British Petroleum (BP) and Verenium Corp., a science and technology company, are forming a 50-50 joint-venture company to develop and commercialize cellulosic ethanol from non-food feedstocks.

Together, the companies have agreed to commit $45 million in funding and assets to the joint-venture company, initially to be based in Cambridge, MA. This collaboration is intended to progress the development of one of the nation's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities, located in Highlands County, FL, and to create future opportunities for leveraging cellulosic ethanol technologies.

"This collaboration represents a critical next step in positioning Verenium and BP at the forefront of commercializing cellulosic biofuels in the United States," says Carlos Riva, Verenium president and CEO. "The creation of this joint venture brings together innovative and experienced developers, designers, engineers, operators and managers capable of realizing the potential of this technology. This is a true convergence of industrial biotechnology and energy production processes, which will allow us to deliver cleaner, more sustainable fuels."

"This next stage in our relationship with Verenium,” says Sue Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America, “demonstrates our real commitment to making cellulosic ethanol a reality in the U.S. fuels market in the near term. BP and Verenium together have the technological know-how, engineering capability and market expertise required to demonstrate that we can deliver better, more sustainable biofuels, more quickly."

Construction on a planned commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Highlands County, FL, is expected in 2010. Estimated building costs for the 36-million-gallon-per-year facility are between $250 and $300 million. Ethanol production is expected to begin in 2012. The joint-venture company also intends to develop a second site in the Gulf Coast region.