Plans advancing for Comet’s Sarnia cellulosic sugar plant

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Andrew Richard, founder of Comet Biorefining

Comet Biorefining has begun detailed design work for a manufacturing plant it plans to build in Sarnia (Canada) to turn corn stalks and leaves, as well as wheat straw, into sugar for industrial uses.

CEO Rich Troyer said the company’s move into the detailed design phase follows this week’s announcement that Comet has completed a round of equity financing led by new investor, PM Equity Parnership, the corporate venture and private equity investment arm of Philip Morris International. Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) and Sofinnova Partners also participated.

Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada is a government-funded non-profit agency that helps companies develop renewable and bio-based technologies. Josko Bobanovic, from Paris-based venture capital firm Sofinnova Partners, said it is looking forward to supporting the Comet management team as it develops the company and its technology.“Comet’s project is now well-positioned to enable profitable productions of truly commercial quantities of second-generation sugars and co-products for bio-based applications,” Bobanovic said.

Comet’s decision to locate its first commercial-scale manufacturing operation in Sarnia came after Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, along with its partners in agriculture and industry, went looking for opportunities to turn crop residue into sugar for industrial use.That led BIC to Comet, based at the Stiller Centre in the Western University Research Park in London, a company with the type of technology the group was looking for, as well as an ability move to commercial scale production within a few years.

Comet says its cellulosic sugar is cost and quality-competitive with products made from corn and sugarcane, but doesn’t impact food production.

“We’re very excited to lock in that relationship more formally with an investment from BIC, and we’re looking forward to working with them as we advance the project and build the plant in Sarnia,” Troyer said.

“BIC’s recent investment allows us to continue to support Comet Biorefining’s mission to integrate regional agricultural based supply chains with innovative new technology partners and enable Sarnia-Lambton to become a leader in the development of sustainable, bio-based products,” BIC executive director Sandy Marshall said in a news release.

The new found of equity financing will be used to advance commercialization of Comet’s sugar production platform and fund construction of the company’s projection facility in Sarnia.

“This equity financing will be an important source of capital, going into the project,” Troyer said.

Last year, federally-funded Sustainable Development Technology announced just over $10.8 million for the Comet project.

Comet Biorefining is also partnering with the newly formed Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative, which launched a campaign to sign up farmers as investors and suppliers for the plant. As well as being paid for the corn stover and wheat straw they supply, co-op members will receive a share of proceeds from the manufacturing site.

 Sarnia located in Ontario, Canada, is developing into a plant based chemistry cluster  from an historically oil-based chemistry one. In 2015, BioAmber opened a $141 million plant that manufactures 30,000 metric tons (66,000,000 lb) of bio-succinic acid per year, a diacid made from the fermentation of sugar used to make plastics, lubricants, paint, cosmetics, food additives, and other products. https://bioplasticsnews.com/2014/03/10/bioplastic-bio-succinic-acid/

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