Primus Green Energy Inc. (http://www.primusge.com), developer of a proprietary process to produce gasoline and other fuels and chemicals from biomass and/or natural gas, has announced the appointment of Robert Johnsen as its new chief executive officer, effective March 16, 2012. Johnsen is a noted biofuel industry executive with more than two decades of combined corporate management, investment banking and renewable energy experience. Johnsen will lead Primus Green Energy as the company continues to expand its network of strategic and financing partnerships and to bring its technology to scale with a commercial plant for which it expects to break ground next year.
“Bob has vast experience in the creation, financing and management of major companies in the advanced biofuel sector, including an exceptional track record of successfully taking multiple technologies from the lab to production,” said Dr. Yom-Tov Samia, chairman of Primus Green Energy and its previous Chief Executive Officer. “We are confident Bob will take Primus Green Energy to the next level through his extensive operational and financial knowledge as well as his expansive network of potential strategic and financial partners.”
Primus Green Energy’s proprietary combination of technologies uses biomass in conjunction with natural gas to produce 93-octane, low-benzene gasoline. The company has a pilot test plant in operation and is currently building a fully automated demonstration plant at its Hillsborough complex. Primus Green Energy is working with engineering partner Bechtel Hydrocarbon Solutions Inc. to finalize construction and operating costs for the first commercial plant. To date, Primus Green Energy has raised $40 million and the company is pursuing discussions to expand its base of strategic and financial investors.
Johnsen is an experienced biofuel industry executive, having incubated, founded and led to maturity Mascoma Corp. and BC International Corp. (later Verenium Corp.), two major pioneering cellulosic ethanol technology companies. Johnsen co-founded and served as the first CEO at Mascoma, where he led the company from concept, realizing the construction of the company’s pilot plant in Rome, N.Y. Johnsen also led the company’s fundraising efforts, raising more than $50 million from financial investors and government grants in its first year.
Previous to that, Johnsen led BC International to a merger to form publicly held Verenium, which rose to a market capitalization of more than $600 million. After first serving as Chief Financial Officer, he returned to the company as Chief Executive Officer, stabilizing company finances and leading the scale-up of its proprietary process from the lab to industrial scale. In 2010, Verenium’s cellulosic ethanol business was sold to BP Biofuels North America. Most recently, Johnsen was co-founder and CEO of Promethegen Corp., a company commercializing advanced biodiesel technologies developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Promethegen merged in 2010 with Novogy Inc., and recently announced completion of its Series A round.
“Primus Green Energy is one of the most dynamic companies in the renewable energy sector and I am driven to lead the charge toward commercialization,” said Johnsen. “The ability to produce a drop-in, high-octane gasoline from biomass and natural gas allows us to be both opportunistic and risk mitigating. The flexibility of Primus Green Energy’s technology is a monumental feat that can finally provide a real near-term alternative to petroleum-based fuels and chemicals. The next steps for Primus are very clear, and our biggest priority is to be focused as we fine tune plans and costs for the commercial plant that we plan to begin construction on in 2013.”
Prior to entering the biofuels industry, Johnsen served as managing director at two major investment banks, Oscar Gruss & Son Inc., and Dain Rauscher Wessels. Johnsen also served as Senior Vice President at UIUSA Inc., the U.S. arm of France’s largest bank, Credit Agricole, and as a vice president at Lehman Brothers. He was responsible for over $3 billion in transactions, primarily in asset and energy financings of corporate and project debt/equity.
Johnsen is a founding member of the World Council on Industrial Biotechnology, and he represented Mascoma and BC International as members of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Renewable Fuels Association, the Clean Fuels Coalition and the American Council on Biotechnology. He received a master’s degree in business administration from the New York University Stern School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Baruch College (City University of New York) in New York City.