Skip to Content

Total and Amyris Recommit to Biofuel Joint Venture

Having suffered from production snags and delays, Amyris gains $82 million comnmitment from Total to make fuels from sugar cane.

Biotech company Amyris has secured a $30 million commitment this year from oil giant Total to expand fuel production from sugar cane.

An Amyris demonstration facility in Brazil. Credit: Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.

Amyris yesterday announced that Total will budget $82 million over the next three years for further research and development around biofuels and the two companies intend to create a joint biofuel venture. It is an expansion of an existing partnership between the two companies to make fuels in Brazil. 

The investment, announced with Amyris quarterly earnings, puts Amyris more firmly on the biofuel track. Earlier this year, the company’s operations in Brazil ran into snags making biofuels and scaled back production plans, (see “Why Amyris is Focusing on Moisturizers, Not Fuel, for Now”.) 

The deal with Total “reaffirms” the companies’ commitment to making renewable farnesene from sugar cane, which can be converted to diesel and jet fuel. “In addition to Amyris’ continued development of jet and diesel businesses in Brazil independently, this enhanced collaboration provides a global platform for the future growth in fuels under a future joint venture with Total,” Amyris CEO John Melo said in a statement.

Amyris has designed genetically engineered microbes to consume sugar and make desired products, such as fuel and industrial chemicals. Scaling up the process and competing with petroleum-derived products, however, has proved challenging for Amyris and a host of other biofuel and biochemical companies, leading to delays and failed companies.

A number of small biotech companies have chosen instead to make higher-margin chemicals from sugar cane or corn, (see “To Survive, Some Biofuels Companies Give Up on Biofuels.”) Over the longer term, biofuels offer the potential of a much larger market. 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

One insider says the company’s current staffing isn’t able to sustain the platform.

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS—whether SpaceX likes it or not

Elon said no thanks to using his mega-constellation for navigation. Researchers went ahead anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.