Verenium CEO: “Value Chain Doesn’t Exist” For Biofuels


The CEO of cellulosic ethanol maker Verenium, Carlos Riva spoke yesterday to a group of 50 about the challenges facing his company and industry. Verenium just locked into a deal with BP to make a large scale facility for its ethanol, but Riva warned, “In order to commercialize this technology, you have to think beyond building of the new facility.”

Climatewire (sub. req’d): “You really have an entire value chain here that has to be developed that really doesn’t exist,” he added, warning that failure to prepare for the transition to biofuels could result in a “chaotic, hurried and costly transition more likely to be accompanied by global strife and instability.”

Among the problems facing Verenium and its partner in the commercialization venture, world oil giant BP PLC, is the huge amount of capital needed for such a project — estimated to be between $250 million and $300 million — and the collapse of the debt market.

The government, Riva stressed, will play a critical part in helping along commercial-scale production of biofuels with the provision of loan guarantees to fund the technology, which are needed to kick-start the industry.

Verenium faces other challenges, such as the development of crops appropriate to particular regions of the United States and attracting growers and landowners willing to shift to bioenergy crop production.

There is also a need, Riva said, for innovation in agriculture equipment design and converting cars into flexible fuel vehicles.