Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Jul 8, 2011 with 105 responses

What Happened at Choren?

If you have not heard by now, Choren Industries has begun bankruptcy proceedings. For those who don’t know, since 2009 I have worked as the technology advisor for the major investor and primary funding source for Choren’s day-to-day operations. I have just returned from a visit to their plant in Freiberg, Germany. Due to the nature of my relationships with my employer and with Choren, I have to be guarded about what I say. To be clear, I do not work for Choren, and thus am not writing this as a Choren spokesman of any sort. But I do want to shed a bit more light on the situation.

First of all, to give a bit of background on Choren, the company’s roots go back to 1990. You can read their entire history on Choren’s website, but here are the highlights.

  • In 1998, Choren completed a pilot plant in Freiberg, Germany where they first produced methanol, and then later gas for electrical power and finally Fischer-Tropsch diesel. They tested a number of different feedstocks, including wood. That pilot plant ran from 1998 to 2004, and fuel was supplied to DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen for fleet testing. Operating data were also being gathered to scale up the process.
  • Scale-up from the pilot plant was begun in 2003 at the Freiberg site. The gasifier would be scaled up from the pilot plant scale of 1 MWth to 45 MWth.
  • Shell’s Fischer-Tropsch technology was being used in the plant, and in August 2005 Shell became an investor in Choren. Daimler and Volkswagen later joined as investors. One of the consequences of Shell’s investment was that the plant — still under construction — had to be brought up to Shell’s safety standards. This was absolutely the right thing to do, but it caused a delay in the construction of the plant. Additional safety standards were implemented in the wake of the BP accident in Texas City that killed 15 people. Once more, this was the right thing to do, but caused delays and additional costs.
  • I personally became aware of Choren in 2007, and made a visit to their Freiberg plant in April 2008 (documented here) from my home at that time in the Netherlands. I was generally impressed with what they were doing, but I also raised questions around costs. My conclusion at that time was that they would eventually work out the kinks, but I thought it could take a while.
  • In 2009, I accepted a job as Chief Technology Officer for the man who is presently the largest shareholder of Choren (although to be clear, Choren is not his only investment). Before I accepted the job we had a lot of philosophical discussions about the difficulty of scaling up new technology, as well as the amount of time it takes to do so. We both shared a belief that oil prices are inevitably headed much higher, and in that case we both believed the Choren process would be ultimately economically viable.
  • Choren also started commissioning the gasification section in 2009. Thus began the long process of running for a period of time, and then shutting down and making adjustments. One of the biggest challenges in doing this is that there is no blueprint; nobody had run a gasifier like this at this scale on a biomass feedstock. So the plant had to work through many new technological challenges, and with a staff of 290 employees, the time it took to work through the issues was costly.

Because they had elected to forgo government funding, private investors have borne the development costs over the past few years. Several of those investors — including Shell — have exited at various points due to the time and cost it was taking to work out the technical issues. Ultimately, my employer was largely funding the ongoing operations of Choren from his pocket.

While the plant has made good progress, commissioning took far longer than expected. I had in fact warned that it would take at least a year to start up the plant once it was mechanically complete, but it was taking even longer than I expected. It finally got to the point that all investors decided to stop funding development, because all of the technical bugs had not been worked out. It wasn’t that there were any technical show-stoppers, it was just that the timing of how long it would take to work through the issues was uncertain.

Comparison to Range Fuels

It is inevitable that some will compare this situation to that of Range Fuels. However, there are some very important differences. First and foremost, I made it very clear that my criticisms of Range Fuels were never about failing. As my February 2010 essay on Range Fuels explicitly stated:

I want to make one thing crystal clear. I am not criticizing failure here. That is normal and expected. Failure is a part of what it takes to learn and move forward. What I am criticizing is the nature of the failure; that it was primarily because inexperienced people were making claims they shouldn’t have made, and taxpayers are going to get stuck with the bills. Personally, I have a problem with my tax dollars being squandered away by smooth-talking salesmen.

The fact is that most biofuel ventures based on new technology are going to fail. That is the nature of technology development. I have been involved now three times at some stage of scaling up a technology from the lab to a demonstration or commercial scale (four if I include a retrofit to an existing butanol unit that I piloted and ultimately commissioned at full scale). There are always challenges to be overcome, and often those challenges are show-stoppers. I know first hand the nature of these challenges, which is why it drives me crazy to hear people talk of producing fuel for $1 a gallon when they haven’t even built any sort of demonstration facility.

But some are more realistic about the risks of developing new technology, and therefore they don’t make wild, over-hyped claims that have little basis in reality. Choren had very little to say in the press, preferring to just work on their issues and attempt to get the technology running. That is one of the things I most admired about the company. For most of Range Fuels’ lifetime, they lived by the hyped-up press release, and made numerous claims that simply were not credible. On the back of those claims, they drew in and squandered a lot of taxpayer money.

While Choren chose to develop without the benefit of government money, acceptance of government money was also never the basis of my criticisms of Range (or other technology ventures). It is simply that when one does accept tax dollars, there needs to be some accountability for the hype. My criticisms are the circumstances under which funding via tax dollars is achieved; that is whether tax dollars are obtained essentially on the basis of groundless claims. In that case, companies are rewarded for hype, and the public is therefore bombarded by endless hype about solutions to our energy problems that never materialize. This is dangerous because it diminishes what I believe is a sense of urgency in developing real energy solutions. After all, where is the sense of urgency when 20 companies are all promising that they have the solution in hand? At least one of them has to be credible, right?

Where to Now?

At this point Choren is looking at several options so they can carry on with the process of commissioning the technology. At present I don’t know whether I will have any role in future Choren developments. I continue to believe that the long-term future of gasification is bright, and have cited on several occasions the fact that there are natural gas and coal gasification facilities around the world producing at scales of tens and even hundreds of thousands of barrels per day. So this is a technology that I view as far more scalable than most biofuel options that are on the table.

The catch is that it is more difficult to gasify biomass than it is to gasify natural gas or coal and produce syngas of a high enough quality for fuel synthesis. (Gasifying biomass isn’t hard really, but getting the right hydrogen/CO ratio and a high enough purity is where the challenges lie).

The Choren technology works, as demonstrated by years of run time at a smaller scale. But as I always warn people, scale-up issues can take some time to work through. When you first start up, there are a hundred little problems. You shut down, fix them, and restart to find there are still a dozen problems. You continue this process until all of the problems are solved, and then comes the challenge of running reliably for an extended period of time.

Sometimes, there are knockout factors as technologies are scaled up. That wasn’t the case here; as I said the gasifier has accumulated thousands of hours of run time at demonstration scale. Technical challenges have been solved in a systematic manner, and to date all of the challenges I have seen are solvable. The only questions are around the amount of time and money it will take, and whether either are in sufficient supply to allow the commissioning to finish.

  1. By rufus on July 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Sorry to hear about that, RR. I don’t know what else to say.

    [link]      
  2. By fran on July 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    thanks for the update; your integrity intact. i recall the first choren comment– exit scotland or at amsterdam. your blogging kept me cautious, limiting early naivete/folly in investments.
    may you and family be well.

    [link]      
  3. By mac on July 8, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    “I want to make one thing crystal clear. I am not criticizing failure

    here. That is normal and expected. Failure is a part of what it takes

    to learn and move forward.”   RR

     

    Exactly right. 

     

    It has been said that Edison did some 5,000 experiments before suceeding in finding a commercially viable filament

     

     

    The first electric light was made in 1800 by Humphry Davy, an

    English scientist. He experimented with electricity and invented an

    electric battery. When he connected wires to his battery and a piece of

    carbon, the carbon glowed, producing light. This is called an electric

    arc.

     

     

    Much later, in 1860, the English physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan

    (1828-1914) was determined to devise a practical, long-lasting electric

    light. He found that a carbon paper filament worked well, but burned

    up quickly. In 1878, he demonstrated his new electric lamps in

    Newcastle, England.

    In 1877, the American Charles Francis Brush manufactured some

    carbon arcs to light a public square in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. These

    arcs were used on a few streets, in a few large office buildings, and

    even some stores. Electric lights were only used by a few people.

    The inventor Thomas Alva Edison (in the USA) experimented with

    thousands of different filaments to find just the right materials to

    glow well and be long-lasting. In 1879, Edison discovered that a

    carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb glowed but did not burn up for 40

    hours. Edison eventually produced a bulb that could glow for over 1500

    hours.

    Lewis Howard Latimer

    (1848-1928) improved the bulb by inventing a carbon filament (patented

    in 1881); Latimer was a member of Edison’s research team, which was

    called “Edison’s Pioneers.” In 1882, Latimer developed and patented a

    method of manufacturing his carbon filaments.

    In 1903, Willis R. Whitney invented a treatment for the filament so that it wouldn’t darken the inside of the bulb as it glowed. In 1910, William David Coolidge

    (1873-1975) invented a tungsten filament which lasted even longer than

    the older filaments. The incandescent bulb revolutionized the world.

    -

    As you can see, it took 110 years from Davies’ electric arc to the the invention of the modern day tungsten fillament incsandescent light bulb that we still use today.

    Now we have LEDs,  From the invention of the modern incandescent light bulb (tungsten filament) in 1910 to the coming LED revolution of 2010 is yet another100 years.  

    Edison did not invent the electric light bulb, but he did make it practical and perfected it for commercial use.

     

    If you persist, then failures are just stepping-stones to sucess and a necessary part of the process.

     

    [link]      
  4. By Ty Coon on July 9, 2011 at 7:56 am

     

    “ I have been involved now three times at some stage of scaling up a technology from the lab to a demonstration or commercial scale ”

     

    Two problems.  1. Too many cooks- 290 employees? for a start up?

                            2. Look in a mirror. you

     It has been said that “The Prefect is the Ememy of the GOOD.” Looks like that is part of the problem here.  That and anytime an oil company gets involved in anything other than oil, it is to wreck it.  Don’t believe me?

     

                                                                                              NiMH 

    [link]      
  5. By paul-n on July 9, 2011 at 3:53 am

    I too am sorry to hear about this.  It would seem that Choren had very good technical backing, and investors with a serious interest in the process (as opposed to the VC types) , but the investors patience has been exhausted.  That is indeed too bad, but is also reality.

     

    Does the fact that the process worked well at pilot scale suggest that maybe the future should be pilot sized plants? – as someone has suggested here – “one in each county”.

     

    Also, it sounds like the problems were with the gasifier, not the F-T part – maybe a different gasifier type in the future?

    [link]      
  6. By Walt on July 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Paul N said:

    I too am sorry to hear about this.  It would seem that Choren had very good technical backing, and investors with a serious interest in the process (as opposed to the VC types) , but the investors patience has been exhausted.  That is indeed too bad, but is also reality.

     

    Does the fact that the process worked well at pilot scale suggest that maybe the future should be pilot sized plants? – as someone has suggested here – “one in each county”.

     

    Also, it sounds like the problems were with the gasifier, not the F-T part – maybe a different gasifier type in the future?


     

    Paul,

    I thought I would drop by to give you a list of the small companies that desire to put those plants in every county with the right mandates.

     

    http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lc…..utline.pdf

    http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lc…..30NRDC.pdf

     

    The list of who’s who in the “VC” world of ethanol, biofuels and the real movers and shakers looking to put fuels in every county.

     

    Although we did not get included in the list because we make methanol, we are trying to build a small plant in California that would allow us to submit methanol as a source of “alternative fuels” under the LCFS definition.  Slide 2 on the NRDC presentation shows that biomethane has benefits that the LCFS “well-to-wheel” operation is clearly seeking. 

     

    They clarified:  “M100
    and M85 are considered “alternative fuels,” and we have fuel specs for
    them, so methanol is certainly allowed in California.  See our Methanol page (and click on M85 fuels specs link).”

     

    I wrote back and explained they should inform the EPA.  The EPA permits a maximum of 3% methanol in gasoline and anyone caught with methanol blended gasoline at the pumps will be fined and could loose their license.  Unlike China, the EPA will not allow methanol at the pumps and they are enforcing this as we understand due to the ethanol lobby.  The battleground is heating up again very hot on this issue, and my research is showing that if methanol is allowed into the gasoline pool there will be some heads rolling in Washington…so focus only on ethanol and advanced biofuels that are mandated into the gasoline and diesel pool.  Methanol is a serious threat to these companies, and you will not see it in every county.  How is it possible to have dozens of ethanol and advanced biofuel companies and technologies that often cannot make money without subsidies and mandates?  The answer is in the list above if you study it carefully.

     

    In regard to your question above about the gasifier and Robert’s issue about reaching the right syngas ratios, we have started discussions with a Houston firm to integrate the possibility of their syngas (they cannot get the right ratios either) at small scales into our process to make higher value chemicals and fuels.  You won’t hear much about this as we cannot make low cost gasoline or ethanol as some claim on the list above, but what is important here is that there will be no technology risk at very small scales as Robert suggested above.  Scaling up will and has always been a problem with process technology, and feedstock costs (often ignored in the media) will determine scale and ability to survive market conditions.

