Catalytic Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Conventional Liquid Fuels and Chemicals
Dr. Randy D. Cortright
Chief Technology Officer/Founder
Madison, Wisconsin USA
Virent Inc. is developing and commercializing innovative and novel catalytic methods that convert plant sugars into non-oxygenated hydrocarbon molecules that can be blended seamlessly to make conventional gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Additionally, Virent has developed technologies that converts biomass-derived oxygenates to chemical intermediates that are currently used to generate a broad range of commodity chemicals, fibers, and polymers. Virent's BioForming® technology is able to produce renewable “direct replacement” hydrocarbons that can be used as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemicals from a wide range of abundant biomass feedstocks, including non-food varieties. This patented platform technology utilizes catalysts and reactor systems similar to those found in standard petroleum oil refineries. . With this capability, the BioForming® process can also utilize the lowest cost biomass sources available in each location and supply more energy without reducing the available food supply.
Virent was founded in 2002 and based on technology discovered in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Virent has received significant commercial interest and counts Cargill, Shell, and Honda among its leading investors. The company has entered into key strategic industrial collaborations, including with Royal Dutch Shell for the development and commercialization of biogasoline and diesel production from plant sugars. This collaboration is accelerating the technology’s time to market and provides avenues for broad commercial penetration.
In addition, Virent has been awarded numerous government grants including, most recently, support for the company’s on-going efforts to break down non-food cellulosic biomass into sugars for further processing into cost-effective biofuels.
Dr. Randy D. Cortright is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Virent Inc. He has over 35 years of experience in the field of catalytic processing of both fossil fuel and biomass-derived feedstocks into chemicals and fuels. Dr. Cortright’s background includes research and development, process design, start-up, and operations of large scale industrial catalytic processes at UOP LLC, a provider of petroleum and petrochemical process technologies. He received BS and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University. After leaving UOP, Dr. Cortright earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Wisconsin. While working at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Cortright co-invented Aqueous Phase Reforming, the innovative pathway to biofuels and bioproducts used by Virent’s BioForming® technology platform. In 2009, Dr. Cortright and Virent Energy Systems were recognized as one of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers.