Khosla-Backed Kior Ups Funding to $110M

Wow, for a biofuel startup few have heard of, KiOR has raised a whole lot of money. According to an amended filing, KiOR, has now raised a whopping $110 million from backers including Khosla Ventures.

KiOR was formed in 2007 as a joint venture between Khosla Ventures and Netherlands-based biofuel startup BIOeCON. The company calls its technology a “biomass catalytic cracking process,” which is a thermochemical process that produces a biocrude from grass, wood and plant waste that can then be refined. Bioecon’s founder, Paul O’Connor, derived the technology after he spent time creating catalysts for the traditional oil industry.

In May at the Khosla Venture’s Limited Partners meeting (which LP Bill Gates attended, and where Khosla Ventures announced a collaboration with Tony Blair) KiOR’s President Fred Cannon described KiOR’s technology as being able to crunch into seconds the millions of years that it takes to carbonize biomass (turn it into fossil fuels) in nature. That’s the kind of breakthrough that could help bring biofuels back into vogue.

Cannon said the company’s catalyst — a fine white powder that he showed to me in a tiny see-through vial after his talk — can turn any feedstock, including non-food cellulose, into a biocrude that has 92 percent lower carbon emissions footprint than fossil-fuel based crude. It can also act as a dr0p-in replacement for fossil-fuel based crude, said Cannon, and KiOR is already making it in volumes of 15 barrels per day at KiOR’s plant in Houston.

“We scaled over the last year from a few liters a day to a few barrels a day. Even on the more expensive feedstocks we use, we’re already competitive on oil prices at this scale,” said Cannon on a panel of execs of Khosla Ventures portfolio companies in response to a question from Tony Blair about how expensive the KiOR process is.

Vinod Khosla was so confident in the company at his event (well, he was speaking to his LPs) that he said Cannon’s competitors aren’t other biofuel companies but the heads of major oil exporting nations like Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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