     

    I hope you enjoy that amazing list.  Many are located in California or silicon valley…so we can expect a lot more IPO’s coming soon!

    [link]      
  7. By Harry L. on July 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I disagree with the statement that Choren didn’t apply its fair share of hype in selling its technology.

    I attended the 2006 European Gasification conference in Barcelona and heard a presentation by Choren president, Tom Blades. I tuned out completely when he talked about how the Choren process was able to produce “Sun Diesel” from all of that wood waste created by hurricane Katrina. The proposal was supported by a photo of a monstrous pile bulldozed destroyed homes. Perhaps you would have had other investment advice for your client if you saw that presentation.

    [link]      
  8. By Harry L. on July 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I disagree with the statement that Choren didn’t apply its fair share of hype in selling its technology.

    I attended the 2006 European Gasification conference in Barcelona and heard a presentation by Choren president, Tom Blades. I tuned out completely when he talked about how the Choren process was able to produce “Sun Diesel” from all of that wood waste created by hurricane Katrina. The proposal was supported by a photo of a monstrous pile bulldozed destroyed homes. Perhaps you would have had other investment advice for your client if you saw that presentation.

    [link]      
  9. By rrapier on July 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Ty Coon said:


     

    “ I have been involved now three times at some stage of scaling up a technology from the lab to a demonstration or commercial scale ”

     

    Two problems.  1. Too many cooks- 290 employees? for a start up?


     

    That is a reasonable observation, and one of the reasons I included that number in the story.

    2. Look in a mirror. you

    I guess I don’t understand what you are saying here. Are you suggesting that my involvement is the issue here? As I said, I have helped take four technologies from the lab to demonstration or commercial scale. Two of those processes are still running today (a 3rd — ConocoPhillips’ GTL process — shut down for economic and not technical reasons), which is quite a good ratio for technology development. If that is not what you are saying, perhaps you can elaborate.

    RR

    [link]      
  10. By rrapier on July 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Harry L. said:

    I disagree with the statement that Choren didn’t apply its fair share of hype in selling its technology.

    I attended the 2006 European Gasification conference in Barcelona and heard a presentation by Choren president, Tom Blades. I tuned out completely when he talked about how the Choren process was able to produce “Sun Diesel” from all of that wood waste created by hurricane Katrina. The proposal was supported by a photo of a monstrous pile bulldozed destroyed homes. Perhaps you would have had other investment advice for your client if you saw that presentation.


     

    Tom was long gone when I came along, but I wouldn’t consider the above statement hype. They were in fact turning wood into Sun Diesel in Freiberg. So it isn’t really a stretch to suggest they could turn wood waste into fuel. They had been doing it for years.

    Had he said “We can do this for $1 a gallon and at a capital cost of $100 million” that would have been groundless hype. If he took tax dollars on the basis of those claims, then he would be exactly as those companies I have so strongly criticized. But I have never seen any Choren presentations where claims like that were made.

    As I said, I became aware of the company in 2007, and I never observed them making overblown statements to the press.

    RR

    [link]      
  11. By rrapier on July 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Paul N said:

    Does the fact that the process worked well at pilot scale suggest that maybe the future should be pilot sized plants? – as someone has suggested here – “one in each county”.


     

    The problem then gets into high capital costs per barrel of product. As someone once said to me, there is no reason you couldn’t build a one barrel per day Choren plant — provided you were willing to pay an extremely high cost per daily barrel with no hope of recouping your investment. It is only at large scale that many of these biofuel ventures work, and of course at scale you start to run into logistical issues. So it is — as I have been saying for years — a tough nut to crack. The same is true of cellulosic ethanol; small facilities mean an extremely high cost per daily barrel.

    Also, it sounds like the problems were with the gasifier, not the F-T part – maybe a different gasifier type in the future?

    There are some unique advantages of Choren’s gasifier; namely that it produces a very clean syngas. But it is a two-stage design, and of course that implies complexity. So I think the best scenario is for them to get the kinks worked out of their gasifier, but it isn’t unreasonable to assume that a different gasifier might be less troublesome to run (but causing potentially other issues like a lesser syngas quality).

    RR

    [link]      
  12. By rufus on July 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    My thinking goes like this: Big Companies, with Big Investors need Big Projects. Also, Politicians Love Big Projects.

    Local communities just need affordable fuel. If the feedstocks are sourced locally, and the refining is done, locally, then they can probably pay a little more (although, you can bet your bippy they Won’t. :)

    Also, a ‘community’ project won’t have to be quite as efficient as a Big project, because the distance to transport the feedstock, and, also, to transport the Product can be considerably shorter.

    I don’t know if the enzymatic process will “scale up,” or not. The guess of an anonymous poster on the internet is free, and, probably, well-priced.

    However, the enzymatic process does have a couple of things going for it. Probably the most important is that Biology, especially at the gene reading/splicing level, is a young science. Also, it can build on a technology that common folks have been using for hundreds of years.

    I guess we’ll know more in a couple of years, eh?

    [link]      
  13. By Benny BND Cole on July 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I echo earlier sentiments that failure is no disgrace–indeed, not trying at all is the bigger failing (within reason).

    RR is ever more becoming one of the truly important observers and commentators on the energy scene. His mix of personal experience and intellect is very rare. While we might wish all experiences were wonderful, it is the blend of bad and good that gives us judgement.

    I wish RR and Choren and anyone in the energy sector the best of luck. I am optimistic and see a cleaner and more prosperous future ahead.

    Think natural gas, ethanol, PHEVs. I hope biofuels work, and their day may come when fossil fuels prices are higher.

    [link]      
  14. By Benny BND Cole on July 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    In that last sentence, I meant “methanol” not “ethanol.”  Rufus us getting to me. 

    [link]      
  15. By rufus on July 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I just read where that vaunted efficient, sugar cane ethanol is selling for $6.30/gal in Brazil.

    heh.

    Makes that $2.70/gal on the CBOT look politively cheap, don’t it?

    [link]      
  16. By mac on July 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    This one is just for you Wendell………………

    Methane from the oceans ?

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/…..0320110705

    [link]      
  17. By mac on July 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Wendell,

    The U.S. has significant rare earth deposits as does Australia, Canada and South Africa, all of whom are friendly to the U.S. and speak English.

    The DOE recently dispatched Boeing to do an aerial (spectrographic) ore survey and several unexploited rare earth  deposits were found , most notably along the Idaho/Montana border.

    Molycorp, the same people who are re-opening the Mountain View rare earth mine in California are also exploring rare earth extaction from a geothermal mine in the Mohave. Their process can supposedly extract the lithium carbonate in a matter of hours or days versus the traditional evaporative pool mehod currently used in South America and by Chemetal in the Nevada desert  that takes months..

     

    What ???  Geothermal mining ???  That’s “science fiction”…..right ???

     

    Well, no it’s not……………  Chemetall has been mining geothermal brines, drying them and selling the lithium carbonate for decades, right here in the good old U.S.A. (Nevada)  Now. I understand there two additional companies leasing land in Nevada to begin lithium extraction operations.

     

    In addition the U.S. has a number of mineral deposits of spudomene, a mineral that has significan “mine-able” concentrations of lithium (in the Carolinas and the Dakotas).  Mining of the North Dakota and Carolina deposits was suspended because extraction from salt flats was less expensive and because of “environmental” concerns.

     

    I just love “environmentalists”.  They want to drive “clean” electric cars, but they don’t want any part of the “dirty” business of actually getting the lithium for them.

     

    What doe this have to do with Robert’s topic concerning the insolvency of Choren.  Well, just about everything… Since electric cars have been proposed as an alternative to oil (just as the Choren process has), then EVs are germaine to the subject.

     

     

    [link]      
  18. By rufus on July 9, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    mac, it seems that those Volt owners are getting about 65% of their miles from the battery.

    I said I wasn’t going to buy any more cars, but if they made the Volt flexfuel (which they will,) and got the price down a bit, it would be tempting.

    [link]      
  19. By Wendell Mercantile on July 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Wendell, The U.S. has significant rare earth deposits as does Australia, Canada and South Africa, all of whom are friendly to the U.S. and speak English.

    mac~

    Why are you addressing that to me? I don’t see that I said anything about lithium in RR’s Choren blog.

    The earth has plenty of lithium, and it would be a smart investment play to buy stock in some of the companies such as Western Lithium that are gearing up to extract lithium in Nevada. There at least three large deposits of extractable lithium in Nevada, although none have yet been developed.

    Now the rare earths such as Praseodymium, Neodymium, and Dysprosium used in electric motors, alternators, and generators are a horse of a different color. (The ‘rare earths’ aren’t really rare, although the ores from which they can be profitably extracted are.)

    I just love “environmentalists”. They want to drive “clean” electric cars, but they don’t want any part of the “dirty” business of actually getting the lithium for them.

    To whom did you direct the above statement?

    [link]      
  20. By mac on July 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Wendell,

    Look, if you are going to talk about alternatives to oil, then electric transportation is certainly an alternative.

    Neither the Tesla Roadster or Nissan Leaf use any rare earth materials in their electric motors . Both companies have publicly stated that they use AC induction motors. (no rare earth materials involved——no magnets)

    THE COMPUTER that you use does, however contain rare earth based magnets.

    Look, the rare earth thing is problematic, Why not go after the electric car on the basis of recharge time, limited range and so on. The “rare earth” argument is NOT a compelling argument against electric vehicles.

    [link]      
  21. By Wendell Mercantile on July 9, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    mac~

    Whoever said I was “going after electric cars?” You have me confused with someone else. Get some sleep — report back in the morning.

    [link]      
  22. By mac on July 10, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Wendell,
    I never accused you of being for or against electric vehicles. The people that are “for: them” are going to have to realize that there is a price to pay for all this “clean energy” (And it is basically “dirty”)

    [link]      
  23. By paul-n on July 10, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Mac, I think you have had a short circuit.  Take two capacitors and try again in ther morning.  

    And better yet, try starting a new thread on EV’s – they do, actually, have nothing to do with the topic of the Choren process, other than being on the same planet.

     

     

    [link]      
  24. By paul-n on July 10, 2011 at 3:21 am

    RR wrote;

    The problem then gets into high capital costs per barrel of product. As someone once said to me, there is no reason you couldn’t build a one barrel per day Choren plant — provided you were willing to pay an extremely high cost per daily barrel with no hope of recouping your investment. It is only at large scale that many of these biofuel ventures work, and of course at scale you start to run into logistical issues.

    Hmm, so a one barrel per day plant is technically no porblem, but is uneconomic

    And  a 1000 barrel/day plant is theoretically economic, but not technically feasible – meaning, it is uneconomic.

    I agree with Rufus’ statement that everyone loves “big” projects, but it sounds like, in this case, it just may not be possible.

    Sounds like the pathway forward is to go with what is small and technically feasible, and find ways to make it cheaper.  

    BUt that is challenging for almost all industrial  ”production” (except perhaps agriculture) where economies of scale, equipment, labour, make large scale production the only way to go.  

    At this stage, one can ask the question – if all the efforts into the scale up from the successful 1MW to the unsuccessful 45MW, had instead been diverted into making the 1MW cost effective to build and run, would this have succeeded?  1MWth for wood is all of 200kg/hr, and I’ll guess the liquid fuel output, at 50% yield, would be 370 gal/day, or 8.4 bbl/day.

    While that doesn’t sound like much, more than 15% of US oil production, 1million bbl/day, comes from stripper wells that produce less than 10bbl/day.  Most of these stripper wells are not owned by big oil companies, because the wells are not “big” producers – but that does not mean they can’t produce,and be cost effective – just not under big company cost structure.

    We’ll have to see what happens from here, but I hope the process and information gained does not get locked up.  The fact that it can;t be done at large scale shouldn;t preclude efforts to make it commercial at small scale – hopefully Choren will publish some information so that other outfits can license the technology to try it at small scale.

    At this point, there is nothing to lose from that approach, and at least the possibility of a successful result down the line.  Much better than selling the patents to a company that might then just lock them up, like the NiMh battery…

     

    Two last questions here;

    Presumably the gasifier is oxygen blown, not air blown?  Was the syngas problem that of getting “clean” (tar free)  gas, or was it the variation in CO:H2 ratio?

    Secondly, does the fuel product enjoy tax exempt status in Europe?  Meaning, is it trying to compete with $8/gal retail diesel, or $3/gal wholesale, pre tax price?  if it is uneconomic at the higher price, then there is indeed a question mark as to whether it will ever be economic, at any scale…

    [link]      
  25. By mac on July 10, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Okay Paul,

    If Choren has a viable process, some-one will no doubt pick them up, re-capitalize the company and continue, or Choren can license or sell their intellectual property and patents.

    Happy now ?

    [link]      
  26. By Oxymaven on July 10, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Speaking of scale-up issues, any thoughts on ‘degree of difficulty’ faced by companies like Coskata and POET? Both now have OK from federal govt for loan guarantee, $250 mil and $105 mil respectively, both expected to begin construction ‘soon’. Coskata says they will build 55 MGY plant based on their current 40,000 gal pilot, and POET a 25 MGY plant using their 25,000 gal pilot experience. Plasma vs enzymes, and both have fermentation finishes. I would think other investors besides Uncle Sam would be a bit skittish of the potential for 1000x scaling problems? I’m not an engineer but that seems to be a bold leap for a first of kind technology? Choren seemed to be doing scale-up right by trying to smaller facility before attempting to go full scale.

    [link]      
  27. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Jeff Broin has many years experience making ethanol, and, I believe, he’s putting quite a bit of his own money into it; so, I guess I like his chances just a little bit more.

    But, I sure wish he was aiming just a little bit “smaller” – say 15 mgy. I think he wants to have enough biogas to run both the cellulosic plant, and the corn plant next door.

    Dupont/DDCE is using a basically identical process at Vonore, Tn, and producing, I think it is, 250,000 gpy, and going for about the same size operation in Nevada, Ia with operation Blackhawk. I think Dupont might be producing a solid lignin for the boilers, not a biogas.

    [link]      
  28. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Coskata scares me to death.

    [link]      
  29. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Both Dupont, and Poet are building on the Inbicon technology. So, in that sense, I suppose you could say they have “demonstration” size plants.

    [link]      
  30. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I said that badly. DDCE is going for about 25 mgpy in Nevada, Ia. (not the same size as their Vonore operation.)

    [link]      
  31. By Wendell Mercantile on July 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I never accused you of being for or against electric vehicles.

    mac~

    It certainly sounded like it. Not that you deserve it, but to the clear the air, here is my position on electric cars: I’m all for them.

    In fact, I think they will play a dominant role in the future of personal transportation, and that the model of car ownership in the future will look something like this:

    – Those families rich enough to own multiple cars will have both long-range, liquid-fueled cars for long trips and weekends, and short-range electrics for commuting and bopping around town.

    – Those not rich enough to own multiple cars will probably have an electric for most of their driving, and rent or share long-range cars for the occasional long trip.

    When you think about it, it is silly to jump in a 6,000 lb SUV such as a Tahoe or Escalade to travel three miles to buy groceries or stop at a pharmacy.

    [link]      
  32. By Wendell Mercantile on July 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Coskata scares me to death.

    Rufus~

    Please explain.

    [link]      
  33. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Hard to explain, Wendell. I just get an uneasy feeling about them. They remind me of Range, and Xethanol, and some others. A flash here, a flash there. Raising some more money. Lots of it. Down to Fl to do something else. Raise more money. Press release. rinse, repeat.

    Hopefully, I’m wrong.

    [link]      
  34. By rrapier on July 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Rufus said:

    Hard to explain, Wendell. I just get an uneasy feeling about them. They remind me of Range, and Xethanol, and some others. A flash here, a flash there. Raising some more money. Lots of it. Down to Fl to do something else. Raise more money. Press release. rinse, repeat.

    Hopefully, I’m wrong.


     

    Coskata has more pieces of unproven technology in their process than Choren had. And yes, I think people scaling up by those kinds of factors are taking huge risks. But Coskata got a very big loan guarantee, so in any case they will have some time before they have to answer for the hype.

    RR

    [link]      
  35. By rrapier on July 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Paul N said:

    RR wrote;

    The problem then gets into high capital costs per barrel of product. As someone once said to me, there is no reason you couldn’t build a one barrel per day Choren plant — provided you were willing to pay an extremely high cost per daily barrel with no hope of recouping your investment. It is only at large scale that many of these biofuel ventures work, and of course at scale you start to run into logistical issues.

    Hmm, so a one barrel per day plant is technically no porblem, but is uneconomic


     

    One of the big issues there is that there is lots of technology to move biomass around and gasify it at small scale. As the scale grows larger, the number of companies with experience to encompass the entire system shrinks, and you have companies doing things at scales they have never done. Thus, the technology risk escalates.

    At this stage, one can ask the question – if all the efforts into the
    scale up from the successful 1MW to the unsuccessful 45MW, had instead
    been diverted into making the 1MW cost effective to build and run, would
    this have succeeded?  

    It would have never been economic. Oh, I suppose if we are paying $20 a gallon for fuel then that’s a different story.

    Two last questions here;

    Presumably the gasifier is oxygen blown, not air blown?  Was the
    syngas problem that of getting “clean” (tar free)  gas, or was it the
    variation in CO:H2 ratio?

    Yes, oxygen blown, and the syngas quality wasn’t an issue.

    Secondly, does the fuel product enjoy tax exempt status in Europe?
     Meaning, is it trying to compete with $8/gal retail diesel, or $3/gal
    wholesale, pre tax price?  if it is uneconomic at the higher price, then
    there is indeed a question mark as to whether it will ever be economic,
    at any scale…

    One of the problems I was told is that the political environment is presently not all that favorable in Europe. Thus, even when all of the technical bugs were worked out, commercial viability may have still been in question.

    One thing to point out that I haven’t so far is that the plant has no debt. So bankruptcy is not typical where one is looking for protection from creditors. This also increases the chances in my mind that there will be a reorganization and progress will ultimately continue.

    RR

    [link]      
  36. By rrapier on July 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    There is an interesting discussion going on over this at the Gasification Archive. They had some comments on Inbicon:

    Our 2 national 2 gen bioethanol from straw projects have just been evaluated by Risoe.

    INBICON – DONGs (100 % owned by the danish state) project was evalauted to “Calculations of the economy in the IBUS concept shows that the production of bioethanol from straw would not be social welfare and economic profitability. The extended economic analysis shows a significant negative NPV for the project.” (from google translate)

    http://www.biopress.dk/projekt…..d69332184c

    It it reported in English – but run it through Google translate and it will give the overall picture if you want to see an example of how tax money can off set common sense.

    I simply don’t believe that cellulosic ethanol can compete for reasons I have listed many times, and here is an evaluation done on a running project says the same thing: Negative NPV.

    RR

    [link]      
  37. By paul-n on July 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks RR – uneconomic unless at $20/gal, is certainly uneconomic, period.

    One thing to point out that I haven’t so far is that the plant has no debt. So bankruptcy is not typical where one is looking for protection from creditors. 

    That certainly is not the Khosla business model!

    This also increases the chances in my mind that there will be a reorganization and progress will ultimately continue.

    But what else can  be done here?   A team of 250+ people, technical experts like yourself, very experienced and knowledgeable investors like Shell.  If this wasn’t enough to solve the problems, what will be?  

    I suppose if a new investor picks it all up for 10c on the dollar, then there might be a good risk/reward ratio, but still, it seems like this one, like the H2 fuel cell, might remain tantalisingly within view, but beyond reach.

     

    We’ll see if these  celluosic efforts can do any better.  

     

    [link]      
  38. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    What is “social welfare, and NPV?”

    Oh, and who/what is Riscoe?

    [link]      
  39. By mac on July 10, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    I agree with Robert — someone will either re-capitalize the company or buy up their intellectual property.  Either way, I doubt that all the hard work Choren has done will be lost.

     

    @Wendell,

    My remarks about “environmentalists” were not directed towards you.  I am NOT a rabid environmentalist,  Yes, we should consider environmental impacts of various technologies, but look,  all technologies have environmental impacts including electric car technology. (and everything else for that matter)

     

    The “Green”  idea seems to be to minimize environmental impacts.  That sounds Okay on the surface,  but come on………  Let’s all run up to Yosemite with our cell phones and lap-tops and digital cameras and tell everyone all about  how “everyone who uses modern technology is evil” and doesn’t understand  virgin,  pristine nature.

     

    Let the rabid Environmentalists type me a report on the laptops that they laboriously packed into Yosemite National Park, along with their i-Phones, digital cameras, LED flash-lights, etc,.

    [link]      
  40. By rrapier on July 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Paul N said:

    But what else can  be done here?   A team of 250+ people, technical experts like yourself, very experienced and knowledgeable investors like Shell.  If this wasn’t enough to solve the problems, what will be?  


     

    Just to be clear, though, as I don’t want to take away from those who were actually working on the day-to-day problems — I was not. I made a few visits and advised my employer relative to the commissioning, but my role there was not troubleshooting the problems.

    RR

    [link]      
  41. By rrapier on July 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Rufus said:

    What is “social welfare, and NPV?”


     

    From what I gathered, the guy writing was Danish, so his English was a little fractured. I think what he was saying was that this was social welfare and the venture would not be profitable. In other words, government is funding something that is not going to ultimately provide a direct return back to them. NPV is Net Present Value.

    Oh, and who/what is Riscoe?

    Risoe is the Danish national lab.

    RR

    [link]      
  42. By rufus on July 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Government funded first-movers/research facilities are hardly ever “profitable” in the context of “selling a product, and turning a profit.

    If Poet “breaks ground” I’ll bet on profitability. If they don’t, I’ll keep my money in my pocket.

    [link]      
  43. By paul-n on July 11, 2011 at 2:32 am

    RR, even if you were not directly involved here, is there really much scope for things to have been done different/better?

    It sounds like there was the equivalent of an X-prize team of people/backers here, and still it failed. That doesn’t mean it can’t be made to work, but clearly it is no simple task, and who else will pick up this ball and run with it?

    Range fuels went the same way, so where does that leave anyone else who is trying gasification/thermochemiocal conversions?

    They are better  than cellulosic ethanol attempts, but that is hardly saying much….

    [link]      
  44. By moiety on July 11, 2011 at 6:09 am

    I know others have highlighted this but i really cannot understand the need for 290 people for this size. That number seems scary and it would be interesting to see when the headcount balloned and for what reason.

     

     

    [link]      
  45. By OxyMaven on July 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    The no-mileage-penalty Buick Regal is as mythical as economical cellulosic ethanol. EPA data debunks it again.
    Buick – Regal Automatic (2011)
    Fuel: Flex Fuel (E85) (Flexible Fuel)
    Fuel Economy (Gasoline): 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
    Fuel Economy (Flex Fuel (E85)): 13 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
    If it was real EPA and Buick would be hollering from the mountaintops.

    [link]      
  46. By rrapier on July 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Moiety said:

    I know others have highlighted this but i really cannot understand the need for 290 people for this size. That number seems scary and it would be interesting to see when the headcount balloned and for what reason.


     

    Yes, you might imagine that cash evaporates pretty quickly with a payroll that size. They were doing some things that were pretty ambitious and forward-looking, but that did not have a lot to do with the immediate problem of getting the plant running. I worked for a company in the past that believed that if you hire a bunch of people, the company will grow. Actually, you hire people because a company is growing. Just hiring a lot of people before they are really needed to support the business burns through money at a sometimes unsustainable rate (especially at a startup).

    Mistakes were made. Internally, we know what many of those were. If the current investors press forward, I am certain there will be some fundamental changes. As I indicated earlier, the declaration of bankruptcy is more to stop the bleeding of cash than to protect the companies from debtors — so it would not be a surprise to see them restructure, pick up the ball, and move forward.

    RR

    [link]      
  47. By rrapier on July 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Paul N said:

    Range fuels went the same way, so where does that leave anyone else who is trying gasification/thermochemiocal conversions?

    They are better  than cellulosic ethanol attempts, but that is hardly saying much….


     

    Paul, I think the bottom line on any of these approaches is that they are not cheap. They will not compete with oil much below current prices, and the volatility of oil prices can easily wipe the economics of these projects out. Unless governments derisk the projects in some way — or some investors have infinitely deep pockets and patience — it is going to be really tough for anyone to make a go of this going head-to-head with oil.

    I only know of two biofuels that are really competitive with oil: Palm oil and sugarcane ethanol. And at present, sugarcane ethanol is quite expensive because of high sugar prices. You might put corn ethanol into that category now; as long as natural gas prices are low then corn ethanol may be competitive with oil. But it is also far more dependent on fossil fuels than the other two options I mentioned. Also, like sugarcane ethanol, corn ethanol will have increased volatility based on the commodity from which it is produced (as well as rising and falling along with the price of gasoline).

    RR

    [link]      
  48. By paul-n on July 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks RR.

     

    No question that none of these alt fuels are cheap.  Your three examples – palm oil, cane and corn ethanol, are of course, all food to fuels.

    So as it stands today, we do not have, other than various demo/pilot projects, any commercial scale system producing biofuels from non food feedstock.  

    And this after decades of research, $ bilions spent, a few VC’s getting rich,  countless blog pages and so on.

     

    Unless governments derisk the projects in some way

    but how to do that, and which risks to mitigate?  The gov can’t really de risk the technical side – that is what it is.  So its options are to;

    1. make grants/loan guarantees to projects, with the very real risk of getting nothing in return
    2. guarantee a market volume – like the corn ethanol mandate, though this hasn’t worked for cellulosic ethanol
    3. guarantee a price – a fuel equivalent of the solar feed in tariffs

    I am not aware of anywhere that has instituted option 3, but that seems to me to be the best way of de-risking these projects.  A one cent per gallon fuel tax would provide a $1.6bn annual fund, and if the “feed in price” was set at $4/gal (gasoline equivalent) – for non food biofuels only, that fund could buy 800m gal/year – (assuming the fuel is then sold at $2/gal into the wholesale market).

     

    Leaving aside the criticisms of the (often excessive) FIT’s for solar and wind, it has de-risked those ventures such that they are getting built.

    Whether they are cost-effective, sans subsidy, is a whole different question, and i think the answer is that they aren’t and likely won’t be, as fossil fuels are just too cheap – that is why we use them.

    It always seems to come back to a choice of fuel can be cheap, or renewable, but not both.

     

     

     

    [link]      
  49. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I’ll go with Jeff Broin. Unlike the rest, he’s been producing a Lot of ethanol for a long time. He’s, also, been messing with the cellulosic for three, or four years. He said, in 2010, that he was pretty sure he could produce cellulosic for about $2.30/gal. Since then, the cost of the enzymes has dropped about $0.20 I think. I have a hard time believing he can be off very far. Remember, his family got its start “Building” ethanol refineries.

    If he’s off 10%, and it still costs $2.30 for what he wants to do, and remember, a side effect is that his Corn ethanol refinery becomes Unhooked from the nat gas pipeline, that would still give him a “Retailable” product in the $3.00/gal range.

    Put that in a Buick Regal that flies like the wind, weighs 3,600 lbs, and gets about 26.5 mpg on E85 and you’re driving for $0.11 per mile.

    And, here’s the thing, at $0.11/mile our economy Booms.

    And, especially, considering that the $0.11 is being spent Within the Local Economy, not Saudi Arabia.

    [link]      
  50. By takchess on July 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    http://www.nashuatelegraph.com…..-open.html

    I’m reminded of what we see here of a local level. Glacial Speed.

    [link]      
  51. By Benny BND Cole on July 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    OT:

    Speaking of places that don’t pan out, I am beginning to wonder about Craig Venter.

    A few years back he announced he would devise palm trees that yield10 times or more the oil of current palm trees. Nada since then.

    Then Venter joined hands with Exxon to make algae-oil. Nada since then.

    I am beginning to wonder if Venter has become expert–at raising money.

    [link]      
  52. By rrapier on July 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Paul N said:

    Unless governments derisk the projects in some way

    but how to do that, and which risks to mitigate?  The gov can’t really de risk the technical side – that is what it is.  So its options are to;

    1. make grants/loan guarantees to projects, with the very real risk of getting nothing in return
    2. guarantee a market volume – like the corn ethanol mandate, though this hasn’t worked for cellulosic ethanol
    3. guarantee a price – a fuel equivalent of the solar feed in tariffs

    I am not aware of anywhere that has instituted option 3, but that seems to me to be the best way of de-risking these projects.  A one cent per gallon fuel tax would provide a $1.6bn annual fund, and if the “feed in price” was set at $4/gal (gasoline equivalent) – for non food biofuels only, that fund could buy 800m gal/year – (assuming the fuel is then sold at $2/gal into the wholesale market).


     

    I always liked the idea of having a floor price for oil. I always said that I thought the best way to level the playing field was to raise the price of oil — not to try to pick technology winners. Of course that price might have to go very high to make many of the biofuel options competitive.

    RR

    [link]      
  53. By Optimist on July 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    That and anytime an oil company gets involved in anything other than oil, it is to wreck it.  Don’t believe me? NiMH

    One example proves it for all eternity, doesn’t it? But how else does one keep the conspiracy theories going?

    Be that as it may, Big Oil outside of OPEC has a significant incentive to invest in alternatives: their reserves are running low. We can argue all day about how low, but it is low and getting lower. Hence my theory that any workable alternative will enventually be bought by non-OPEC Big Oil.

    In the light of the above, I consider Shell’s investment in Choren very significant. The fact that it has not worked out (yet), is more a matter of timing, IMHO. We’ll see.

    Local communities just need affordable fuel. If the feedstocks are sourced locally, and the refining is done, locally, then they can probably pay a little more (although, you can bet your bippy they Won’t. :)

    That’s very romantic, Rufus. Almost brings a tear to my eye. Now, back in the real world, you need scale to be competitive. Which is why I believe ocean-based macro-algae a.k.a kelp is the way to go. Of course, thanks to DoE’s role in confusing the objectives, a lot of researchers seem to believe you have to convert biomass into ethanol. Those that don’t have an obvious advantage.

    [link]      
  54. By Optimist on July 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I am beginning to wonder if Venter has become expert–at raising money.

    What? Another celebrity who wants to cash in on his status as a celebrity? Move over Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Kim Kardasian, etc. etc.

    The sad part is that it actually works. Now if only I knew how to become a celebrity…

    [link]      
  55. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    We’re looking at $2.40/gal for December ethanol on the CBOT (that’s w/o the VEETC being added.) In fact, it seems reasonable that they’re pricing in the demise of the tax credit.

    http://news.ncgapremium.com/in…..subtype=25

    Depending on geographic location you could easily see ethanol retailing in the $2.90 to $3.10 range. Just call it $3.00. Put that in a car that’s getting 26.5 mpg on ethanol, and you’re “driving happy.” and, out of recession.

    [link]      
  56. By Optimist on July 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Coskata scares me to death.

    Amen to that: Coskata are taking the two most difficult steps (gasification and fermentation-distillation) and combining them to create a puzzle that is impossible to solve. Even if you solved the technological challenges, would never be profitable due to the high capital cost of gasification combined with the low energy efficiency of fermentation-distillation.

    But hey, I’m sure they know exactly how to do a great PowerPoint presentation…

    [link]      
  57. By Optimist on July 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Depending on geographic location you could easily see ethanol retailing in the $2.90 to $3.10 range. Just call it $3.00. Put that in a car that’s getting 26.5 mpg on ethanol, and you’re “driving happy.” and, out of recession.

    Very funny, Rufus! Keep up the comedy!

    [link]      
  58. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve never been accused of being overly “romantic,” Optimist; but it’s just common sense to me that, ceteris parabus, I’m better off buying from someone local that will, likely, turn around and buy something back from me.

    [link]      
  59. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    What comedy? You can buy the car, Today; and you can buy the ethanol “future contract,” Today?

    That’s not “Comedy,” son; That’s Reality.

    [link]      
  60. By carbonbridge on July 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Rufus said:

    And, here’s the thing, at $0.11/mile our economy Booms.

    And, especially, considering that the $0.11 is being spent Within the Local Economy, not Saudi Arabia.


     

    I don’t agree with much regarding alternatives being bantered about in this thread, – especially anything that deals with kelp, algae, more/cheaper enzymes for 7-day batch fermentation of corn cobs, etc… 

    …And I am biting my tongue [ie: curling up my typing fingers] and not posting a litany of specifics about CHOREN except to note that they are manufacturing Fischer-Tropsch float-on-water [very expensive] GTL synthetic oils, a cleaner combusting hydrocarbon.  If memory serves, CHOREN earlier bought out Shell Oil’s ownership stake in the firm.  Shell designed the F-T back-end.  However, I DO wonder why German scientists were doing a better volumetric job with F-T in the late 1930′s [pre-WW II] as compared to some 60-70 years later?  Back then, they were gasifying low-grade brown coal as primary carbonaceous feedstock and CO2 emissions from hydrocracking were not worried about.  Today, I’d expect wood chips to be far easier to gasify…  Yet long-chained F-T paraffins still need to be hydrocracked into much shorter molecules.

    This is a tuff nut for those strategic investors involved – and I sympathize with them.  290 people on the payroll here?  Better not go there.  Instead, good luck on the reorganization!

    In closing:  While I usually don’t give annonymous posters much credence, I do agree with Rufus’ statement above.  Keeping money circulating within local/regional economies is definately a big ‘value-add’ when compared to shipping the treasury of a country offshore 24x7x365 for imported liquid fuels which create brown urban smog.  Have a great day!

    -Mark

    [link]      
  61. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    No they wouldn’t. GM didn’t pay to have the car tested, separately, on E85. EPA just used a btu to btu comparison. Independent, on the road, testing has given a number of 26.5 mpg on E85.

    It probably wasn’t considered worthwhile to spend a million plus on a run of a few thousand cars. Perhaps, they wanted to see how it did in the real world before they got all wound up hyping the E85, when there are very few E85 pumps, anyway. Perhaps they wanted to wait for the next iteration, presumably with heated injectors, that is expected to get close to the same mileage as gasoline. Perhaps, they are still having problems getting that type engine to throw a “Rich CEL” when running ethanol.

    But, the car is getting just a touch more than a 10% loss of mileage on E85.

    [link]      
  62. By Optimist on July 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    That’s not “Comedy,” son; That’s Reality.

    Sir, yes, Sir! But Sir do have a strange sense of reality, Sir!

    Keeping money circulating within local/regional economies is definately a big ‘value-add’ when compared to shipping the treasury of a country offshore 24×7×365 for imported liquid fuels which create brown urban smog.

    That’s very romantic, again, but not realistic, at all. Free trade is the only way to stay both competitve and wealthy, as a large majority of economists agree: The literature analysing the economics of free trade is extremely rich with extensive work having been done on the theoretical and empirical effects. Though it creates winners and losers, the broad consensus among members of the economics profession in the U.S. is that free trade is a large and unambiguous net gain for society. In a 2006 survey of American economists (83 responders), “87.5% agree that the U.S. should eliminate remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade” and “90.1% disagree with the suggestion that the U.S. should restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries.” But then you guys are not going to let the facts get in the way of your romantic view of society, are you?

    But, the car is getting just a touch more than a 10% loss of mileage on E85.

    You got proof, or are you just being romantic (again)?

    [link]      
  63. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Optimist, I said “Ceteris Paribus” – All Things Being Equal.

    If I can get $0.10/mile fuel from a local prduct/producer I will come out ahead of buying $0.10/mile fuel from a producer 10,000 miles away. It just makes sense. The local producer supports the economy, and tax base of the local community.

    [link]      
  64. By rufus on July 11, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    They had a real world road test up on the internet; I’ll try to find it.

    [link]      
  65. By mac on July 11, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Rufus,
    How about a CNG-electric hybrid ? Or one where the gen-set is run off ethanol ?

    OOps !!! End of oil domination…???

    Yup,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    [link]      
  66. By rufus on July 12, 2011 at 12:35 am

    $0.10 per mile, mac. I don’t care how we get there, as long as we get there. And, before we go completely “tits-up” would be nice. :)

    [link]      
  67. By moiety on July 12, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    Moiety said:

    I know others have highlighted this but i really cannot understand the need for 290 people for this size. That number seems scary and it would be interesting to see when the headcount ballooned and for what reason.


     

    Yes, you might imagine that cash evaporates pretty quickly with a payroll that size. They were doing some things that were pretty ambitious and forward-looking, but that did not have a lot to do with the immediate problem of getting the plant running. I worked for a company in the past that believed that if you hire a bunch of people, the company will grow… 

    Mistakes were made. Internally, we know what many of those were…

    RR


     

    This does instill some confidence but I have seen major restructuring before and it is not always successful (obviously). The problem that reoccurs in failure is that the thinking at the strategic level essentially stays the same but gets scaled back. The nice additional items and ‘forward’ thinking elements get retained but smaller. Ultimately the percentages of money going to these as compared to start-up remain unchanged and the situation simply shifts to a longer time scale but with the same end point. Hopefully this is not the story here and a significant restructuring in the outlook of the company and personell focus is affected.

    [link]      
  68. By biocrude on July 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    @ Paul,

     

    Neste just announced they are incorporating non-food feedstocks into their mix:

     

    ***NESTE OIL ADDS JATROPHA, CAMELINA OILS TO RENEWABLE
    FUEL FEEDSTOCKS

       Neste Oil
    announced this morning it has expanded the feedstocks it plans to use to
    produce its NExBTL renewable fuel to include jatropha and camelina oils.

       “By
    introducing these new raw materials in its feedstock base, Neste Oil increases
    the proportion of non-food materials and raw materials that can be grown on
    cultivation areas less suited for food plants in its raw material
    procurement,” the company noted.

       Neste Oil said
    it will also continue to use palm oil and its byproducts stearin and palm oil
    fatty acid distillate, rapeseed oil, as well as waste animal fat from the food
    industry as feedstocks for NExBTL.

       At the beginning
    of this year, Neste Oil said it planned to increase the proportion of different
    byproducts and waste stream materials, such as palm fatty acid distillate and
    waste animal fat. “The waste and side streams are expected to form
    approximately 40% of the total raw material procurement in 2011,” the
    company noted.

       Neste Oil’s
    NExBTL renewable diesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% over
    the product’s entire lifecycle compared to conventional diesel, the company
    previously touted.

    [link]      
  69. By dirk-volkmann on July 17, 2011 at 7:44 am

    What happened at Choren ?
    I have followed the development of Choren since the year 2002 over here in Germany and reading your article, Robert, provoked me to send some comments:
    1. The original gasifier concept which was used in the Alpha plant was not bad but due to the position of the gas outlet dust and tar caused clogging until it was totally closed. Then Choren switched to a totally new design in the Beta plant which had never been tested before, so the scale up was from drawings. No wonder it didn’t work out as anticipated.
    2. You are stating that ‘nobody had run a gasifier at this scale on a biomass feedstock’, which is not correct. At the Siemens test test plant in Freiberg (just around the corner of Choren) trial runs have been made successfully during 2003 and 2004 with a 6 MW gasifier.
    3. ‘Choren had very little to say in the press’: they made presentations at hundreds of venues of the biofuel industry all over Europe with appropriate press coverage – is this little to say ?
    4. ‘Choren chose to develop without the benefit of government money’: they received over the past couple of years min. 50 million EUR (equ. approx. 70 million $) for their development work from the government entity FNR (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe). If you are/were the advisor of the main shareholder you should know this.

    There are many more things to say about Choren: many gasification experts were always in doubt of the technology and the viability (i.e. 1 liter of Sunfuel production cost is four times higher than the cost of diesel without tax), as a three stage process of pyrolysis, gasification and F-T is presently just too expensive.

    Presently there are only four reliable and tested gasification technology for large scale installations available: GE, Siemens, Shell and Conoco Phillips.

    [link]      
  70. By rrapier on July 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Dirk Volkmann said:

    2. You are stating that ‘nobody had run a gasifier at this scale on a biomass feedstock’, which is not correct. At the Siemens test test plant in Freiberg (just around the corner of Choren) trial runs have been made successfully during 2003 and 2004 with a 6 MW gasifier.


     

    The Choren gasifier in the Beta plant was 45 MWth. Hence my comment.

    3. ‘Choren had very little to say in the press’: they made
    presentations at hundreds of venues of the biofuel industry all over
    Europe with appropriate press coverage – is this little to say ?

    As I stated, I have followed Choren since 2007. From now until then they have issued few press releases. I am unaware of them making any claims that would fall into the sort of hype category that I have criticized: Promising cheap fuel at a low capital cost. If you can point me to such statements, I would be in your debt.

    But the other thing is that there is a very big difference in making a presentation about your technology, and putting out a press release making wild claims. Lots of companies do the former without doing the latter.

     

    4. ‘Choren chose to develop without the benefit of government money’:
    they received over the past couple of years min. 50 million EUR (equ.
    approx. 70 million $) for their development work from the government
    entity FNR (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe). If you are/were the
    advisor of the main shareholder you should know this.

    Do you have a source for this? I have seen an article that said Choren was awarded some government funding, but what I have been consistently told is that they chose not to accept the funding.

    Presently there are only four reliable and tested gasification
    technology for large scale installations available: GE, Siemens, Shell
    and Conoco Phillips.

    If you are talking about gasification in general there are more than that. Sasol’s gasification technology comes from Lurgi I believe, and a former plant that I worked in had a pair of large Texaco gasifiers. I would presume that those are being supported now within Chevron, but don’t know whether Chevron chose to continue licensing the gasifiers.

    Incidentally, as I stated in the article, the gasifier was working out OK. There were only minor problems around that. So people who think the plant was shut down because the gasifier wasn’t working are totally off the mark.

    RR

    [link]      
  71. By dirk-volkmann on July 21, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    As I stated, I have followed Choren since 2007. From now until then they have issued few press releases. I am unaware of them making any claims that would fall into the sort of hype category that I have criticized: Promising cheap fuel at a low capital cost. If you can point me to such statements, I would be in your debt.

    But the other thing is that there is a very big difference in making a presentation about your technology, and putting out a press release making wild claims. Lots of companies do the former without doing the latter.

     

    4. ‘Choren chose to develop without the benefit of government money’:
    they received over the past couple of years min. 50 million EUR (equ.
    approx. 70 million $) for their development work from the government
    entity FNR (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe). If you are/were the
    advisor of the main shareholder you should know this.

    Do you have a source for this? I have seen an article that said Choren was awarded some government funding, but what I have been consistently told is that they chose not to accept the funding.

    Presently there are only four reliable and tested gasification
    technology for large scale installations available: GE, Siemens, Shell
    and Conoco Phillips.

    If you are talking about gasification in general there are more than that. Sasol’s gasification technology comes from Lurgi I believe, and a former plant that I worked in had a pair of large Texaco gasifiers. I would presume that those are being supported now within Chevron, but don’t know whether Chevron chose to continue licensing the gasifiers.

    Incidentally, as I stated in the article, the gasifier was working out OK. There were only minor problems around that. So people who think the plant was shut down because the gasifier wasn’t working are totally off the mark.

    RR


     

    Robert: you said you followed Choren since 2007. In 2008 our chancellor Angela Merkel was in Freiberg, when Tome Blades was still the CEO. There was huge press coverage on only that, when the Beta-plant was inaugurated. Google the web and you will find hundreds of articles on Choren since 2007 (but you will need German reading abilities for this and I don’t know if you speak German).

    Everybody in the gasification technology, at least in this country knows about the huge funding of the government (FNR, KfW, BMU etc.) for Choren and you are neglecting this !? I could send you heavy documentation to prove this but this takes time and I have work to do for clients who pay me for this. Choren applied for funding and this was heavily supported by lobbying to get it. Your statement sounds like they were to shy and too good to accept government funding ……. and that’s a laugh !

    The gasification technology I am referring to is entrained flow gasification, Sasol is something else. Indeed based on Lurgi technology but called BGL gasifiers as a combination of fixed bed and fluidized bed. Entrained flow from the four suppliers I mentioned is proven and if you change the beta plant for one of those it will run ! I had discussions about the Beta-gasifier design already in 2004 and we were very sceptical already then.

    What really makes me mad about Choren is the hype they made in the public as the ‘superhero’ of the renewable fuels industry, the commissioning of the plant started in 2008 and never ended and now that the company is bankrupt nobody is culpable but the money that was not available in sufficient quantities. The technology is the problem, but there were supposedly too many engineers involved with a tunnel vision on just technology, totally leaving out economics.

    We will just have to wait and see what the insolvency administrator finds out and if he will be able to find new investors.

     

    [link]      
  72. By moiety on July 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Dirk anything you would supply is welcome.I mainly focus on technical issues.

     

    With regard ot the staff levels I looked at the Choren website and noted that only 80 employees were ‘needed’ to run the Beta plant. That woulds certainly seem to suggest a massie oversupply of employees and may indicate that the foucs of the company wandered from their primary objective i.e. getting the beta plant up and running.

    http://www.choren.com/en/carbo…..eta-plant/

    Anyway the link below would suggest that choren recieved around 33 mln Euro from government funds; approximately 1/3rd of its 100 mln funding (circa 01-Sept 2007).

    http://renewable-energy-databa…..iness.html

    The release below would suggest that that figure was >200mln in 2008 (Choren themselves). The presentation is definately not as optimistic like others of its kind. But it offers some explaination for the ‘bloated’ employee numbers; it appears that Choren were manufacturing much of its own equipment.

    http://www.fnr-server.de/cms35…..Blades.pdf

     

    So for me the funding proportions are not clear.

    [link]      
  73. By Walt on July 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

    We are looking for a small scale gasification process to integrate with our methanol process.  We have no response back from two companies which appear to be lower cost with small scales.

     

    http://www.xcelenergy.com/stat…..5B1%5D.pdf

    http://www.zeep.com/

     

    Is there any recommendations for smaller scale gasification technologies?  We do not require any specific ratios on syngas, only the lowest cost production of syngas on small scale.  This is part of a UN project we have been asked to participate in and requires small scale.

    [link]      
  74. By rrapier on July 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Dirk Volkmann said:


    Robert: you said you followed Choren since 2007. In 2008 our chancellor Angela Merkel was in Freiberg, when Tome Blades was still the CEO. There was huge press coverage on only that, when the Beta-plant was inaugurated. Google the web and you will find hundreds of articles on Choren since 2007 (but you will need German reading abilities for this and I don’t know if you speak German).


     

    Dirk, I visited the plant the day after Merkel was there. And the employees I spoke with were very careful about the claims they made to me. They didn’t promise cheap fuel, and they didn’t promise low capital costs. What I got from them was a realistic assessment. I came away with the impression: This might not work; the fuel might be too expensive the plant may be too capital intensive. But I did have the impression that they had realistic people working on the problem.

    I am also aware that there are many articles on Choren. That is natural, given the interest in this sort of technology. But it isn’t Choren making these press releases. If you have followed how some of the companies in the U.S. have operated — essentially sending out press releases every time they sneeze in order to get attention — then you would see how different Choren was from these companies. 

    Everybody in the gasification technology, at least in this country
    knows about the huge funding of the government (FNR, KfW, BMU etc.) for
    Choren and you are neglecting this !? I could send you heavy
    documentation to prove this but this takes time and I have work to do
    for clients who pay me for this. Choren applied for funding and this was
    heavily supported by lobbying to get it. Your statement sounds like
    they were to shy and too good to accept government funding ……. and
    that’s a laugh !

    Not too good or too shy; they just didn’t like the strings attached is what I always heard. My employer is over there now; he gets back in mid-August and I intend to ask him about this. But he has always maintained to me — as have others there — that funding was available and they did not use it. And I have never found a public source of information that states otherwise. (I saw one article claiming 5 million euros of funding, but I was told bluntly that the money was rejected due to the attached conditions). If you can send me a link to a German news source, I can translate it. I read and speak a little German, and can get Google translator to help. But I would appreciate it if you would do this, since it is directly at odds with what many people within the company have told me.

    The gasification technology I am referring to is entrained flow
    gasification, Sasol is something else. Indeed based on Lurgi technology
    but called BGL gasifiers as a combination of fixed bed and fluidized
    bed. Entrained flow from the four suppliers I mentioned is proven and if
    you change the beta plant for one of those it will run ! I had
    discussions about the Beta-gasifier design already in 2004 and we were
    very sceptical already then.

    Well, you did say “gasification technology.”

    What really makes me mad about Choren is the hype they made in the
    public as the ‘superhero’ of the renewable fuels industry, the
    commissioning of the plant started in 2008 and never ended and now that
    the company is bankrupt nobody is culpable but the money that was not
    available in sufficient quantities. The technology is the
    problem, but there were supposedly too many engineers involved with a
    tunnel vision on just technology, totally leaving out economics.

    If the technology is the problem, how do you explain the thousands of hours of run time for the gasifier? You are right about some people having tunnel vision, but you are wrong in thinking the technology doesn’t work. The biggest questions aren’t around technology, they are around economics.

    The company has essentially no debt, but again ongoing operations were being funded by one man. It wasn’t as if they were drawing on borrowed money and finally ran out of cash. They were being perpetually funded by one person who finally decided the commissioning had taken long enough and there needed to be a break. If I have to guess, I will bet that this isn’t the end for them.

    RR

    [link]      
    • By Paul on February 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/Choren104_zc-e9a9d57e_zs-6c4417e7.html
      This German  TV report  suggests that Choren was a fraud, faking data to get government funds:

      Insolventes Unternehmen im Zwielicht : Choren soll falsche Zahlen veröffentlicht haben

      Das insolvente Biosprit-Unternehmen Choren Industries aus Freiberg hat offenbar gezielt falsche Informationen über seine Produktion veröffentlicht. Nach Informationen der MDR-Rechercheredaktion sollte mit den geschönten Zahlen eine wirtschaftliche Herstellung von Kraftstoffen aus Biomasse vorgetäuscht werden. Die Firma kalkulierte demnach mit zu niedrigen Einkaufspreisen für Holz. Außerdem seien in der großtechnischen Versuchsanlage nur sehr geringe Mengen Kraftstoff für Marketingzwecke erzeugt worden. Seit der Einweihung der Anlage habe es immer wieder Probleme und Pannen gegeben, berichtet das ARD-Magazin “Plusminus” in einem Beitrag vom MDR.

