Posts tagged “Virent”
Last Wednesday, the Green Strike Group sailed during the international Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises off the coast of Hawaii. These exercises are the Navy’s largest of the year, and feature participants from around the world. The reason, however, that this is important to clean energy investors is that the Navy could act as a market maker for the struggling biofuels industry. If the Navy guarantees its market over the next decade, there will be certainty for biofuels companies to make the investments necessary to reach commercial scale.
In the previous essay, I discussed the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC) and the recently announced success of Virent Energy Systems (Virent), a member of the consortium. In this essay I try to dig into the process details a bit more with a series of technical exchanges with Virent Founder and CTO Randy Cortright. My questions are denoted as RR and his responses are in blue as RC. I began by asking Dr. Cortright to confirm my understanding of Virent’s process. RR: Let me make sure I am clear on the process. You take cellulosic biomass and hydrolyze that to sugars. You hydrogenate those sugars and put them through your aqueous reformer. The reformer output consists of ketones, acids, aldehydes,… Continue»
The National Advanced Biofuels Consortium In January 2010, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the investment of nearly $80 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for advanced biofuels research and fueling infrastructure. About $35 million of the funding went toward the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC). The consortium consists of 17 partners from industry, national laboratories, and universities with the goal of producing economical biofuels that are compatible with existing infrastructure (drop-in fuels). The consortium is investigating “six process strategies with the greatest potential to meet the project objectives. Each process involves converting biomass feedstock, such as corn stover or wood chips, into a form that can be used in a petroleum refinery. These new and innovative approaches can… Continue»
My ideal microbe for biofuel production would consume garbage, excrete gasoline, and die if it escapes into the wild. Excretion of longer chain hydrocarbons like gasoline would enable a less energy-intensive separation, because the product would phase out of water. LS9 is exploring this sort of pathway via microbes, and Virent is trying to do the same thing catalytically. It is quite a challenging problem, but should be technically viable. And a company that can achieve an edge in this space could really dominate the biofuels arena. As I have said, it is difficult, but Holy Grail research. Today a new and quite novel approach was announced in the Journal of the American Chemical Society: Synthesis of Methyl Halides from… Continue»
As I have said before, an ideal biofuel would be one that phases out of water, and is therefore much less energy intensive to separate. One of the big energy sinks in ethanol production involves an energy intensive separation of ethanol from water. If ethanol was insoluble it would phase out of solution and could be skimmed off and separated for a fraction of the energy input. This is the sort of model that companies like LS9 and Virent have adopted. They are using microorganisms to produce longer-chain hydrocarbons that not only are much easier to separate from water, but also have higher energy density. I have commented in the past that this is ‘Holy Grail’ stuff, but also would… Continue»
There was a major story a few days ago about LS9 in the Times Online: Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol I have previously written several articles that mentioned LS9, including: LS9′s Oil-Crapping Bugs Apparently as a result of the Times article, there have been a number of articles in the past couple of days on LS9. This naturally attracted the attention of investors, and I have literally had hundreds of hits to my LS9 story by people Googling LS9 stock. In fact, right now if you Google that (without quotation marks), my story comes up at the top of the first page. So, in an effort to provide investors what they are looking for (the other… Continue»
I think the general consensus was that the recent claims of agricultural researcher J.C. Bell don’t appear to be too compelling. However, as I mentioned, the conversion of biomass into oil or gasoline should be technically achievable. And today, Bob Rohatensky sent me a link to a story that would appear to have a little more meat to it than Bell’s claims: Shell and Virent announce collaboration to develop biogasoline Shell and Virent Energy Systems, Inc., (Virent (TM)) of Madison, Wisconsin USA, today announced a joint research and development effort to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components, rather than ethanol. The collaboration could herald the availability of new biofuels that can be used at high blend… Continue»