LS9 announces Florida plant grand opening, receives $4.5M

By LS9 Inc. | May 14, 2012

LS9 Inc. announced an investment from the Florida Opportunity Fund's Clean Energy Investment Program, and grand opening plans for its facility in Okeechobee, Fla.

Earlier this year, the FOF invested $4.5 million to help fund the retrofit of LS9's demonstration facility in Okeechobee, to develop biodiesel and renewable chemical products. Now that the retrofit is complete, the facility will allow LS9 to perform the next critical steps in scaling up and advancing its unique technology into commercial production. The retrofit was completed in early May, with demonstration production of renewable fuels and chemicals to begin early third quarter this year. 

LS9 will be hosting a grand opening ceremony and press conference June 12 at the Okeechobee facility. The event will include the first tours of the facility, and U.S. Congressman Tom Rooney, R-Fla., will be among the speakers for the event.

"LS9 has been working diligently to complete the retrofit of our Okeechobee facility, and we greatly appreciate the support of the Florida Opportunity Fund on this project," said Ed Dineen, LS9 president and CEO. "We are honored to have the support of Congressman Rooney for our grand opening event and believe this facility can be a magnet for attracting other advanced agricultural and bioproduct technologies to the state. Our Florida location is ideal as it allows for prime access to the feedstocks required to produce our renewable products."

The facility will initially be used to enhance LS9's production capability and generate large commercial samples for testing and product qualification by key partners and prospective customers. The facility will also be used to test and optimize new process conditions. The retrofit also focused on reducing energy consumption through the use of technologies such as variable speed drivers and advanced computer control systems in the plant. 

The company envisions the plant to be a long-term demonstration facility for all current and future products, with biodiesel being the first product at the facility. Successful production runs in 20,000- and 50,000-liter fermenters have been stepping stones to the start-up of the 135,000-liter fermentation vessel in Okeechobee. LS9 is also pursuing options to enable commissioning of the site to a larger commercial scale.

The Florida Clean Energy Investment Program is one of the first of its kind in the nation for growing the state's clean energy sector. Target areas of investment include: facility and equipment improvement with energy-efficient products, equipment and materials; renewable energy product, equipment and materials acquisition/upgrade; process improvement of existing operations with energy efficient and/or renewable energy (EE/RE) equipment and materials to increase energy efficiency or reduce energy consumption; and, demonstration of EE/RE products, equipment and materials.

"The State of Florida recognizes the need for adoption of renewable energy products and remains committed to supporting companies, such as LS9, striving to produce these technologies," said Jennifer Dunham of Florida First Partners, manager of the Florida Opportunity Fund's innovative Clean Energy Investment Program.

The Florida Opportunity Fund was established by Enterprise Florida and is managed by Florida First Partners. The Clean Energy Investment Program was created to promote the adoption of EE/RE products and technologies in Florida by providing funding to businesses to increase the use of EE/RE technologies, equipment and materials in the state. Funding for the program was provided by the U.S. DOE through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Energy. 

LS9 has a unique technology platform that enables low-cost feedstock flexibility and process simplicity across a diversity of fermentation-derived products ranging from vehicle-ready fuels to chemicals for lubricants, detergents and personal care products. In June 2010, LS9 was awarded the U.S. EPA’s highest environmental honor for its revolutionary technology. The company was founded in 2005 and is supported by funding from Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Chevron Technology Ventures and BlackRock. LS9 is headquartered in South San Francisco, Calif.