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Al Fin

Al Fin

Al Fin runs a number of very successful blogs that cover, energy, technology, news and politics.

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Gasoline from Corn Cobs for $1 a Gallon?

GE Energy, a GE subsidiary, has jumped into the advanced biofuels race by throwing in $8 million with the startup CoolPlanetBiofuels. The startup claims to be able to produce a bio-gasoline from rough biomass for about $1 a gallon. Here is more from GreenCarCongress:

$8-million funding round for CoolPlanetBioFuels, a start-up company developing a technology that converts low-grade biomass into high-grade fuels, including gasoline, and carbon that can be sequestered. This venture capital investment was led by North Bridge Venture Partners, which had also led CoolPlanet’s financing round last year. Additional financial details were not disclosed. CoolPlanet’s research and development facilities are located in Camarillo, CA.

Biofuel Refining

CoolPlanetBioFuels is developing modular thermal/mechanical processors which directly input raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residue, and algae and produces multiple distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional fuel components.

In support of the biomass fractionator, the company is also developing a range of one-step catalytic conversion processes which mate with the fractionator’s output gas streams to produce products such as eBTX (high octane gasoline), synthetic diesel and proprietary ultra-high crop yield “super” fuels.

At the GoingGreen Silicon Valley 2010 conference in October, Mike Rocke, CoolPlanetBiofuels VP Business Development, said that the startup could produce carbon-neutral gasoline from biomass for less than $1.00/gallon US.

Biomass throughput time in the biomass fractionator is minutes, Rocke said earlier at a conference at Stanford. Two fractionators in a module can produce one million gallons of gasoline per year, with capex of $0.50/gallon to install—i.e., $0.10/gallon over a five year life. _GCC

Gasoline Comparison

The image above shows a comparison of product between conventional Shell 87 octane gasoline and the Cool Planet BioFuels drop-in product from biomass, by gas chromatograph.

Whether the information provided to investors is accurate or not, if the company is able to produce high quality drop-in bio-gasoline from biomass technology already developed, increasing efficiencies and yields, and decreasing costs, may make the product competitive within a matter of 5 or 10 years.

The problem with biomass is its low energy density, and its diffuse nature. It takes a lot of energy to densify biomass for transport, and to transport large amounts to a central processing facility such as CoolPlanetBioFuels'. It is clear that those energy costs were not figured into the amounts quoted to investors.

Thermochemical production of biofuels via pyrolysis and gasification have a natural head start on microbial fuels -- due to prior work done on other feedstocks. But if the thermochemical approach is to achieve a foothold -- and critical scale-up -- it cannot dally about while people such as Craig Venter are working feverishly to genetically engineer microbes to achieve the same thing at far lower energy cost.

By. Al Fin

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  • Anonymous on November 18 2010 said:
    I think this article suffers from pathilogical optimism.There are large input cost for fuel for conversion process and most biomass is running $70 per ton not $10 per ton which is what these figures are based on. And based on less than $4 per MBTU of LNG. That said it is something that needs to be done.It won't be long and $10 per gallon will be a deal.RED
  • Anonymous on November 18 2010 said:
    I'll take pathological optimism over pathological pessimism any day.The biomass market is a bit young for reliable pricing, although ORNL is estimating delivered cost at about $50 a ton and being reduced by about $5 a ton every 5 years as the market improves.http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/bioam95/graham3.htmlReal markets tend to surprise those who live by models, of course.
  • Anonymous on November 20 2010 said:
    Alfonso Bio mass will increase in price.It has gone up over $15 per ton in the Northwest since 2008 it will top out at over $75 which is when demand dies.Also with Timber Bio mass it take diesel to grind it alot of it and more to move it to rail & port to get it to be processed. It is not worth processing for less that $48.50 per ton less than that we leave it lay on the ground.I will stay at my $7-$10 price per gallon for all liquid fuel in 10 years. The only caveat would be massive demand destruction.I have called just about every energy price move right since 1974 I doubt I will be far off here either.RED
  • Roberta on February 27 2012 said:
    Umm beuacse it's cheaper, easier to acquirer, less harmful to the environment, and it isn't depleting. Why would anybody buy gas when they can have a SVO converter installed and run their car off used vegetable oil that you can get for free from one of the millions of restaurants across the country? Solar panels and wind turbines can be built for a fraction (a very small fraction) of the cost of having them installed and they'll pay for themselves in a few years (My electric bill was less then $ 10 this month!). There's no need for a tornado to strike for a turbine to be affective as long as they are mounted high enough to catch the wind. Hydro power is amazing. The Hoover Dam provides power to over 8 million people. But large dams are not practical in many places and the construction can have major negative affects on the environment.

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