      Choren hat nach MDR-Informationen mindestens 30 Millionen Euro Fördermittel erhalten. Allein die Europäische Union habe die Firma mehrmals über den europäischen Fond für Regionalentwicklung gefördert. Insgesamt seien von Brüssel über 13 Millionen Euro nach Freiberg überwiesen worden. 
      “Potemkinsches Dorf” in Freiberg

      Kritisch äußerten sich in “Plusminus” auch Wissenschaftler zu Choren. Der Biokraftstoffexperte des Instituts für Umwelttechnik und Energiewirtschaft der Uni Hamburg und ehemalige Leiter des Biomasseforschungszentrums Leipzig, Martin Kaltschmitt, sagte dem MDR, in Freiberg sei über Jahre hinweg ein “potemkinsches Dorf geschützt und gefördert” worden. “Die Ankündigungen des Unternehmens waren immer absurd und unrealistisch”, erklärte Kaltschmitt. Der Wissenschaftler hatte die Entwicklungen in Freiberg seit Jahren verfolgt und als geladener Experte der Bundesregierung mehrfach von der Förderung des Unternehmens abgeraten.
      Keine begleitenden Studien über Funktion der Anlage

      Nach Informationen des MDR gibt es bislang auch keine begleitenden Studien zu der durch die öffentliche Hand geförderten Anlage. Laut dem Umweltbundesamt in Dessau sei eine wissenschaftliche Begleitung derartiger Projekte üblich, im Fall Choren liege jedoch keine Untersuchung zur Wirksamkeit des Verfahrens vor. Auch die Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe teilte dem MDR mit, dass “weder durch Choren selber noch durch dritte autorisierte Daten oder Studien” vorgelegt wurden. Über das in Freiberg angewandte Verfahren habe die Fachagentur nur “Annahmen getroffen”.
      Neues Verfahren mit alten Wurzeln

      Choren hatte im Juni 2003 als weltweit erstes Unternehmen die erfolgreiche Herstellung eines synthetischen Dieselkraftstoffes aus Biomasse bekannt gegeben. Offiziell und medienwirksam hatte Bundeskanzlerin Merkel im Jahr 2008 den Startschuss zur Produktion gegeben. Im Juli 2011 wurde für Choren und zwei Tochterunternehmen dann Insolvenz angemeldet. Zum Konkurs kam es nach Angaben des Insolvenzverwalters durch Finanzierungsprobleme bei der Inbetriebnahme einer neuen Synthesegas-Demonstrationsanlage.

      Kernstück der Technologie des Unternehmens ist ein patentierter dreistufiger Vergasungsprozess, mit dem aus Biomasse zunächst ein teerfreies Synthesegas hergestellt werden kann. Dieses wird anschließend mit der bereits 1925 im Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Kohlenforschung entdeckten Fischer-Tropsch-Synthese zu Kraftstoffen weiterverarbeitet. Der dabei vor allem entstehende Dieselkraftstoff ist CO2 neutral sowie schwefel- und aromatenfrei. Flottenversuche bei Autoherstellern ergaben eine sehr schadstoffarme Verbrennung. Gesellschafter der Choren-Gruppe sind die Gasification Holding GmbH, die Acorma Corporation und Privatinvestoren. Kleinere Anteile halten die Automobilkonzerne Daimler und Volkswagen.
      Zuletzt aktualisiert: 31. August 2011, 15:31 Uhr
       

      [link]      
      • By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm

        This German  TV report  suggests that Choren was a fraud, faking data to get government funds:


        My German isn’t good enough to translate that and clearly understand what they are saying, but I have been there when the plant was running. The technology is quite straightforward, with much of it having been commercialized for many years. So I don’t know the specifics of the argument the TV station is making.

        RR
        [link]      
  75. By rrapier on July 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    mark bell said:

    Robert – The BTL  process is described as exothermic- but what energy source powers the initial pyrolysis of the biomass – is it process syngas? electricity? or supplemental natural gas?

     


     

    Mark, the process has to be started up on some other fuel, but the first stage receives oxygen and is exothermic. The endothermic stage is in the high temperature gasifier, but the heat for that is provided internally from the hot syngas.

    RR

    [link]      
  76. By russ on July 27, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    If you are talking about gasification in general there are more than that. Sasol’s gasification technology comes from Lurgi I believe, and a former plant that I worked in had a pair of large Texaco gasifiers. I would presume that those are being supported now within Chevron, but don’t know whether Chevron chose to continue licensing the gasifiers.

    Incidentally, as I stated in the article, the gasifier was working out OK. There were only minor problems around that. So people who think the plant was shut down because the gasifier wasn’t working are totally off the mark.

    RR


     

    The Texaco Gasifier tech was sold to Chevron who sold it to GE didn’t they – all the same plant? We actually negotiated and discussed buying the same gasifier with each party in turn.

    A gross difference between the Lurgi (Sasol) type and the GE type. The GE entrained flow type requiring a uniform feed stock whereas the Lurgi (Sasol) type feeding on to the grate is much easier to handle with variable quality feed.

    The Great Planis Project out of Bismark, ND used the Lurgi type while GE had a demonstration plant in TN – forgot the name of the city.

    Walt – Are there any small sized gasifiers making a reasonable quality gas product? They tend to try to use air in which case the product has a very, very low calorific value. Once you build the oxygen plant to go with the gasifier the project starts to become large.

     

    [link]      
  77. By Walt on July 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    russ said:

    Walt – Are there any small sized gasifiers making a reasonable quality gas product? They tend to try to use air in which case the product has a very, very low calorific value. Once you build the oxygen plant to go with the gasifier the project starts to become large.


     

    I really don’t know for sure.  The market on gasifiers is very new to me, and I’ve asked my engineers to please try to give me some research on the subject for small scale units.  I only need hydrogen and CO for making further high value chemicals and fuels from methanol, ethanol and formaldehyde.  Each feed provides a different feedstock to make different things, and this is where MTO, MTG and other well known technologies are currently saying they have “drop-in replacement fuels”…like the recent press release from Chesapeake here:

     

    ———————-

    Sundrop Fuels uses an ultrahigh-temperature heat transfer process to
    gasify virtually any cellulosic feedstock into synthesis gas, which is
    then converted into clean, affordable biobased “green gasoline” and
    other drop-in transportation biofuels for use in today’s automobiles,
    diesel engines and aircraft via the nation’s existing fuels distribution
    infrastructure.”

    http://www.marketwatch.com/sto…..2011-07-11
    ———————–

     

    I can scale our O2 system…it is not a problem.  O2 systems are a lot cheaper than people think unless you need 98-99% purity, then you do face some stiff costs for sure.  An Analyst out of San Francisco just completed a study on our technology and totally misrepresented my position over the O2 issue.  It is a very well known Analyst who is “independent” and writes on all the silicon valley VC funded companies to make them “independently” look like gold and siliver.  They claim that O2 is our biggest problem (the same argument used by Kholsa when they reviewed us), but it really is a non-starter for anyone who is smart on the costs and benefits of Oxygen based systems.

     

    For example, let’s look at a “best-in-class” technology that does not use Oxygen, but uses syngas.

     

    ——————–

    A GTL demonstration plant has successfully been commissioned at
    Petrobras’ Aracaju site in Brazil. The Brazil plant, contracted from
    CompactGTL in 2008, demonstrates a fully integrated small-scale GTL
    facility, at 200,000 scf/d capacity, incorporating:

    • Gas pre-treatment
    • Pre-reforming
    • Reforming
    • Waste heat recovery
    • Process steam generation
    • Syngas compression
    • Fischer Tropsch synthesis
    • FT cooling water system
    • Tail gas recycling

    The CompactGTL team was supported by Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants
    Ltd during the process design stage of the contract. The SMR and FT
    reactors were manufactured by Sumitomo Precision Products Co, Ltd in
    Osaka, Japan and due to CompactGTL’s modular, small-scale approach the
    complete set of GTL reactors were dispatched to Brazil by air freight.
    Zeton Inc. was awarded the EPC contract for the balance of plant and the
    GTL demonstration plant was constructed at Zeton’s facility in
    Burlington, Canada.

    http://www.greencarcongress.co…..10427.html

    ———————

    They also have a big jump on Velocys. Petrobras
    paid $45 million for Compact GTL’s 20-barrel-per-day pilot plant, which
    is expected to operate at an onshore Petrobras site in Brazil by August.
    And Petrobras is already financing the engineering of a
    2,000-barrel-per-day Compact GTL plant for inclusion on a planned FPSO
    vessel, the Guanambi 1.

    http://www.technologyreview.co…..765/page2/

    ——————–

     

    So it is ~$45 million for 200,000 scfd demonstration plant without Oxygen to make syncrude.  Let’s say there is $10 million in opex & license.

     

    We recently announced a modular skid to process flared gas for $2 million processing 200,000 scfd with an oxygen system, compressor and genset to handle our onsight power needs.  If we have to remove H2S it will be more, but this includes pre-treatment from the flare.

     

    Now, why is O2 so evil in the eyes of the Silicon Valley crowd, and the Analysts in San Francisco when used in our technology?

     

    I asked this question.  He argued back and forth he does not know, but he is going to put it in the report anyhow as I know he knows it will only damage our argument as some big negative point…  I said basically this, “Listen, you want me to use air, I will use air.  My reactor can handle the nitrogen.  However, I will be a lot less efficient and rather than scale DOWN to 200,000 scfd I will only scale DOWN TO 2 million scfd.  Why should I use air rather than Oxygen if it makes me less efficient just because I spend less money?  Why not spend the money, be more efficient and scale down to get more customers?”

     

    Of course, this is all not important when you can bash our company and make them look “independent”.  That is it for interviews with analysts who don’t want to report the proper positives of something and turn it into a negative.

     

    Believe me when I say.  O2 is a positive for us, and I can use it to make syngas if needed, but I just don’t know the technology space so I don’t want to comment on gasification systems at small scale.  I need to do the research first or get help from you guys.  I am not going to get it in ordering a study by an Analyst.

     

    Did you hear about the study recently on GTL technologies put out by CERA recently?  Here:

     

    http://www.ihs.com/products/ce…..1065930053

     

    Again, when they get down in scales there is some really highly questionable numbers.  Basically, I understand that when they get to 6 mmscfd they claim that Microchannel systems (like above) are the same CAPEX as our GasTechno process claims is our costs for that feed.  How can they scale down so low, and be the same cost as our process CAPEX?  It makes no sense…but again I suspect someone’s phone is ringing to buy plants as cheap as they claim in the report.  I never knew syngas could be so cheap as you scale down.  That is what I want to learn.

    [link]      
  78. By mark bell on July 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Robert – The BTL  process is described as exothermic- but what energy source powers the initial pyrolysis of the biomass – is it process syngas? electricity? or supplemental natural gas?

     

    [link]      
  79. By Walt on July 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Celanese can make ethanol from natural gas for about $60 a
    barrel, one-third less than the corn-based process encouraged by
    a 45-cent-a-gallon federal subsidy, Chief Executive Officer
    David Weidman said today in a telephone interview. Celanese has
    begun building a demonstration plant and research center in
    Clear Lake, Texas, where it plans to begin production in mid-
    2012.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/…..anges.html

    [link]      
  80. By dirk-volkmann on July 28, 2011 at 2:41 am

    about small scale gasification:

     

    try this: http://www.eee-info.net/cms/EN/ and then you go to Güssing Model and then to Resources and Technologies and then you can read about the most advanced and most reliable technology for biomass gasification in Europe. You can visit Güssing as such and see all the different technologies in one place. Güssing is independent of energy imports into the region.

     

    try this one as well: http://www.agnion.de, a heat pipe reforming technology for small scale. They are in the process of going to market as the development phase is done.

    [link]      
  81. By Walt on July 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Dirk Volkmann said:

    about small scale gasification:

     

    try this: http://www.eee-info.net/cms/EN/ and then you go to Güssing Model and then to Resources and Technologies and then you can read about the most advanced and most reliable technology for biomass gasification in Europe. You can visit Güssing as such and see all the different technologies in one place. Güssing is independent of energy imports into the region.

     

    try this one as well: http://www.agnion.de, a heat pipe reforming technology for small scale. They are in the process of going to market as the development phase is done.


     

    thank you Dirk.

    [link]      
  82. By Walt on July 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Low Cost Jet Fuel around the corner.

    http://www.globalenergywatch.c….._Plant.htm

    [link]      
  83. By rrapier on July 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Walt said:

    Low Cost Jet Fuel around the corner.

    http://www.globalenergywatch.c….._Plant.htm


     

    I didn’t see anything there that implied “low cost.” In fact, I am highly skeptical that anyone is going to be able to take iso-butanol produced from biomass and convert that into jet fuel. Why? Because much cheaper iso-butanol can be produced today (I used to make it) and yet it hasn’t found a use as jet fuel or a jet fuel additive. So I think it’s just wishful thinking.

