For all the attention on electric vehicles these days, there’s still a lot of work being done with cellulosic ethanol, and French oil company Total has taken an interest in it. The oil giant has acquired an undisclosed stake in Coskata, an Illinois biofuel startup.
The investment came during Coskata’s latest round of equity financing, which also saw Khosla Ventures and others chipping in. Total’s stake in the company includes a seat on the startup’s board of directors. Both firms said the investment will advance the commercial production of bio-ethanol.
“This investment by Total, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and a major player in chemicals, confirms the potential of our technology platform and enhances our plans for commercial deployment,” Bill Roe, Coskata president and CEO, said in a statement.
For its part, Total said in a statement that the investment “is part of Total’s strategy to prepare for energy transition, in particular by supporting the development of innovative start-ups though its corporate venture activity.” Total says it plans to invest in other clean energy firms.
“There’s more coming; this is just a start,” Véronique Hervouet, a senior v.p. at Total Energy Ventures, said Monday at the Cleantech Forum XXVII in Paris, according to CleanTech Group. Hervouet said Total reviewed 200 deals last year before investing in Gevo, a Colorado biolfuel startup.
Coskata, which is backed by General Motors, opened a “semi-commercial” refinery. The demonstration plant in Madison, Pennsylvania, uses bacteria to turn almost any organic material into ethanol. Coskata says it can be scaled up to produce 50 to 100 million gallons annually.
Photo of the Coskata demonstration plant in Madison, Pennsylvania: Coskata
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