BP Buys $100 Million Biofuel Business

Verenium facility

There was a time not so long ago when BP tried to brand itself as being “Beyond Petroleum.” That tagline is, of course, laughable now that BP has turned the Gulf into a giant petroleum bathtub. But the tainted company is still trying to save itself with alternative investments. Case in point: BP’s $98 million play this week to purchase biofuel startup Verenium’s cellulosic ethanol business.

BP has invested in Verenium before. The pair previously worked together on two 50-50 joint ventures, dubbed Vercipia Biofuels and Galaxy biofuels. But the Galaxy deal expired, a DOE loan guarantee for Verenium’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant fell through, and Verenium was left unable to attempt widespread production of its biomass-based ethanol, according to Earth2Tech.

Fortunately for anyone who has watched BP singlehandedly take down an entire coastal region with its carelessness, Verenium will keep the rights to its commercial enzyme business, which includes a biofuel technology platform and a lignocellulosic enzyme program.

It’s a smart move for BP, which has spent $3 billion on alternative fuel technology since 2005. For some perspective, the Gulf oil disaster has cost the company $3.5 billion thus far. So if BP wants to save itself (and a modicum of its public image), it will have to seriously rev up its alternative fuel program.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS