GranBio: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

Controlled by Gran Investimentos S.A., a holding company of the Gradin family, GranBio is a 100% Brazilian industrial biotech company that was born of the vision to bring about a green revolution capable of transforming the real potential of Brazilian biomass into energy abundance.

Created in June of 2011, the company was the first to announce a commercial second-generation ethanol plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Scheduled to begin operating in early 2014, the unit, located in the State of Alagoas, will produce 82 million liters of biofuel, which will make it one of the largest operating facilities in the world.

In January 2013, BNDESPAR, the investment arm of BNDES, became a minority shareholder in GranBio, with 15% of its total capital stock.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: 2013/14, #9

Cellulosic ethanol production


The Situation

GranBio is guiding now that “the 2G ethanol plant being built in Alagoas should begin operating in early 2014 with a nominal production capacity of 82 million liters per year.” Meanwhile, Sugaronline News is reporting that “the Bioflex unit, a division of GranBio in Alagoas state, confirmed it would inaugurate next week its first experimental planting of energy cane production in Alagoas. The crop will be in the city of Barra de Sao Miguel, and be ready for harvest in the first quarter of 2014.”

How close? “We’re now 85% complete,” says GranBio’s US managing director Vonnie Estes in January. For one reason, because it is owned by a well-financed, private company with huge options and no requirement to give quarterly guidance to public shareholders on its timelines, progress and ongoing strategy. For another, we generally see companies focused on Brazil or focused on the US, in terms of deploying commercial projects at scale. Not too many have attempted a focus on both — as Solazyme and GranBio have.

Past milestones:

In April 2013, GranBio completed the acquisition of a 25% equity stake in cleantech process development company American Process. Under the agreement, GranBio said it will have gained access to a proprietary biomass pretreatment platform that makes it possible to cost-effectively develop cellulosic sugars as a feedstock to a range of biochemicals and biofuels. Deal terms were not disclosed by the partners. The companies said that they expect to break ground on their first commercial-scale facility by the end of 2014. The companies will collaborate on a first commercial facility with API technology in Brazil, followed by one in the United States.

In May 2013, BNDES approved a $150 million loan in addition to its funding scheme for GranBio’s second-generation ethanol plant in São Miguel dos Campos in the northeastern state of Alagoas. The bank’s investment arm is buying a 15% equity stake in the company for about $300 million, which was announced in December. This first facility will produce 85 million liters of ethanol annually from bagasse.

In August 2013, GranBio and Rhodia signed an agreement to create a partnership to produce bio n-butanol. Bio n-butanol is made from sugar cane straw and bagasse, the same raw material that is used to manufacture second-generation ethanol and which is abundant in Brazil. Under the partnership, the companies plan to build the world’s first biomass-based n-butanol plant in Brazil, which will enter into operation in 2015. The plant will produce 100 kilotons per year of solvents.

Future milestones.

In spring 2013, GranBio Investimentos announced plans to invest $724.5 million in five cellulosic ethanol plants during the next few years. The first 21.6 million gallon facility in Alagoas that will use sugarcane bagasse as feedstock is expected to come online in December 2013. The first plant will produce cellulosic ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and straw, and Novozymes will supply the necessary enzyme technology while Beta Renewables and Chemtex, both part of Italian chemical group Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G), will provide other process technologies and engineering.


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