13 Nov BP Solar executive Lee Edwards to head Virent Energy Systems
Madison, Wis. – Virent Energy Systems has announced that energy industry executive Lee Edwards has been appointed to succeed Eric Apfelbach as president and CEO, effective January 2, 2009.
Edwards joins Virent after a 25-year career at BP plc, most recently as president and CEO of BP Solar, a global solar technology provider with 2,200 employees and $1 billion in annual sales.
Edwards has held a number of executive positions, including chief information officer for BP’s Downstream business, president for BP Pipelines North America, and global brand vice president, where he led the strategy for the current BP Helios brand.
He will replace Apfelbach, who has stepped down as Virent’s chief executive to pursue other opportunities.
Dr. Randy Cortright, Virent founder and CTO, noted the company is working to commercialize its liquid fuel, and he cited Edwards’ background in both the petroleum industry and renewable technologies, and his knowledge of global energy markets.
“He understands the markets we’re going into, not only in the U.S. but worldwide,” Cortright said.
Virent had identified a couple of good CEO candidates in the energy field, Cortright added, but Lee rose to the top of the list after company officials met with him. With Edwards, Virent is on more of an equal footing with business partners like Shell, with which it is developing ways to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components.
“With Lee, we don’t have to depend so much on Shell to bring certain types of expertise to the company,” Cortright said.
In a statement released by Virent, Edwards said the company represents a unique opportunity in the biofuels industry in that it has developed a differentiated catalytic technology that offers feedstock flexibility, lifecycle efficiency, and fuel products identical to petroleum fuels.
Virent’s BioForming technology converts plant sugars into a variety of hydrocarbon molecules identical in structure to the petroleum-based hydrocarbons used in modern fuels. The company will use the platform to develop green gasoline, then renewable jet and diesel fuel.
Edwards said Virent has attracted global partnerships that are accelerating the technology’s development to full-scale production, and that its biofuels offer a new kind of solution to help deliver “energy security, reduced CO2 emissions, and the opportunity for job creation” as it tries to meet growing demands for renewable transportation fuels.
Virent’s new chief executive is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a MBA in finance. In addition, he holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Bucknell University and completed the executive program at Stanford University.
In a related matter, Edwards also was appointed as a non-executive member of Virent’s board of directors, and Dr. Jay Kouba, CEO of Tetravitae Biosciences, was appointed as its chairman. Kouba is the CEO of Tetravitae Biosciences, which develops alternative fuels through biomass conversion, and the chairman of Metabolix, a producer of biodegradeable plastics.
Kouba has served on the Virent board since the spring of 2007.