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Renewable fuels and biochar company Cool Planet closes on $100M Series D financing

31 March 2014

Cool Planet Energy Systems, a renewable fuels and biochar company (earlier post), closed on its targeted $100 million Series D financing. All of the current strategic and venture investors added to their investment in this round, and the company significantly broadened its investor base with more than 50% of equity funds from new investors coming from outside the US. The private placement has been jointly led by UBS and Goldman Sachs.

Cool Planet’s green fuels are chemically identical to fossil fuels, with one of the lowest capital costs in the industry. The company’s process also produces a biochar-based product called CoolTerra that has the capability of making the fuel “carbon negative,” reversing the consequences of CO2 build-up from fossil fuels, the company says. Used as a soil amendment, its CoolTerra biochar product also increases crop productivity and plant health while reducing water and fertilizer requirements.

Three-core-technologies
Cool Planet’s patented technology comprises three core components:
  • Biomass Pyrolysis: Biomass is processed through a mechanical system that uses pressure and heat to create streams of useful hydrocarbon components. Cool Planet’s sources of biomass include corn stover, wood chips, and fast growing, non-food energy crops such as miscanthus.
  • Catalytic Conversion: Cool Planet has developed a number of proprietary catalytic conversion processes to convert these useful hydrocarbon components into different types of fuels. One of the catalytic conversion processes creates a high-octane gasoline blend stock that can be used in today’s standard automobiles requiring no change to existing conventional fuel distribution systems.
  • Carbon Capture: Once the useful components for fuel have been removed, the biofractionation captures the leftover plant matter in a solid carbon form called biochar. This excess carbon is highly porous and has beneficial water and nutrient retaining capabilities. By creating renewable fuel and sequestering the biochar in the ground as soil enhancer, the process permanently removes atmospheric CO2 for hundreds of years.
Click to enlarge.

Cool Planet is moving aggressively to commercialize its technology and scale production of its renewable fuel and CoolTerra products. The company broke ground on its first biofuel production facility in Alexandria, Louisiana, on 26 February 2014. The plant is expected to produce 10 million gallons per year of high-octane, renewable fuel and gasoline blendstocks, as well as CoolTerra biochar products. The company has begun selling CoolTerra for use in commercial agriculture and recently signed an agreement with Organic Waste Solutions (OWS) for water treatment and remediation.

North Bridge Venture Partners and Concord Energy were the lead investors for the round. Funding also came from existing investors BP, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips and NRG Energy), Google Ventures and the Constellation division of Exelon.

Cool Planet’s business model of building small-scale facilities located close to the biomass fuel source provides one of the lowest capital costs in the industry, enabling the company to compete directly with the traditional oil industry. Frost and Sullivan recently honored Cool Planet with a Technology Innovation Leadership Award for 2014.

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Nothing on the CoolPlanet site about the division of input carbon between liquid products, biochar and losses to the atmosphere.  The specifics of this division are crucial.

Another detail is the possibility for self-fueling of the process and its transport chain.  If the trucks which carry the biomass to the processing plant (and carry biochar back) can be powered by e.g. compressed pyrolysis gas, the system becomes energetically independent and far easier to audit and less vulnerable to disruptions in supplies.

They plan to Barge & rail their forest slash feedstocks,
Yes, they could use their Bio-Diesel to run the Barges & trains.

The Syn-Gas & Bio-oils are converted by their catalytic column to Bio-Gasoline, or Diesel or Jet fuels.
They claim a production cost of $1.50/gal.

The basic conversion; 1 ton biomass = 50 Gallons Bio-Gasoline + 1/3 ton Biochar.

They also plan to build 400K Gal/yr Mini-Refineries.

For a complete review of the current science & industry applications of Biochar please see my 2014 SSSA Biochar presentation.
How thermal conversion technologies can integrate and optimize the recycling of valuable nutrients while providing energy and building soil carbon, I believe it brings together both sides of climate beliefs.
A reconciling of both Gods' and mans' controlling hands.

2014 SSSA Presentation;
Agricultural Geo-Engineering; Past, Present & Future.
https://www.soils.org/files/am/ecosystems/kinght.pdf

Notably, KiOr and other biofuel hopefuls have promised similar product pricing. This is roughly half of current RBOB.

How close have they actually gotten in the 200kgal/day pilot? What can they actually commit from the putative 10Mgal/day Louisiana facility that was supposed to start in Feb? It should not be hard to produce the answer to the first question and provide a commitment for the second.

Since about 0% of these lofty promises have worked out so far in the panoply of recent biofuel "visions" and subsequent financial disasters, I am skeptical. It goes without saying that we would all be overjoyed to see success. But I'd also love to see Santa Claus -- I just don't expect to.

Bio char may be good for the soil, but as far as I know they do not have any buyers for the huge amounts that they will create with this process. The last I saw they were doing high school science fair experiments showing how much greener and taller the plants got with bio char. That is not doing the work of getting millions of acres to use it.

If carbon sequestration gets the recognition of government, farmers will get paid to plow bio-char into their soil.  That's bound to attract interest.

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