Cemvita, a Houston-based biotech company, announced on April 12 the launch of a pilot plant in Houston, Texas. The plant is an important step toward the development of technology for using carbon emissions as feedstock to produce bio commodities such as fertilizer, plastic, methane, and fuels. The opening of the pilot facility also marks the start of the firm’s eCO2 business as a wholly-owned company under Cemvita.
The plant, with a volume of 55,000 liters, currently produces eCO2TM Oil, an alternative to soybean oil that is microbially produced. Cemvita is already shipping samples of eCO2 products to customers in the renewable fuels and plastics manufacturing sectors. The company is now in pre-FEED engineering on full commercial-scale designs.
The biofuel industry faces feedstock shortages and price changes caused by growing season risks. eCO2 plants address these problems by providing reliable feedstock production with minimal land and electricity requirements and unlike algae do not rely on hydrogen or sunlight. The output of eCO2 plants will be CO2-negative and aims to be cost-competitive with existing crop-based HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids) feedstocks and fuels.
Cemvita’s eCO2 biomanufacturing plant uses engineered microbes that absorb and convert CO2 into essential feedstocks and end products. The plant needs very little electricity and operates at ambient temperature.
“The energy transition requires completely new, cost-effective approaches for heavy industry,” said Charlie Nelson, COO of Cemvita. “We built this next-generation pilot plant in response to strong demand from offtake partners who are actively seeking sustainable solutions to the HEFA feedstock shortage.”
While traditional biofuels traditionally rely on oils from crops, demand for petroleum-free alternatives is growing and feedstock is short in supply and competes with food markets.
Cemvita’s eCO2 plant will offer a low-cost, renewable feedstock without a CO2 footprint. One eCO2 plant at a full commercial scale can replace the oils from 200,000 acres of soybean on a yearly basis.