph.D., and CEO of Cobalt Technologies. “The American Process Alpena Biorefinery plant gives us a great opportunity to demonstrate our technology at a commercial scale and provides an excellent model for how GreenPower+ Biobutanol technology can add value to biomass power facilities.  We expect to move quickly from running the Alpena plant to building multi-million gallon facilities.”  

The Alpena Biorefinery
Funded in part by an $18 million U.S. Department of Energy grant and a $4 million grant from the State of Michigan, the API Alpena Biorefinery will demonstrate the conversion of  hemicelluloses extracted from woody biomass, to fermentable sugars that can be used for production of ethanol.  Meanwhile, Cobalt’s technology will demonstrate that these sugars can also produce butanol.

“This partnership will demonstrate that GreenPower+™  Biobutanol is an attractive value-added
technology for biomass power projects worldwide,” said Theodora Retsina, Ph.D. and CEO of American Process. “At American Process, our focus has been the production of fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic feedstocks and Cobalt’s participation in the Alpena plant validates that we are on the right track.  Cobalt’s biobutanol technology is a perfect complement to our GreenPower+ technology and we believe that the combination will appeal to customers.”

How it Works
GreenPower+™  is an API patent pending proprietary process for extracting hemicelluloses sugars from woody biomass using steam or hot water and converting them to fermentable sugars in a cost effective and technically robust process. The extracted biomass is returned- with consistent low moisture composition- to the biomass boiler for the production of steam and/or electricity – while sugars are converted to final bio-products. The process significantly increases overall profitability of the site by converting hemicelluloses into fermentable sugars, which can be converted to high value biofuels and biochemicals. The GreenPower+™ technology is applicable in any industry employing biomass boilers or having organic effluent.

Cobalt’s technology converts sugars from non-food feedstock, such as forest waste and mill residues, into biobutanol.  Cobalt’s continuous butanol production system is based on advancements in biocatalyst selection, bioreactor design and process engineering, resulting in a highly productive, capital-efficient, low-cost solution. This foundation ensures the production process is able to scale up quickly while maintaining capital efficiency.  Cobalt’s technology reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% versus the production of gasoline.

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