Cal Company Produces Sugarcane Biodiesel

John Davis

A California biotechnology company has opened a biodiesel plant that makes the green fuel from sugarcane.

This story from says Emeryville, Calif.-based Amyris Biotechnologies opened the first of its two pilot plants in its home state with plans to open four commercial-sized plants in Brazil in the next couple of years:

The 2.4 million gallon-capacity pilot plant in Emeryville is only expected to produce enough fuel for testing, experimenting and securing certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and fleet operators. Melo said he expects EPA certification within 30 days.

A second, larger pilot plant is scheduled to open in the spring in Campinas, Brazil. Melo didn’t want to share specifics of the pilot facilities but said each cost less than $10 million and is smaller than 10,000 square feet.

Unlike traditional biodiesel from lipids and fatty acids, Amyris uses synthetic biology to reprogram microbes, or “bugs,” to function as living factories for the environmentally-friendly production of high-value chemicals.

Company officials say the fuel they produce closely resembles conventional gas, diesel and jet fuel.