WASHINGTON — Bioplastics developer Virent is ramping up operations in Madison, Wis., thanks to additional investment from Coca-Cola Co.
The company is not disclosing the amount but, “it's a significant investment for Virent,” said Kieran Furlong, director of chemicals business development. “For us, this shows continued commitment to Virent from the Coca-Cola Co., which we think is a positive development for us.”
The cash infusion will help the would-be bio-based resin supplier add equipment at the demonstration level to make more of its bio-based paraxylene, BioFormPX, for PET bottle production, filling in the gap between experimental production of around 22,000 pounds per year and eventual large-scale commercial production, Furlong said. Virent will be able to accommodate delivery of significant quantity demands for customer validation purposes by the end of the year, he said.
Atlanta-based Coke began investing in bioplastics development heavily in 2011, as part of an effort to speed development of its PlantBottle and reach its goal of doubling the daily serving of Coca-Cola beverage in bioplastic bottles to 3 billion by 2020.
“Over the course of our work together, Virent has continuously delivered on their commitments and advanced their technology. That progress supports building additional capability for Virent and advances us on the path to a full-scale commercial solution for our 100 percent plant-based PET plastic packaging” said Coke's Scott Vitters, general manager of the PlantBottle Innovation Platform, in a release.
Virent is one of three bioplastics companies targeted by Coke three years ago, along with Avantium Research and Technology, an Amsterdam company whose YXY chemical catalytic technology a new bio-based plastic, PEF, to make 100 percent bio-based bottles and Englewood, Colo.'s Gevo Inc., developer of a 100 percent-renewable isobutanol, a paraxylene building block.
Gevo got a $26 million shot in the arm in August, issuing the debt to a single buyer, according to a Bloomberg report, after selling $18 million in shares in July to expand its Minnesota production plant, Gevo is backed by Vinod Khosla and French oil company Total SA,
Also in August, Virent got the go-ahead from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its biofuel. In blends with conventional gasoline, up to 45 percent can now be made up of the company's BioForm plant-based fuel, though Virent does not yet have a timeline for commercializing the mix, beyond working with the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team.