Emeryville, Calif.-based biofuel company Amyris Biotechnologies said today its Brazilian subsidiary Amyris Brasil signed letter of intent agreements with three sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil.
The companies include Bunge, Cosan, and Açúcar Guarani, which Amyris plans to partner with to produce its renewable specialty chemicals and fuels. These products are expected to be distributed by Amyris.
Amyris CFO Jeryl Hilleman told the Cleantech Group today that the news, in conjunction with the agreement the company announced last week with the São Martinho Group, validates the approach it is taking to expand its production.
Amyris entered into an agreement on Dec. 3 with the São Martinho Group to acquire a 40 percent stake in its ethanol-producing Boa Vista mill, located in Quirinópolis, Goiás. The companies plan to jointly convert the mill to produce Amyris products.
The Bunge, Cosan, and Guarani deals combined with the Boa Vista mill give Amyris access to a combined crushing capacity of more than 12 million tons.
She said as Amyris grows its production, the mills plan to invest capital to expand the production, declining to disclose how much capital they plan to invest.
In October, Amyris had raised $41.8 million of its Series C round, which the company hoped to close before the end of the year at $60 million.
The biofuel startup had secured $165 million for its technology that makes biofuels and chemicals from synthetic microorganisms.
By altering the metabolic pathways of yeast, Amyris said it is able to engineer “living factories” that convert sugar cane into chemicals and renewable fuels, which it said have performance attributes comparable to petroleum-based products.
Amyris plans to provide the Brazilian mills with the modified yeast as well as plans on how to convert the ethanol-producing facilities to making its products, she said.
Hilleman said the company’s initial production is targeted for the 2011-2012 harvest season, and the mills would come online in 2012-14. The company has about 50 employees in its Brazil office.
The company’s long-term goal is to have converted the identified mills to Amyris products to help meet its volume and ramp up targets, Hilleman said, declining to quantify them. Financial details about the three agreements today were also not disclosed, although she said it should be enough to cover the conversion of the mills.
“They are among some of the best mill owners in Brazil,” she said. “They have proven their operational effectiveness and efficiency, and they also have a great vision of what producing our products can do for them.”
Under one of the agreements, Amyris and Guarani, a subsidiary of the French sugar group Tereos, plan to look into developing an optimal economical model using Amyris technology to produce cane-derived diesel fuel from molasses instead of from traditional sugarcane juice.