Total Invests in biofuel developer Amyris

Paris-based oil and gas major Total has invested an undisclosed amount for a 17 percent stake in second generation biofuel developer Amyris.

The investment makes Total Amyris’s largest shareholder, ahead of Khosla Ventures, which has a 15.4 percent stake. Other investors include  Texas Pacific Group and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. Since its  2003 launch, Amyris has raised around $165 million.

Amyris, using a process developed at the University of California – Berkeley, has created a sugar-based hydrocarbon molecules that can be converted into greener jet fuel, industrial chemicals or biodiesel.

In a press release Total and Amyris said they planed to  jointly-develop and commercialize renewable fuels and chemicals.  Although based in Emeryville, Calif., Amyris does a bulk of its R&D work in Brazil.

Total has a large enough balance sheet to bet on different “winning horses.” Hence last spring it invested an undisclosed sum in ethanol maker Coskata. Also, along with Khosla Ventures, Virgin Green Fund, Burill & Co., and Malaysian Life Sciences Capital, Total also backs Colorado butanol maker Gevo.

Last spring  Amyris (IPO) that seeks to raise about $100 million. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are lead underwriters.

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