Green

New biofuels CEO waxes optimistic on LS9's Brazilian play

Biofuels company LS9′s new CEO Ed Dineen says he is planning to quickly ramp up the company’s presence in Brazil.

Dineen was recruited away from petrochemicals and polymers company LyondellBasell, where he was chief operating officer and helped build the company’s presence in Brazil. His background seems to align with the new direction that LS9 will go in, which includes making inroads in booming new economies, adding more partnerships to get its biofuels production to commercial scale and expanding its chemicals offerings. Dineen named Brazil as a first stop for growth, but India and China are also of interest, he said.

“The Brazilian economy has been a tremendous (success) story over the last eight to 10 years,” Dineen said, noting that the location will allow the company easy access to raw sugar cane as feedstock. “We believe our technology can ultimately play in many regions.”

With the appointment of Dineen, it looks like the company is ready for its next stage of growth. Its previous CEO, Bill Haywood, was originally brought in to get the company out of lab mode and into production.

“There was a consensus belief that this company can do much more in breadth of feedstocks and chemicals and geography,” Dineen said of his appointment.

LS9 opened a demo plant in Florida earlier this year (pictured, right), and originally started out making biodiesel and jet fuel. Now, it’s looking to expand on multiple fronts — more regions, partnerships, making chemicals as well as fuels. The company’s biofuels brethren Codexis and Amyris both had modest IPOs this year, which Dineen called “a good sign.”

“We need to develop broader capabilities if that’s a path we want to follow, but I’m confident we can do that. We’re not at the stage right now, but that could change relatively quickly,” he said.

Besides a Brazilian play, LS9 will be looking to do more partnerships — it should be noted that Amyris inked a number of partnerships with big names like Bunge Limited, Cosan, Royal Dutch Shell and Total. LS9 currently has a partnership with Chevron and another with Proctor & Gamble to make renewable chemicals for consumer goods.

As we’ve noted in the past, one of LS9′s strengths has been that is uses specially-engineered microbes capable of converting plant-based materials into fuels and chemicals in just one step, compared to the multiple-phase processes of some of its competitors. The company raised $25 million last year, but would need to do another round of fundraising in order to get to commercial-scale. Another potential plus — assuming that it all can get to commercial scale — is that LS9 claims its technology is feedstock-flexible, though for its next play it looks like the company is focusing on using sugar cane. But given that waste looks to have an edge as a feedstock, Dineen says LS9 is at an advantage because the company’s processes can expand to use a variety of materials, including waste, to convert into biofuels.

When asked how soon the company would like to get going in the Brazilian market, Dineen said he’s got a flight out there planned for January. So, in his words: “Very quickly.”