Primus Green Energy Primes Its Pumps to Make High Octane Bio-Gasoline

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which bio-fuel companies over the past two years were able to go public even without having a commercial scale plant,” he says. “That window is closed.”

Johnsen, who joined Primus in March, worked for such investment banks as Dain Rauscher Wessels early in his career, and he says he is tapping that Wall Street experience to get Primus the backing it needs. That may include contracts with the bio-gasoline’s end-users such as airlines. “They get the benefit of a much cheaper fuel source with a more stable price point than what they have currently,” Johnsen says. Prior to joining Primus Green Energy, he served as CEO of ethanol technology companies Mascoma in Lebanon, New Hampshire and Cambridge-based Verenium Biofuels, which sold its cellulosic ethanol business to BP Biofuels North America.

Last Friday, during Primus’ tour of its demonstration plant in Hillsborough, Johnsen took a test drive in a car that ran on his company’s gasoline. Yom-Tov Samia, president of Israel’s IC Green Energy, said during the presentation his firm plans to participate in future funding for Primus but he wants to see more U.S. private and government sector partners step up to back the company first. “We’ve been the only investor in [Primus] for the past five years,” Samia said. “We applied for some [U.S.] government support but so far we’ve gotten zero.” In spite of this cold shoulder treatment from federal authorities, Samia said Primus’s technology could play a role in reducing the United States’ reliance on oil from complicated overseas regions. “Energy independence is one of the legs of national security,” he said.

Building commercial plants is only part of Johnsen’s plans for growing Primus Green Energy. Other business opportunities, he says, include fitting its technology into smaller plants about the size of a shipping container. These modular plants could be located near natural gas sources that are not possible for pipelines to reach or at military facilities at the end of supply lines. For now, getting the commercial plant built is Johnsen’s biggest priority. “The strategy is to build a couple of plants, have robust R&D, and then consider those alternatives once we’re in control of our destiny,” he says.

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João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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