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Terragia Biofuel secures US$6M to develop cost-competitive tech

Terragia Biofuel secures US$6M to develop cost-competitive tech
Terragia Biofuel with Lee Lynd (left), CTO and Co-founder; Kristin Brief, CEO; and Chris Herring, VP of Technology Development and Co-founder (photo courtesy Business Wire).

In the United States (US), Terragia Biofuel Inc., a technology startup aiming to drive the next generation of biofuels, has announced it has raised a US$6 million seed round led by venture capital firms Engine Ventures and Energy Impact Partners (EIP).

Founded in 2022, Terragia Biofuel is a technology startup that aims to develop and deploy technology to produce sustainable liquid fuels from cellulosic biomass.

Using a novel biological approach to converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol and other products, the company seeks to enable the production of low-cost, low-carbon liquid fuels for difficult-to-electrify transport modes, including aviation, ocean shipping, and long-haul trucking.

Cellulosic biofuels are a route to low-carbon fuels for aviation and other difficult-to-electrify transport modes as well as CO2 removal from the atmosphere, both of which are critical for climate stabilization. One-step biological conversion of cellulosic biomass without added enzymes or thermochemical pretreatment has clear cost reduction potential relative to other process concepts, said Martin Keller, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Terragia’s technology development is supported by partnerships with Dartmouth College and the University of Campinas respectively by funding from the US Department of Energy’s Center for Bioenergy Innovation and the São Paulo Research Foundation, Brazil, and by grants to Terragia from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Science Foundation, as well as private capital.

Terragia has an exciting opportunity to succeed where others in the cellulosic biofuel industry have not. The company’s technology provides a radically different approach that uses biology to reduce the high costs and scale of conventional cellulosic biofuel production. With an experienced management team, deep industry experience, and a joint development agreement with a major US biofuel producer already underway, Terragia’s go-to-market approach has the potential not only to meet future global transport demand but to create low-carbon biofuel products at a price point competitive with fossil fuels, said Katie Rae, CEO and Managing Partner of Engine Ventures.

Commercialize novel technology

The company will use the capital to commercialize its novel biology-based approach to converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol and other products, expand its employee headcount, and initiate partnerships with major biofuel producers.

We are proud to support Terragia on its path to revolutionizing cellulosic ethanol and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production. Low-carbon fuels are a cornerstone of the energy transition, and we think Terragia has the right team and technology to become a leader in the field, said Ashwin Shashindranath, Partner at Energy Impact Partners.

Terragia uses engineered thermophilic bacteria to break down cellulosic biomass and convert it into ethanol and other chemical products.

The company’s technology avoids key features responsible for the high cost of conventional cellulosic biofuel production by one-step “consolidated” bioprocessing without added enzymes, and leveraging mechanical disruption during fermentation (i.e., cotreatment) in lieu of thermochemical pretreatment.

Conversion of ethanol to fuels for planes, ships, and trucks is a leading option for approximately half of future global transportation energy demand, for which electrification is likely impractical, corresponding to a trillion-dollar market. With full penetration of this market, Terragia’s technology is projected to displace 3 gigatons of CO2 emissions annually and enable the capture of a yet larger amount of CO2, said Lee Lynd, CTO and Co-Founder of Terragia Biofuels, and a Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and Director of the Advanced Second Generation Biofuel Lab at the University of Campinas, Brazil.

Appointment of CEO

Terragia also announced leadership changes with the appointment of Kristin Brief as CEO, effective immediately. Brief joins co-founders Lee Lynd, who transitioned to Chief Technology Officer, Bill Brady, Board Chair, and Chris Herring, VP of Technology Development.

It’s an honor to lead Terragia as CEO. I’ve spent the majority of my 20-year career advancing early-stage clean energy startups, and Terragia’s technology, team, and path to commercialization are differentiated. We have a unique opportunity to make a transformational impact on climate outcomes, in addition to generating substantially higher revenues for biofuel producers, Kristin Brief said.

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