Bill Gates Backs Biofuel Company Renmatix
Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has invested his funds in yet another company that makes tech for biofuels and biochemicals.
On Thursday Renmatix, which is based in King of Prussia, Penn., announced that it’s raised a funding round of $14 million to continue the company’s long slog towards commercialization. The company has developed a process that converts plant waste and biomass into sugars that can be converted into biofuels and bio versions of chemicals.
Gates led the round, but it also included funds from French oil giant Total, which is a longtime partner of Renmatix. The funding is the first portion of likely a larger round.
Renmatix launched five years ago with an original investment by Silicon Valley venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins, ushered in by then-partner and Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy. A short time later Renmatix managed to convince German chemicals giant BASF to get on board.
For more on when investors were bullish on biofuels, watch:
Now over the years the company has managed to raise $140 million in an effort to start selling its conversion tech at a commercial scale. Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton tells Fortune the company is now transitioning into selling its tech at a larger volume.
For example, Total recently signed a licensing agreement with Renmatix to use the company’s tech to produce one million tons a year of sugars for biofuels or biochemicals. Unlike some other biofuel companies, Renmatix is focused on licensing its technology, instead of building its own refineries. The company has a demonstration scale plant in Georgia which can make three tons of sugars per day, but which isn’t being run on a continuous basis.
The company’s technology uses high temperature and high pressure water to break down plant waste, like wood chips, into sugars that can be used for fuels or chemicals. The company calls it “supercritical hydrolysis,” and the conversion is supposed to be able to be done in minutes, while other conversion processes take days.
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Biofuels have faced a difficult market over the past few years. As the price of oil has plummeted, biofuels, which commonly cost more than oil, have become less competitive. Car makers have also started to focus more heavily on electrifying cars, with batteries.
Bill Gates has had a long interest in biofuels. Previously he’s backed now bankrupt biofuel maker KiOR, algae fuel maker Sapphire Energy, and ethanol producer Pacific Ethanol. Gates also has a series of investments in battery companies.
Late last year Gates and a group of billionaires announced their commitment to invest in early-stage high-impact energy companies in an effort to create solutions to fight climate change.