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Money Flows For Biobased Chemicals

Renewables: Amryis raises $84 million from investors for scale-up

by Melody M. Bomgardner
March 5, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 10

Credit: Amyris
Amyris partner Biomin has run into production problems at this facility in Brazil.
Tanks holding chemicals at an Amyris facility in Brazil.
Credit: Amyris
Amyris partner Biomin has run into production problems at this facility in Brazil.

As part of an effort to solve production problems, biobased chemical maker Amyris has made a $59 million private sale of common stock and issued $25 million in convertible bonds. Most of the new capital came from existing investors. The firm, which went public in September 2010, will use the new funds to pay for the scale-up of its commercial operations.

Amyris makes farnesene, a chemical intermediate, from sugar via fermentation. Among its uses, farnesene can be hydrogenated into renewable diesel or converted into squalene, a high-value moisturizer used in cosmetics.

Amyris CEO John G. Melo told analysts on Feb. 9 that the firm was experiencing operating problems at a contract manufacturing site in Brazil. Production of farnesene this year, he said, would be less than the firm’s stated goal of 40 million to 50 million L.

On Feb. 27, Melo told analysts in a conference call that Amyris plans to complete construction on its own Brazilian plant by midyear, with output beginning in the first quarter of 2013. The plant is colocated with its feedstock provider, sugarcane energy firm Paraíso Bioenergia. In addition, Amyris plans to make farnesene in Brazil through a joint venture with sugar processor Grupo São Martinho.

The additional funds should help Amyris overcome its production setbacks, says Mike J. Ritzenthaler, research analyst at investment bank Piper Jaffray. “It should get them to cash-flow positive, if everything goes well from here,” he tells C&EN. The company risks losing potential customers if it does not produce reliable supplies for product development, Ritzenthaler adds.


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