SunOpta sells ethanol tech to Celunol

SunOpta Inc. continues to gain momentum in the cellulosic ethanol space. The Brampton, Ontario-based company, which I profiled recently, has sold a biomass “pretreatment” and conversion system to Celunol Corp., a Massachusetts-based producer of cellulosic ethanol that counts Khosla Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and Charles River Ventures as investors.

“The combination of SunOpta and Celunol process technologies will lead to a very competitive solution for producing cellulosic ethanol from various biomass substrates,” said Murray Burke, vice-president and general manager of SunOpta’s bioprocess group, in a statement. “We are excited to be working with Celunol on the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States and look forward to the massive grow out in this market.”

Celunol is in the process of expanding a pilot facility and planning to build a commercial demonstration facility later this year. The plant will be able to process bagasse, agricultural waste, wood products and dedicated crops into ethanol.

The latest on EEStor and Feel Good Cars

Sources say EEStor has delayed the date for the testing of its barium titanate powder — a key ingredient in its ultracapacitor-based energy storage system. The tests, which will make sure the permeativity and purification of the powder is up to snuff and ready for mass production, are now scheduled for September. A third-party lab in Austin that has links with the University of Texas will likely do the testing.

In parallel with the lead-up to testing, EEStor is working on the power electronics and setting up a automated production facility. “They plan to go directly from test to production,” said a source. “Their noses are just down right now to get where they want to be.”

Feel Good Cars, which is an investor in EEStor and has a license to sell its energy storage system in the compact car market, is apparently still expecting to receive its first shipments of units in the first quarter of 2007.

The delay is disappointing but not at all unexpected, given the magnitude of EEStor’s claims. And the missing link, of course, is partnership and distribution agreements that would bring this technology to market. Perhaps this is going on behind the scenes, but I have difficulty believing the company can keep a secret for this long. I guess time will tell…

One more thing: If this tech truly passes its first major test, you can expect to see followup rounds of financing. Financing so far has been relatively low, and while Kleiners is involved in early rounds, further rounds will inspire some confidence.