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Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – , a venture-backed biofuels company, is locating its headquarters and is already building its first pilot plant in North Carolina.

The company, which launched in 2007, is backed by Burrill & Company and Khosla Ventures. Those firms invested in HCL last May.

HCL will locate its offices at the in Oxford. The Center operates a business incubator at the site.

The plant is being constructed at built at the Advanced Energy and Transportation Technologies Venter in Durham. SRI said construction is due to be completed this summer.

Materials from North Carolina pine trees are the focus of the company’s efforts.

According to the Biofuels Center, HCL will invest more than $4 million in the pilot plant and employ 13 people. A demonstration scale expansion costing between $30-35 million is planned. That project would create between 30 and 40 jobs, the Biofuels Center said.

“HCL CleanTech will invest millions of dollars to move the company to North Carolina and build the pilot plant,” said Eran Baniel, HCL’s chief executive officer. “Looking forward to the commercialization of our process, we hope that with state and county assistance, and a successful pilot, we might provide the pulp and paper industry [in North Carolina] with a new opportunity.”

When the venture investment was announced, HCL said the pilot plant would be constructed in 2010.

HCL focuses on technology that converts woody biomass into fermentable sugars and advanced biofuels.

The N.C. Center noted that North Carolina has plenty of biomass available – including 17.6 million acres of forest.

“HCL can draw on all that is best about North Carolina’s biofuels community,” said W. Steven Burke, the Biofuels Center CEO. “We’re strong in the facilities, partnerships, state commitment, and forest resources needed for its success,” said W. Steven Burke, president and CEO of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina.”

SRI’s facility is being used by researchers focusing on four technologies for creation of fuels, according to SRI. It works with firms interested in designing, building and testing prototypes and pilot facilities.

"We are honored that HCL CleanTech chose to come all the way from Israel to North Carolina because of our unique energy lab and the other resources North Carolina offers developing biofuels companies," said Stephen Piccot, director of Southern Research’s operations in North Carolina, in a statement. "Like our other bioenergy technology clients here in Durham, we are here to help HCL CleanTech realize their dream of developing affordable bioenergy and bioproducts. Finding alternatives to foreign oil are necessary for our nation, our state, and our children’s future. That’s why Southern Research built this energy development lab."

According nto SRI, more than 40 companies have requested products from the HCL pilot test for their own testing purposes.
HCL has modernized an existing biomass conversion process with proprietary technology.