Q&A with Andrew Held of Virent
You lead Virent Inc.’s feedstock development efforts. What specific feedstock/s are Virent focusing on and why?
Virent works with three main types of biomass, which are the clear long-term play, as well as commercial sugars that enable faster, more reliable deployment to our customers in the short term. We have done significant work with forest materials and residues from pine and hardwood. The wood inventory in the U.S. is plentiful and continues to grow, and these materials have significant supply chain capabilities already. For agricultural residues, we are working with the two most relevant worldwide—corn stover and sugar cane bagasse. Both have different dynamics, but have significant potential as well. Commercial sugars from corn, cane and beet offer a good opportunity to de-risk the early commercial launch of many meaningful bioproducts.
Virent has a relationship with Coca Cola Co. Can you elaborate on that?
Virent signed a multi-year collaboration and partnering agreement with Coca Cola in the fall of 2011. This development was key because it demonstrated the customer foresight and interest needed for us to make the next investments in technology and supply chain development for our renewable, direct replacement para-xylene, a key chemical needed to make fully-renewable PET bottles. We are making great progress on securing strategic partners to take the technology to the next scale.
During your presentation, you plan to provide an update on Virent’s technical and commercial progress. Can you give us a sneak peak on what attendees can expect to learn?
I will provide a summary of our technology and commercialization progress, which will help people understand the unique and compelling reasons for using catalytic conversion technology for the production of world-scale fuels and chemicals.
Andrew Held, senior director of feedstock development at Virent, is part of the panel “Reports from the Frontier: Commercialization Updates from Tomorrow’s Advanced Biofuel and Biobased Chemical Producer” at the 2013 International Biomass Conference & Expo on April 8-10 in Minneapolis, Minn.