    RR

    [link]      
  84. By Walt on July 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Walt said:

    Low Cost Jet Fuel around the corner.

    http://www.globalenergywatch.c….._Plant.htm


     

    I didn’t see anything there that implied “low cost.” In fact, I am highly skeptical that anyone is going to be able to take iso-butanol produced from biomass and convert that into jet fuel. Why? Because much cheaper iso-butanol can be produced today (I used to make it) and yet it hasn’t found a use as jet fuel or a jet fuel additive. So I think it’s just wishful thinking.

    RR


     

    Robert…do you think it makes a difference if they can “buy cheap” these existing plants to make the economics work with subsidies and mandates?

     

    The reason I am starting to believe these people will make it financially work is because the “RIN volume” and “RIN capable” as explained here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/6089…..aper-Final

     

    The idea of “integrating” or “buying” (for equity) existing equipment and modifying it for $20-25 million really makes CAPEX sense to me (see below).  I wonder if because it is part of the mandate required fuels it will be cheap after all the credits from the RINS market, etc.  That is what I mean by making it cheap…the low CAPEX and RIN formula net-back.

    Gevo Retrofitting Redfield Ethanol Plant to Isobutanol (Ind. Report)
    Gevo Inc.,Refield Ethanol
    Date: 2011-06-20

    Englewood,
    Colorado-based biofuels producer Gevo Inc. has entered a joint venture
    with Redfield Energy LLC to convert Redfield’s South Dakota ethanol
    plant into isobutanol production. Gevo reports that it uses a
    proprietary yeast to ferment corn sugars into isobutanol, which can be
    blended into fuel at higher percentages than ethanol. Gevo will provide
    the technology and capital to retrofit Redfield’s plant into one that
    can make about 38 million gpy of isobutanol, with commercial production
    beginning late next year. Gevo will receive an undisclosed equity
    interest in Redfield in return.

    Gevo says retrofits of plants
    similar in size to Redfield’s plant can cost $20 million to $24 million.
    (Source: Gevo Inc, June, 16,2011) Contact: Tom Hitchcock, CEO, Redfield
    Energy LLC, (605) 302-0090, http://www.redfieldenergy.com; Jack Hunter, EVP,
    Corp. Development, Gevo, (720) 267-8629, jhunter@gevo.com, http://www.gevo.com

    ——————————-

    Gevo Retrofitting Commercial-Scale Biobased Isobutonal Plant (Ind. Report)
    Gevo Inc.
    Date: 2011-06-01

    Advanced
    biofuels producer Gevo, Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO) has begun retrofitting its
    Luverne, Minnesota, ethanol facility for the production of biobased
    isobutanol. When the retrofit is completed in mid- 2012, the facility
    will be the world’s first commercial-scale biobased isobutanol plant.

    Biobased
    isobutanol can be marketed as both a solvent chemical and a fuel
    blend-stock, or it can be converted into four carbon building blocks
    called butenes, which can be used to make 40 percent of all
    petrochemicals and a 100 percent of all hydrocarbon fuels.

    Engelwood,
    Colorado-based Gevo acquired the 18 million gpy Luverne plant from
    Agri-Energy LLC in September 2010. (Source: Gevo, May, 31, 2011)
    Contact: Jack Hunter, EVP, Corp. Development, Gevo, (720) 267-8629,
    jhunter@gevo.com, http://www.gevo.com

    ———————————

    Gevo producing Butanol directly from Cellulose (New Prod. & Tech., Ind. Report)
    Butanol,Gevo,University of California Los Angeles
    Date: 2011-03-24

    Butanol,
    which delivers more energy than ethanol and can be shipped via oil
    pipelines, like ethanol, is made from edible feedstocks such as beets,
    corn starch, and sugarcane. But now, University of California, LA,
    biomolecular engineer James Liao has developed two routes to liberate
    butanol from its dependence on food crops. Liao, who has previously
    commercialized innovative biofuels processes, has proven that microbes
    can produce butanol directly from agricultural wastes, as well as from
    protein feedstocks such as algae.

    Liao’s demonstration of direct
    cellulose-to-butanol conversion could bring down the cost of cellulosic
    biofuels, which is currently prohibitively high. His protein-based
    process provides the biofuels field with entirely novel feedstock
    options.

    Liao’s innovation is now being commercialized by
    Englewood, Colorado-based startup Gevo,which raised $107 million in an
    IPO last month to support its plans to retrofit corn ethanol plants to
    isobutanol production. Plans for a shift to biofuels production from
    biomass feedstocks such as switchgrass, corn stalks, and sugarcane
    bagasse are, meanwhile, moving slowly because of higher costs and the
    DOE’s mandated use of just 6.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol
    this year; less than 3 percent of the 250-million-gallon goal set by
    Congress four years ago. The holdup is from added processing steps
    required to break down these cellulosic feedstocks and thus generate
    sugars for fermentation; the processing boosts costs considerably,
    making production facilities difficult to finance. (Source: Gevo,
    Technology Review, March 22, 2011) Contact: James Liao, University of
    California, Los Angeles, (310) 825-1656, liaoj@seas.ucla.edu; Jack
    Hunter, EVP, Corp. Dev., Gevo, (720) 267-8629, jhunter@gevo.com,
    http://www.gevo.com

    [link]      
  85. By rrapier on July 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Walt said:

    Robert Rapier said:

    Walt said:

    Low Cost Jet Fuel around the corner.

    http://www.globalenergywatch.c….._Plant.htm


     

    I didn’t see anything there that implied “low cost.” In fact, I am highly skeptical that anyone is going to be able to take iso-butanol produced from biomass and convert that into jet fuel. Why? Because much cheaper iso-butanol can be produced today (I used to make it) and yet it hasn’t found a use as jet fuel or a jet fuel additive. So I think it’s just wishful thinking.

    RR


     

    Robert…do you think it makes a difference if they can “buy cheap” these existing plants to make the economics work with subsidies and mandates?


     

    No. The reason I say that is i-BuOH is a byproduct of the butanol production process, and with the turn of a switch you can crank out much more at low cost. All of that infrastructure is already in place. All of the capital has been paid for. There is no way they can compete with those costs — and yet i-BuOH has made no headway as a jet fuel ingredient.

    I think this is a matter of them trying to develop a market for something where there isn’t a natural market. But I think they overlook the fact that there is loads of underutilized i-BuOH capacity out there right now.

    RR

    [link]      
  86. By Walt on July 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Walt said:

    Robert Rapier said:

    Walt said:

    Low Cost Jet Fuel around the corner.

    http://www.globalenergywatch.c….._Plant.htm


     

    I didn’t see anything there that implied “low cost.” In fact, I am highly skeptical that anyone is going to be able to take iso-butanol produced from biomass and convert that into jet fuel. Why? Because much cheaper iso-butanol can be produced today (I used to make it) and yet it hasn’t found a use as jet fuel or a jet fuel additive. So I think it’s just wishful thinking.

    RR


     

    Robert…do you think it makes a difference if they can “buy cheap” these existing plants to make the economics work with subsidies and mandates?


     

    No. The reason I say that is i-BuOH is a byproduct of the butanol production process, and with the turn of a switch you can crank out much more at low cost. All of that infrastructure is already in place. All of the capital has been paid for. There is no way they can compete with those costs — and yet i-BuOH has made no headway as a jet fuel ingredient.

    I think this is a matter of them trying to develop a market for something where there isn’t a natural market. But I think they overlook the fact that there is loads of underutilized i-BuOH capacity out there right now.

    RR


     

    That is very interesting you say “…they overlook the fact that there is loads of underutilized i-BuOH out there right now.”

     

    Their key investor, Khosla, says this on their website about convincing them to drop methane-to-methanol and go for butanol.

     

    —————-

    Successful start-ups often iterate on
    their business plans until they identify a product that fits the market.
    Gevo is no exception. Founded by two graduating PhDs,
    Gevo’s first mission was to convert
    stranded methane to methanol. Upon investing in the company, Khosla
    Ventures helped Gevo build its team and identify a different lucrative
    market. After numerous iterations, the
    company shifted its focus away from methanol and toward butanol, a
    highly efficient fuel more similar to gasoline than to ethanol.

    Once Gevo identified the butanol
    strategy, KV helped its team put together a plan (one requiring
    comparatively little capital) to increase the productivity of existing
    corn
    ethanol plants in order to
    manufacture butanol and other chemicals. We also worked with the company
    to recruit a new CEO. Gevo continued its product and market iteration,
    thanks to the founders’ patience and
    the low burn rate. Today Gevo is the leading technology development
    company for isobutanol, with major investors and partnerships, a
    strong scientific advisory board,
    and numerous highly desirable licenses.

    http://www.khoslaventures.com/….._gevo.html

    —————-

     

    Since I know little about the butanol market I often wondered if this was good advice…as it sure sounds like it sense butanol is really not right now.

     

    I guess we will see if Khosla Ventures made the right decision…it sure sounds like they did after raising $107 million dollars this year!

    [link]      
  87. By paul-n on July 29, 2011 at 3:16 am

    It will only be the “right decision” if it ends up with significant amounts of product making it to market.  

    The fact that they raised $107m simply means they have convinced a few other deep pocketed individuals and/or companies that this might be worth something in the future.

    numerous highly desirable licenses

    There is the giveaway – their whole business model is to get it to the pointy where someone else will buy it from them, and that someone else takes the risk of scale up and production and sales in the real market.

     

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but is there a single KV that has ever recovered its investment by actual sales of real product to real customers?

     

    I know its frustrating for you Walt they they make money at playing this game, but that doesn;t mean you should play it too – this is what they do.

    You have the harder task of actually trying to produce and sell a product – there is a reason why their ventures have not reached this point – they are almost all hype.

     

    When he invented the steam turbine, (Sir) Charles Parsons didn’t “hype” and “license” it, he built it, tested it and then got out there and demonstrated it – in a style that will never be forgotten

    KV isn’t interested in actually producing real products, they are just interested in cashing out.  They have done that several times, it seems, but they are yet to produce any real volume of real fuel.  

     

    [link]      
  88. By Walt on July 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Paul N said:

    I know its frustrating for you Walt they they make money at playing this game, but that doesn;t mean you should play it too – this is what they do.

    You have the harder task of actually trying to produce and sell a product – there is a reason why their ventures have not reached this point – they are almost all hype.


     

    Paul,

     

    I could not believe it when I saw this announcement two days ago by Gevo.

     

    “The demonstration facility was expected to process up to 10,000 gallons of Gevo’s isobutanol
    monthly. The isobutanol will be used for a variety of renewable
    hydrocarbon materials such as jet fuel for engine testing, isooctane for
    gasoline, and isooctane and paraxylene for polyethylene terephthalate –
    the plastic used for storing beverages.

    “We have a growing list of potential customers and end-users
    interested in renewable hydrocarbons for a variety of market
    applications from jet fuel to renewable PET,” Gevo’s president
    Christopher Ryan said.

    Gevo will be working with petrochemicals manufacturer South Hampton
    Resources Inc. – a subsidiary of Arabian American Development Co. – to
    build a hydrocarbon processing facility just outside of Houston in Silsbee, Texas.”

     

    http://www.ecoseed.org/busines…..t-in-texas

     

    I thought to myself.  Ok, here is a company that has raised tens of millions in start-up.  Then they went public in January raising another $107 million through a highly publicized IPO.  In fact, the fan fare was like Khosla hit the home run “again!” in the media.

     

    They then announced last month retrofitting two commercial facilities:

     

    “Advanced biofuels producer Gevo, Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO) has begun
    retrofitting its Luverne, Minnesota, ethanol facility for the production
    of biobased isobutanol. When the retrofit is completed in mid- 2012,
    the facility will be the world’s first commercial-scale biobased
    isobutanol plant…Colorado-based Gevo acquired the 18 million gpy Luverne plant from Agri-Energy LLC in September 2010.” (Jun 1, 2011)

     

    “Englewood, Colorado-based biofuels producer Gevo Inc. has entered a
    joint venture with Redfield Energy LLC to convert Redfield’s South
    Dakota ethanol plant into isobutanol production. Gevo reports that it
    uses a proprietary yeast to ferment corn sugars into isobutanol, which
    can be blended into fuel at higher percentages than ethanol. Gevo will
    provide the technology and capital to retrofit Redfield’s plant into one
    that can make about 38 million gpy of isobutanol, with commercial
    production beginning late next year. Gevo will receive an undisclosed
    equity interest in Redfield in return.” (June 20, 2011)

     

    So you have 18 mmgpy and 38 mmgpy of commercial volumes.  Very significant.

     

    However, on Wednesday July 27, 2011 they announced they are going to build a “demonstration” unit that produces 10,000 gallons per month or 120,000 gallons per year to do sales, testing and pre-sales!  What?  Did I miss something?

