Environmental Protection

Qteros and Praj Partner to Accelerate Commercialization of Cellulosic Ethanol

The partnership hopes to deliver create integrated engineering design packages for low-cost production of ethanol from non-food-based feedstocks.

Qteros Inc., the developer of an efficient consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) platform for low-cost production of cellulosic ethanol, and Praj Industries Ltd., a developer of technology and engineering solutions for producing biofuels and biochemicals, have announced a strategic partnership to accelerate commercialization efforts for industrial-scale cellulosic ethanol production. The agreement will leverage Qteros' CBP platform with Praj's research capabilities and its technology, process design, engineering, and construction expertise to deliver fully integrated engineering design packages for the low-cost production of ethanol from a broad variety of non-food-based feedstocks.

Qteros and Praj will collaborate on a focused, multi-year development program with the objective of rapidly developing and commercializing process design packages (PDPs) that produce cellulosic ethanol with Qteros' Q Microbe-enabled CBP platform and Praj's technology and expertise in converting biomass to ethanol. This unique licensing model serves to provide an efficient and low-cost solution while also allowing Qteros and Praj to deploy their capital in an efficient and leveraged manner. Rhe companies plan to retrofit Praj's existing pilot plant in Pune, India, with Qteros' technology platform, which will then become the foundation for accelerated production scaling as part of its commercial planning.

Initially, the companies will focus their efforts on developing PDPs for feedstocks that include sugarcane, corn, and wheat residuals with the goal of achieving commercial-readiness by the end of 2012. The companies believe their initial commercial plans will focus on Praj's existing broad base of ethanol customers seeking to add co-located cellulosic ethanol facilities to their existing ethanol infrastructure. Based on the achievement of certain development and commercialization milestones, Qteros and Praj may elect to broaden the partnership to incorporate additional feedstocks, and potentially other biochemical products to be derived from Qteros' unique microorganism-based platform.

The uniqueness of Qteros' CBP platform is centered on the company's proprietary microorganism, the Q Microbe (Clostridium phytofermentans). The microbe is a naturally occurring "biorefinery" that produces virtually all enzymes required for biomass degradation into pentose and hexose sugars, while simultaneously co-fermenting all these sugars into ethanol as its natural metabolic end product. The organism's innate biological ability to produce ethanol from biomass enables Qteros to focus its development efforts on optimizing the organism's effectiveness for industrial-scale production. This highly streamlined engineering solution therefore results in significantly lower operating and capital costs of production for producers versus other competitive technology solutions. Moreover, the Q Microbe is feedstock-flexible, producing high yields of cellulosic ethanol from a broad range of non-food biomass materials, including sugarcane bagasse, corn stover and cobs, and a broad variety of energy crops.

Praj has significant experience and expertise in unit operations required for the successful development of an integrated, commercial-scale bioethanol plant. Praj Matrix, the R & D division of Praj, has focused for more than five years on a unique and proprietary technology platform to pretreat a variety of lignocellulosic biomass to produce hemicellulosic and cellulosic derivatives in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Further, the laboratory and pilot plant facilities at Praj Matrix allow for the fully integrated development and demonstration of ethanol conversion technology. The integration of Praj's demonstrated technology, experience and expertise together with its R&D capabilities will accelerate process development and enable rapid commercialization of cellulosic ethanol conversion technology.

"Our partnership with Praj represents a transformational initiative for Qteros," said John A. McCarthy Jr., president and CEO of Qteros. "Praj and Qteros bring together highly complementary skill sets and core competencies which we expect will catalyze our ability to develop the industry's low-cost solution – both from an operating and capital perspective – for large-scale cellulosic ethanol production. Achieving our combined objective will then provide the industry with a much-needed accelerant for worldwide growth and will also enable our two companies to establish leadership roles in this rapidly evolving global market. We look forward to making our shared vision with Praj a commercial reality within the next 18-24 months."

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