Will the Boeing Dreamliner fly on the biofuel butanol one day? Richard Branson’s Virgin Fuels, which in April agreed to collaborate with Boeing (BA) on creating commercial jet biofuels, today announced it is investing in Gevo, a Pasadena, California, startup developing technology to turn biomass into butanol. Like corn-derived ethanol, butanol is an alcohol-based fuel but is much more energy rich and can be made from a wider range of biomass like straw and corn stalks. Virgin Fuels joins biofuels guru Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures – which initially funded Gevo – in the company’s lastest financing round. Virgin and Kholsa are being tight-lipped about the investment, declining to reveal its size or the split between the two investors. You won’t find out much more by going to Gevo’ one-page site. The company was founded by three California Institute of Technology scientists and licenses its technology from the university. Along with the funding, Gevo announced that it had appointed a former Cargill executive, Patrick Gruber, as CEO. This is just the latest hookup between Virgin and Khosla. Virgin has also invested in Khosla-funded ethanol startup Cilion. Virgin Fuels has outposts in San Francisco and in Palo Alto.
Richard Branson’s Butanol Bet
July 19, 2007 by Todd Woody