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Vertimass Acquires Polish Company for Clean Energy Push

Irvine-based biofuel company Vertimass LLC has reached a milestone in its Europe expansion plans through its recent acquisition of Ekobenz.

Poland-based Ekobenz was founded in 2006 and specializes in producing high-quality synthetic fuel made from renewable resources.

Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

The acquisition will give Vertimass access to existing biorefinery certified fuels and the use of products in commercial applications, notably Formula One racing in Europe.

“This acquisition is an important step for Vertimass technology and will move Vertimass into a commercial arena,” Chief Executive Charles Wyman said.

The deal has been under negotiation for more than a year. Both parties will close the final purchase agreement on Dec. 31.

Poland Plant

Vertimass is backed in part by OC developer and real estate investor Bill Shopoff.

“Ekobenz is one of the first advanced biorefineries at a commercial scale in Europe,” Shopoff, who serves as chairman of the company, said.

“By acquiring this company and plant, we will be able to immediately produce fuel commercially and scale the Vertimass technology to ultimately provide significant volumes of sustainable aviation fuel that help meet the 2035 climate change goals of the EU and U.S.”

Ekobenz’s roughly 14-acre plant in Poland became operational in 2018 and has an annual production capacity of 8 million gallons of sustainable fuel with an average 80% reduction in CO2 emissions.

The production plant also includes a support building, warehouse, laboratory and equipment.

Commercialization

Vertimass in March launched a Series C funding round with a goal between $25 million and $45 million that will be put toward the commercialization of its biofuel technology, such as its Consolidated Alcohol Deoxygenation and Oligomerization (CADO) technology.

CADO converts alcohols into hydrocarbons through the removal of water molecules to create pure fuel grade ethanol.

The produced gasoline is 105 octane and free from additives and lead; in comparison, premium car gasoline is only 91 octane.

The company is also looking to grow by hiring research scientists and a sales and marketing team. Around 20 to 30 employees are expected to work at the Irvine headquarters in the next 18 months.

Vertimass will be in full-scale production in the U.S. by 2025, according to Shopoff.

Fueling Aviation

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at making half of all new vehicle sales electric by 2030.

Despite the push toward electrification, Shopoff believes people will still buy renewable gasoline for decades to come, citing the growing aviation fuel business.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is going to decarbonize the air transportation business, and we’re very excited to be a part of that,” Shopoff told the Business Journal.

Future Goals

Shopoff anticipates a busy next 12 months for Vertimass.

Upcoming plans include building its first stand-alone plant and getting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize gasoline certification.

While focused on global expansion, Shopoff described Orange County as a great place to do business with its robust capital markets and startup community.

“We’re working with the state of California to put them on the leading edge of creating an environmentally sound, new fuel process,” Shopoff said.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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