     

    How on earth did they raise $107 million with one of the most successful IPO’s and they are now just building a TINY demonstration plant to produce 120,000 gallons per year to start sales and testing?  This cannot be right.  They own/contracted to produce over 56 million gallons per year of butanol to their large list of customers, but now just announced they are only going to produce 120,000 gallons for sales and testing?

     

    My new plant produces 590,000 gallons of liquids per year, and next week I hope to sign an agreement at a Michigan biodiesel facility that will handle the processing of the liquids.  It is not going to cost $20-25 million to modify the plant to process into finish, commercial products…not even close to that.  We just finished designing all the equipment this week.

     

    Even if our technology is ignored by Silicon Valley…and by West Coast “green tech” and “clean tech” analysts (you probably remember the rebuttal to Robert’s methanol article by Biofuels Digest who I believe will never do a story on our company…unless it is negative), I am pleased to say that we have not spent anywhere near the money of our “competitors” and certainly will not be wasting money doing the strategy outlined above by Gevo.  I think they should (maybe I’m wrong) built their demonstration plant first, then got customer orders and sales commitments, then go find commercial plants to process 50 mmgpy butanol.  I guess with $107 million in the bank it makes sense to buy those assets, get them on the books as acquisitions and improvements and make the financials look “strong” and “impressive”.

     

    I really hope they turn 120,000 gallons per year into solid revenues and orders.  I need to do the same thing with 590,000 galllons.  This there is no doubt that both companies deserve support.  One with an great IPO raising $107 million to demonstration.  I won’t say what we need.  It is just unrealistic in the world of “biofuels” “clean tech” and “green tech” deal flow.

     

    I’ll take a rest on posting.  I saw the Gevo history after Robert’s comments and could not help be share my confused mind on that strategy.

    [link]      
  89. By rrapier on July 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Paul N said:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but is there a single KV that has ever recovered its investment by actual sales of real product to real customers?


     

    I have often thought that I could probably make good money by simply shorting these hyped IPOs. The problem with shorting, though, is that clueless people could bid stocks up very high before they crash. I know people who were convinced that the tech stock bubble would burst, but they shorted too soon and were wiped out. Now if I could just make bets about which companies would survive to actually make a meaningful contribution, I would have great confidence that he has a lot of Range Fuel types in the portfolio. I can see some of them now.

    RR

    [link]      
  90. By Albert Z. K. Sanders on August 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Dear Mr. Rapier:

    I have two questions for you.

    1. Would it be possible for city fleet operators like the NYC Police Department or Federal Express to save the equivalent of over a dollar per gallon of gasoline by switching over to natural-gas-derived methanol at the nominal investment of only around $100 per vehicle? (And much greater savings if future vehicle purchases specified higher compression ratios at the cost of a somewhat greater investment.) Has this idea been suggested and if so, why rejected?

    2. Like you, I am enthusiastic about the “methanol economy” as the solution to the ultimate problems of both limited fuel resources and carbon-dioxide-caused global warming. (This assumes generating hydrogen electrolytically using concentrating solar-generated electricity means located adjacent to power and cement plants, etc., that emit much carbon dioxide; the hydrogen then reacted with the CO2 to make methanol.)

    As a “bridge” to the above “methanol economy”, are there any suppliers of commercial-size gasifiers to produce synthesis gas? And are there any suppliers of commercial- size reactors to produce methanol from synthesis gas? If so, who are they? Are they in use?

    Thank you.

    [link]      
  91. By rrapier on August 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Albert Z. K. Sanders said:

    Dear Mr. Rapier:

    I have two questions for you.

    1. Would it be possible for city fleet operators like the NYC Police Department or Federal Express to save the equivalent of over a dollar per gallon of gasoline by switching over to natural-gas-derived methanol at the nominal investment of only around $100 per vehicle?


     

    Hi Albert,

    I don’t know what the cost of converting the vehicle would be, but I suspect it would be comparable to what you have to do to make a vehicle E85 compatible. The issue is the metals and gaskets that the fuel comes into contact with. There are suitable materials for ethanol or methanol, but in any case I don’t expect the cost to be excessive. $100? I have heard that number thrown around, but don’t know for sure.

    But the savings over the current price of gasoline would be over $1 a gallon. That price is dictated by the price of natural gas, which is very low relative to oil. Has it been suggested? I know a number of people — including me — who have made similar suggestions. I don’t know anyone who has embarked upon a great experiment to do it.

    As a “bridge” to the above “methanol economy”, are there any
    suppliers of commercial-size gasifiers to produce synthesis gas? And
    are there any suppliers of commercial- size reactors to produce methanol
    from synthesis gas? If so, who are they? Are they in use?

    Oh sure. There are lots of commercial gasifiers for converting natural gas into syngas. It gets tricky when trying to do biomass, but there are numerous natural gas gasifiers out there. Any methanol plant is going to have one. GE and Siemens are both large dealers in gasifiers. Shell has their own gasifiers that they sell to industry. When I worked in a chemical plant in the 90′s, we had a pair of gasifiers made by Texaco (someone recently told me their business was ultimately sold to GE).

    You may be interested in a methanol article from Robert Zubrin just published a few days ago:

    Tripling America’s Fuel Production

    Cheers, Robert

    [link]      
  92. By moiety on August 2, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Albert Z. K. Sanders see also

    Pearl GTL

    http://www.shell.com/home/cont…..l/process/

     

     

    [link]      
  93. By Cornelius on August 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Walt: you write

    Are there any small sized gasifiers making a reasonable quality gas product? They tend to try to use air in which case the product has a very, very low calorific value. Once you build the oxygen plant to go with the gasifier the project starts to become large

    .

    Most gasifiers are autothermic, i.e. use the energy released by the oxidation of some of its calorific content to provide the heat for the actual gasification process. In this case you need to add oxygen, as you write. Using pure O2 is expensive (as you write), using air will dilute the syngas with nitrogen.
    There are, however, allothermic gasifiers that operate in an oxygen free atmosphere in a closed reactor. The reactor is heated from the outside, by another gasifier/combustor. The syngas produced this way is medium calorific (around 15 MJ/m³), at least three time that of autotherm gasifiers.
    Agnion, but also HS Energiesysteme have developed a small gasifier – 100 kWel – that is really promising. The gas quality has been tested sucessfully for 8,000 hours. Since June they are running as gas turbine on it.
    Their main technology advancement is however, from my point of view, not the external heating of the reactor using a high-temperature heat pipe (both companies use the same patent), but the way they deal with/avoid the tars. This is really innovative, somebody has gotten the chemistry/physics right here.

    Their main problem: they are German, want everything tested and proven three times before they even publish it, let alone go to market with it. This approach results in superb products, but they will get to the moon only after 10 other countries have been there. In some cases, such as Choren, taking too much time might become their undoing.

    [link]      
  94. By Walt on August 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Cornelius said:

    Walt: you write

    Are there any small sized gasifiers making a reasonable quality gas product? They tend to try to use air in which case the product has a very, very low calorific value. Once you build the oxygen plant to go with the gasifier the project starts to become large
     

    .

    Most gasifiers are autothermic, i.e. use the energy released by the oxidation of some of its calorific content to provide the heat for the actual gasification process. In this case you need to add oxygen, as you write. Using pure O2 is expensive (as you write), using air will dilute the syngas with nitrogen.

    There are, however, allothermic gasifiers that operate in an oxygen free atmosphere in a closed reactor. The reactor is heated from the outside, by another gasifier/combustor. The syngas produced this way is medium calorific (around 15 MJ/m³), at least three time that of autotherm gasifiers.

    Agnion, but also HS Energiesysteme have developed a small gasifier – 100 kWel – that is really promising. The gas quality has been tested sucessfully for 8,000 hours. Since June they are running as gas turbine on it.

    Their main technology advancement is however, from my point of view, not the external heating of the reactor using a high-temperature heat pipe (both companies use the same patent), but the way they deal with/avoid the tars. This is really innovative, somebody has gotten the chemistry/physics right here.

    Their main problem: they are German, want everything tested and proven three times before they even publish it, let alone go to market with it. This approach results in superb products, but they will get to the moon only after 10 other countries have been there. In some cases, such as Choren, taking too much time might become their undoing.


     

    Interesting.  Thank you.  I’ve sent it to our engineers to evaluate with the others.

    [link]      
  95. By Hennie Saaiman on February 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Bamboo for synthetic diesel ?We have obtained 100000 ha of arrable land in Zambia and energy is the countries achilles ,what can we do,were in conversation with Choren.
    Thank you.
    Hennie

    [link]      
  96. By rrapier on February 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Hi Hennie,

    Choren IP was just bought by Linde, who I suspect will be very active in pursuing projects. There is some contact information in the press release announcing the purchase. Tell Sven I sent you there.

    RR

    [link]      
  97. By bangladeshman on April 9, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Dear sir,

    i want to know whom choren sold its coal gasification tech to ?

    i am from bangladesh. once i heared of the tech of coal gasification already sold to a company,in china. do you know the company? thank you very much.

    it is very thankful to you for sending  me an email lyshadan@foxmail.com.

    [link]      
  98. By Robert Rapier on April 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    i want to know whom choren sold its coal gasification tech to ?

    Linde Engineering.

    RR

    [link]      
  99. By Dr. Wayne Song on August 1, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Hello Robert, I sent you email moments ago.

    I’d like to hear you view on how one may revive CHOREN at Freiberg.
     
    I’m one of the technology advisors for a American company FAM, which has bought the insolvent Choren Industries GmbH at Freiberg, including all the facility and plant itself.
     
    I know you were involved with CHOREN as the CTO of its largest shareholder.
     
    I’m going to visit CHOREN plant at Freiberg this Thursday afternoon and Fri. to explore how to revive CHOREN Industries or transfer the existing CHOREN facility to suitable customers.
     
    My background: In short, I’m a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering (1993, McMaster Univ., Canada). My specialty is polymer material and processing, especially, I’m one of the starting members of wood-plastic composite (WPC) technology in Canada and USA in later 1980. I’m the pioneer of WPC industry in China, from zero to billion dollar business there. I have over 20 year experience in technology transfer, including international technology transfer, scale up and commercialization, etc..
     
    Also, as a Chinese Canadian doing business in China, I have intensive experience and connection with Chinese central and provincial governments, various government agencies and private businesses. For new energy initiatives, government support is one of the critical factors for the success.
     

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

     
    Best regards,
    Wayne Song, Ph.D., Advisor
    FAM
    Suite 205 195 RT. 9 South, Manalapan, New Jersey, USA 07726

    [link]      
  100. By Dr. Wayne Song on August 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

    If there is anybody who is interested in the current CHOREN facility, including all the setup, cooperation, buying part of it, youmay contact me at songwn@gmail.com

    Wayne Song

    [link]      
  101. By Mario. on October 11, 2012 at 6:18 am

    The only problem I see here that the plant was NOT built into an existing oil refinery infrastructure. Thus hydrogen/CO ration could be easily fixed by supplying hydrogen or CO from other parts of the refinery and the upgrading reactor is a common part of any refinery.  Altogether, it is a grave mistake trying to replace a large part of a refinery and building it in the  middle of nowhere.

    Next… paraffin wax sells for 1.2 euros a kilo? That is WITHOUT tax! In other words, the Choren plant could be profitable without subsidy if they separated hard paraffins for sale instead of hydrocracking them :)

    Also, there was no plan B, such as running a gas turbine on the synthesis gas to provide electricity to the network (plus gaining credits and higher price for the green energy) as a supplemental source of income.

     

    Do you agree?

    Plus, I know refineries which could be taking in biomass from their vicinity to be used in the BTL process. Other than that, I understand there is a smaller scale SunDiesel plant somewhere, fed entirely by miscanthus biomass.

    Anyway, in USA, planting tens of thousands of hectares with Miscanthus began, these fields will provide constant source for BTL plants. Large scale, not a sissy scale like this Choren plant.

    Thus, I include this Choren plant trial as a managerial failure example to be used in books. I think the investors should have developped more pressure on the management to provide results in terms of ROI and not in terms of a singular product. Running it as a thermal powerplant alternative should have been an option from the start!

    I would really love to work in analysing these things and finding solutions, I think I’m good at strategy.

    [link]      
  102. By Robert Rapier on October 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Next… paraffin wax sells for 1.2 euros a kilo? That is WITHOUT tax! In other words, the Choren plant could be profitable without subsidy if they separated hard paraffins for sale instead of hydrocracking them

    I visited Shell’s GTL plant in Bintulu, and they said the same thing: Wax is where they could make good money.

    RR

    [link]      
  103. By victorW on April 10, 2013 at 3:37 am

    Hi Robert,
    what do you make of Fulcrum Bioenergy? They seem to have been doing quite a bit on the demo front and have some serious loan options from the DoE.
    Another Range, Rentech etc in the making?

    [link]      
Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!