Two very different biofuels start-ups—Joule Unlimited and Red Rock Biofuels—will soon be one company. The combined firm, to be called Joule, will be led by new CEO Brian Baynes, a partner at the venture capital firm Flagship Ventures, which has backed both companies.
“I’m the common denominator because of Flagship’s involvement,” Baynes acknowledges. But he says the firms will be stronger together. “The biggest challenge in the start-up world is to mitigate risk—to have diverse enough assets, people, and plans to capture the opportunities in front of you.”
Both Joule and Red Rock are working to raise financing for commercial facilities, though their technologies are worlds apart.
Joule was founded in 2007 to harness photosynthetic cyanobacteria to produce fuels from carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water. The company is targeting 2017 for construction of an ethanol facility. It has a demonstration plant in Hobbs, N.M.
In contrast, Red Rock, which is about three years old, will use a version of Fischer-Tropsch gasification to produce diesel and jet fuels from woody biomass. It hopes to build a facility in Lakewood, Ore., next year.
Investors interested in low-carbon fuels should be attracted to the new Joule, Baynes contends. He points out that Red Rock’s gasifier emits CO2 that Joule’s process can use; Joule’s waste biomass can be fed to Red Rock’s gasifier.
Jim Lane, editor of Biofuels Digest, sees logic in combining the two firms. “Joule brings a lot in the here and now to Red Rock,” he says, “while Red Rock provides a more proven pathway to revenue generation in the near term.”