BP partners Verenium

BP and US biomass energy company Verenium Corporation have formed an equal joint venture to produce and sell bioethanol made from cellulosic (non-food) feedstocks.

Cellulosic ethanol, also known as Ceetol, is made from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants. Traditionally, it is difficult to produce as cellulose is hard to break down.

The joint venture company was founded with $45m (£32m) in funding and assets from the parent companies. Its aim is to develop the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in the US, at Highlands County, Florida, and to create future opportunities for cellulosic ethanol technologies.

Carlos Riva, president and chief executive of Verenium, said: ‘The creation of this joint venture brings together innovative and experienced developers, designers, engineers, operators and managers capable of realising the potential of this technology. This is a true convergence of industrial biotechnology and energy production processes, which will allow us to deliver cleaner, more sustainable fuels.’

Sue Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America, added: ‘BP and Verenium together have the technological know-how, engineering capability and market expertise required to demonstrate that we can deliver better, more sustainable biofuels, more quickly.’

The joint venture company will be run by employees from both BP and Verenium and will be governed by a board with equal representation from both parent companies.

The company intends to start work on building the 136-million-litre-per-year facility in 2010 with production expected to begin in 2012. Future plans include developing a second site in the Gulf Coast region.