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Goldman Sachs Invests C$30 Million in Cellulosic Ethanol Provider

1 May 2006

Goldman Sachs & Co. has invested C$30 million (US$27 million) in Iogen, the Canadian pioneer of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production.

Goldman Sachs’ investment gives it a minority stake in Iogen, the only company to be operating a demonstration facility that converts agriculture materials like straw, corn stalks, and switchgrass to ethanol. Goldman Sachs joins the Royal Dutch/Shell Group as a major investor. (Earlier post.) The funds will be used to accelerate Iogen’s commercialization program.

Iogen’s process uses a combination of thermal, chemical and biochemical techniques to convert fibrous biomass (wheat straw) into fuel ethanol with a yield of more than 340 liters per tonne of fiber. The lignin in the plant fibre powers the process by generating steam and electricity, thus eliminating the need for fossil CO2 sources such as coal or natural gas.

Iogen’ technology innovations fall into five categories:

  • Pretreatment. A modified steam explosion process prepares the feedstock for the enzymatic hyrdolysis stage that converts the cellulose to sugar for fermentation. The steam explosion increases the surface area of the plant accessible to enzymes.

  • Enzyme production. New, efficient cellulase enzyme systems specific to the feedstock.

  • Enzymatic hydrolysis. A multi-stage hydrolysis process separates hydrolysis and fermentation, resulting in a high conversion rate.

  • Fermentation. Tailored microorganisms and fermentation systems convert both C6 and C5 sugars into ethanol.

  • Process integration. Energy efficient heat integration, water recycling, and co-product production that make the overall process efficient and economical.

A joint study by the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy (USDA and DOE) has concluded that the land resources of the US could produce a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace 30% (60 billion gallons of renewable fuel per year) of the country’s present petroleum consumption.

May 1, 2006 in Biotech, Canada, Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

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Let's hope this pans out once it is scaled up to industrial-sized plants. Related work has also been done in Denmark:

http://www.iags.org/n052404t2.htm

Another option is to convert biomass into into methanol or DME by way of desulphurized syngas. This is particularly attractive for large paper mills that are anyhow looking at a refurbishment in the next few years:

http://www.iags.org/n052404t3.htm

Note: methanol is a neurotoxin and can cause blindness if ingested. It's flame has nearly invisible hue of blue. For both these reasons, extra care is required in handling the compound.

An additional, fairly inexpensive step permits the production of fuel-grade DME. Dimethylether is non-toxic and an excellent substitute for mineral diesel, producing virtually no PM an very low NOx when burnt. However, in the temperature range for vehicle use (-30 ... +50 degC), it is liquid only if stored under mild overpressure similar to that required for LPG. See also:

http://www.aboutdme.org/

---

Producing ethanol from food crops (corn in the US, sugarbeets in Europe, sugarcane in Brazil) is a much less attractive proposition in terms of land use, cost and GHG production. Much of the resistance to biogenic alcohols is based on experience with these first-generation production processes, rather than with these newer ones.


If pure methonol comes into widespread use, it will likely kill a few people who chose to drink it.

Most likely they won't be missed.

DME can be abused also. An overdose kills fairly quickly.

Another option is to convert biomass into into methanol or DME by way of desulphurized syngas.
Better yet, convert the "desulphurized" syngas into gasoline and diesel (like SASOL has been doing for 50+ years in South Africa), so that it can seemlessly integrate into the existing infrastructure. While SASOL's syngas is produced from coal, syngas is syngas, so once you have renewable syngas, the wheel has already been invented.

No need to go to DME or methanol - Renewable gasoline, diesel and all those other petrochemicals we have grown so attached to...

Can Butanol be derived from cellulose?

Another Canadian Ethanol company stock symbol in the U.S. market DYMTF

Angelo: The answer is yes. Please see this site:
http://www.biomassand bioenergy.nl/infoflyers/ProductionButhanol.pdf

High gas prices accelerate capital movement into alternative energies.Politicians need to calm down and break it to us that the risks associated with oil need to be priced into the product{gas}.Their frantic actions to push prices down by whatever means will return the public to their,no problem here,mentality.A domestic fuel industry will be a new source of growth and security.We have to be prepared to not welcome the drop in oil prices that would accompany a succesful alternative fuel industry.OPEC has had no problem in colluding to regulate market price for oil.We would have to push our reps to tax oil enough to keep alternative fuels competitive.The taxes could be returned to public in the form of tax credits for use of alternatives.A sort of world war two version of war bonds mentality,investing in American security,economy and environment.

We need alternatives and we need them yesterday...

Ethanol isn't ideal on a BTU basis, among other physical characteristics, but it'll do. I'd prefer butanol or BTL F-T synthesis gasoline.

Glad to see some action on this front. But faster, please.

Gerald,

Good point about the price of gas coming down when you use more renewables. I would not add a tax however.
Normally I would agree and maybe years ago it would have been good, but now I think the ball is rolling and needs to keep going without changing the process.

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