In a new technology development for the conversion of biomass to bio-oil, Khosla Ventures and BIOeCON announced the formation of their joint venture KiOR Inc. Khosla Ventures, will provide the Series A funding, whereas BIOeCON will bring its knowledge and intellectual property for the 'Biomass Catalytic Cracking Process' (BCC). KiOR Inc. will focus on the further development and commercialisation of the BCC technology as well as prepare for raising significantly more capital in the next two to three years.
BCC technology converts lignocellulosic biomass, found in grass, wood, and various agricultural and forestry wastes, into a bio-oil product that can be further upgraded to transportation fuels. The conversion of cellulosic biomass to bio-oil represents a significant commercial opportunity that also offers important benefits, including using post-harvesting waste rather than competing with food crops; promoting environmental sustainability; reducing reliance on fossil fuels such as crude oil; and enabling economic development and job creation in rural areas.
"The key technical problem in the conversion of cellulosic biomass into usable fuels is how to open up the inaccessible solid fibrous 'woody' material, so that it can be effectively transformed. Most of the existing processes to unlock the woody structures are quite costly and intensive of energy or chemicals," says Paul O'Connor, founder and president of BIOeCON. "BIOeCON has developed a simple non-energy intensive way to make the woody biomass accessible to catalysts and convert to a bio-oil product with significantly improved product properties compared to other thermal-chemical processes.
Doug Cameron, Khosla Ventures' Chief Scientific Advisor: "BIOeCON has a strong R&D network and solid scientific fundamentals. We have done a thorough evaluation of the technology and research programs and believe this can be a breakthrough technology."
"Securing funding from a strategic and visionary venture capital company like Khosla Ventures is a major step forward", says Rob van der Meij, CEO of KiOR Inc." Khosla's experience and expertise in technology start ups is unmatched in the industry and we are looking forward to the acceleration that Khosla Ventures no doubt will bring."
KiOR's concept and approach is unique and has the potential to become a large scale, widely applied technology, that can improve energy availability and sustainability to both the developed and developing world. The BCC technology unlocks the energy of vast amounts of biomass waste and converts it into a high valued energy product. This will not only reduce net carbon dioxide emission, but can also improve the energy independence of many countries.