14th October 2020

Nova Pangaea in the spotlight

Interview with Sarah Ellerby in the October issue of Biofuels International

We saw the news recently that Nova Pangaea had received some substantial investment from the UK government’s Future Fund and also your existing investors, tell us about that?
I’m delighted to say that we have raised a further £900,000 (€1.012 million) from investors following some very successful trials of our technology. This latest funding for Nova Pangaea has come from NPIF Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund; the UK Government’s Future Fund; and existing private investors. We are now aiming for a Series A funding round later this year.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the business and how did you handle it?
We continued to work on expanding our commercial pipeline, which is now looking robust and comprehensive. We did have to furlough some of our operational staff, but we have been able to bring everyone back safely due to a rigorous risk assessment and implementation of COVID-19 onsite procedures. As the demonstration plant had been shut down, we went through a comprehensive recommissioning process and operations restart plan, so we could come back on site safely at the end of May 2021. We also took the opportunity to transform the business and operating models during lockdown to enable us to accelerate the business through the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.
Tell us more about Nova Pangaea’s technology and how it’s developing?
NPT has undergone a substantial R&D process and we have put ourselves through a highly-robust proof of commercial concept process. We’ve completed recommissioning after the
lockdown and we have successfully produced and run multiple feedstocks through the process including phase three of REFNOVA®, complete end-to-end processing. REFNOVA is a patented, thermo-chemical pretreatment process designed to avoid the use of costly enzymes and fermentation which typically consume between 12-15% of feedstock sugars (reducing output) and are inherently slower. REFNOVA is adaptable and can utilise multiple feedstocks to produce a wide variety of valuable outputs. It’s a fast, low residence time process – in contrast to many typical batch and semi-batch processes. REFNOVA has been designed with scalability in mind, the plant design is able to economically process between 2-12 tonnes of feedstock (based on dry weight) per hour and following our successful trials this year we are now accelerating plans to scale up to 12 Tdm/hr.
With the increasing focus on net zero and the global drive to a more sustainable economy, how does REFNOVA contribute to that?
We see ourselves as pioneers in the delivery of a circular economy using feedstocks such as bagasse, wheat straw and wood residues to produce valuable outputs. We believe REFNOVA is one of the most significant developments in recent years to enable a more efficient, sustainable future for biofuels.
How has the commercial side of Nova Pangaea developed since we last spoke to you in April?
COVID-19 has not impacted our commercial strategy – we have significant interest from a range of commercial customers. Our patented process is gaining a lot of interest due to our central role in a sustainable future economy. We are focused on accelerating our technical readiness level and economic validation, which is garnering significant commercial interest resulting in customer trials and process design package work in the UK and internationally.
You’ve recruited an impressive senior team?
Yes, we have recruited Neil Guilder as chief finance officer, Peter McGenity as chief commercial officer and Dr Neil Hindle as chief technology officer. All three have highly relevant experience of developing and commercialising technology and detailed experience in this specific area. With the team in place, we are now in a position to accelerate our growth strategy over the next two years.
So as a chief executive in such uncertain times, how has COVID-19 changed your perspective?
I think it has made people stop and think about how important work/life balance is. I’m hearing a lot of people saying that because they’ve been working from home, they’ve had a better balance in their lives. The whole situation has made people really think and value home and family more. From a corporate point of view, particularly for international companies, we will become much more adept at how we use our employees’ time for travel. I think, specifically from a cost perspective, we will all look more closely at ways in which we can operate the business more efficiently in terms of cost, time, and value.
We are installing infrared fibre optics so we can more easily conduct online meetings, presentations and board meetings. COVID-19 has pushed us to adopt digital technologies – to transform how we conduct business, which has led us to examine how we can embrace digitisation across our business and operating models. The pandemic has forced traditional industries to get creative and learn new ways of doing business. It has fundamentally changed the way that we do business; I think that’s a real positive coming out of it.
Sarah Ellerby, CEO