Billionaire and energy aficionado Bill Gates has announced his latest investment is in a biotechnology company that turns biomass into fuel and bioplastics.
The company, Renmatix, uses a proprietary technique known as the “Plantrose Process” in which it puts natural “biomass” — wood chips, manure, certain plants — into a pressurised vat of water that extracts natural sugars.
Those sugars can then be used to create biofuels with energy potential that equals, or even surpasses, gasoline. In many cases, it does so at a similar cost but with less of the carbon impact.
“To effectively address climate change, we need to develop an energy infrastructure that doesn’t emit greenhouse gas and is cost competitive,” Gates said in a statement. “Renmatix provides an innovative process that is an exciting pathway to pursue.”
Gates’ investment totals $14 million, and a licensing agreement with French oil and gas company Total S.A. will allow the company produce 1 million tons of the natural sugars ( known as cellulosic sugars) in its chemical manufacturing. According to Renmatix, with that quantity of sugars and energy potential, you could produce 120 billion disposable plastic cups or drive 1 million cars 2,000 miles.
Renmatix CEO Michael Hamilton says the Gates investment will help keep the company’s momentum going for several more years, ideally lowering the end costs to make it even more efficient than typical fuel sources.
“He’ll bring more awareness to our process,” Hamilton tells Business Insider. “His efforts coming out of Paris nine months ago, with COP21, show his commitment to moving some of these energy innovations so they have impact and can scale.”
Gates was a prominent figure at the December 2015 COP21 event, a historic meet-up in which 195 countries agreed on a proposal to limit or prevent the effects of climate change. At the meetup, Gates secured the commitment 30 of the wealthiest and most powerful people in business and technology to invest in startups that can slow or prevent the effects of climate change.