Rochester, NY based Sweetwater Energy announced the closing of $10 million in debt financing, which will help secure the company’s operations as it begins the construction of its first commercial biomass-to-biochemical conversion facility.
Sweetwater produces low-cost, concentrated cellulosic sugars from non-food plant materials. The company uses its own patented and patent-pending process to extract high sugars from non-food biomasses. The company claims they can do this in a way that is better for the final application of their product, and that the process itself creates sugars that are far more environmentally friendly than those produced in the traditional corn and grain process.
According to Sweetwater, their sugars can be used in a wide variety of applications, including the production of biofuels, biochemicals, bioplastics and bio-based materials.
Sweetwater’s first $1.2 million seed round closed in 2010. Coupled with grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the company was able to use that funding to develop its process.
The company then raised a $9 million Series A in June 2012, and one year later took in a $7 million Series B in September 2013.
Beginning in June 2013, the company then entered into a partnership with MIT to research the high-value amino acids that result from Sweetwater’s process for use in ethanol. However, the biofuel sector has seen a slowdown in the last six months as oil prices have plummeted and Washington has remained aloof. This has been bad news for cellulosic sugar companies like Sweetwater, as concerns about their viability in low cost oil markets began to abound. In response to the market conditions, it appears that the company is now more focused on its biochemicals than biofuels solution.
“We’re very pleased to have closed this loan, which secures Sweetwater’s operations as we begin building our full-scale commercial biomass-to-biochemical conversion facility,” Sweetwater CEO Arunas Chesonis, told Biofuelsdigest.com. “We have the best pretreatment technology in the industry right now, and we’re very excited to now ramp it up and become a player in the biochemical space.”
However, the company confirms it’s not throwing away plans for a fuel play.
“The projects and plans are still there,” said Chesonis. “If corn spikes to $5.50 or $6.00, or if if ethanol prices go up and oil trends toward 70-80 per barrel, things will come back on the table.”
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