01 Nov Virent lands $2M grant for chemical production
Madison, Wis. – Virent Energy Systems, Inc. has been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy to develop its method of converting glycerol, a co-product of biodiesel production, into a renewable chemical called propylene glycol.
The grant was awarded as part of the joint USDA-DOE Biomass Research and Development Initiative, which was established to develop of technologies that make bio-based fuels cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
Virent, whose investors include Cargill and Honda, has developed a patented BioForming technology platform that converts biomass-derived feedstocks into renewable fuels and chemicals without adding hydrogen, a costly step used in competitive methods.
It is working with FutureFuel Chemical Co., a former subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Co., to maximize yields of propylene glycol, a component in personal care products, de-icing and antifreeze products, and liquid detergents. Propylene glycol is a high-value chemical that usually is made from fossil fuels.
FutureFuel will supply the glycerol and help design and test the first prototype system at its Batesville, Ark. biodiesel plant.
Eric Apfelbach, CEO of Virent, said the company wanted to add propylene glycol to its technology base for the renewable production of high-value chemicals. He said Virent, which employs 22 people and will expand into a 16,000-square-foot lab, intends to provide biodiesel producers with a profitable outlet for glycerol.
Gary McChesney, director of technology for FutureFuel, said Virent’s technology will give his company the ability to use an abundant, bio-based feedstock to produce propylene glycol.
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