This article from GIGAOM blog is the best I've read about the situation. Some telling quotes from the article:
- The problem was that KiOR hadn’t yet crossed the so-called Valley of Death — that expensive, time-consuming, gap between production on a a very small scale and large-scale commercial production. It’s that phase that tends to eat cleantech companies alive, particularly biofuel startups.
- ....it had produced 75 percent less biocrude than it had forecasted. Turns out, it hadn’t achieved a steady state of production and it was having some significant problems with quality, with efficiency, and with bottlenecks in the plant.
- To understand why volume targets are so important, you have to know a little something about fuel production. For biofuels, everything depends on scale, price and efficiency. It’s relatively easy to make small one-off batches of the stuff — a lot of startups and large companies have done this. But scaling the biofuel production up to the types of volumes that the oil industry operates on, at the cheap prices that fossil fuels are sold at, is another story entirely.
|A view to the KiOR plant showing piles of pine logs|