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Shell Hydrogen and Virent Energy Systems to Partner on Virent’s Hydrogen from Biomass Process

Shell Hydrogen, LLC and Virent Energy Systems announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for hydrogen production.

Virent is the developer of an aqueous phase reforming (APR) process for the conversion of readily available biomass-generated feedstocks, such as glucose, sucrose, sorbitol and glycerol to carbon-neutral hydrogen, fuel gas or value-added chemicals. (Earlier post.) The vast majority of hydrogen today is produced using fossil fuels, including natural gas and coal.

The BioForming process is Virent’s first commercial application of APR pathway. The BioForming process is a catalytic, low-temperature (180º–260º C) method for the production of hydrogen and/or fuel gas from oxygenated compounds. The APR systems can be designed to deliver predominantly hydrogen or alkanes (natural gas, ethane, butane and propane), or a customized blend of these fuels (which Virent has tagged with the term “Supernatural Fuels”).

In 2006, Virent and Madison (Wisconsin) Gas & Electric (MGE) implemented a 10kW power generation system that uses an APR provess to convert sugars and glycerin directly into hydrogen and natural gas as fuel for a Ford 1.6-liter, four-cylinder combustion engine genset.

Virent and Shell will collaborate on the development and testing of hydrogen systems targeted for fueling station applications at Virent’s facilities in Madison and the Shell Westhollow Technology Center in Houston. If research and development goes to plan, initial deployment of the new technology at a Shell hydrogen fueling station could follow within several years.

Strategic collaborations with organizations, like Shell, that have a strong environmental commitment, a global footprint, and significant technical expertise are a key component of our commercialization plan. This collaboration will speed development and deployment of our technology not only in hydrogen fueling station applications, but in the broader industrial hydrogen market as well

—Eric Apfelbach, Virent’s president and CEO



If oil companies want to get their hydrogen this way rather than natural gas, great.


They're going to need the hydrogen for upgrading heavy crude (which is becoming more and more common at refineries) anyway. Might as well get it from a nonfossil source.


They claimed to have also used this Bio-Forming process to make Green Gasoline. How's that sound for a sleeper technology company?

"And so Virent is now looking for the most efficient way to create liquid fuels with the BioForming process.’You can put sugar in our reactor, run it through one tube, put it in a lawn mower and cut the grass,' Apfelbach recounts, adding that this is something Virent has actually done."



That is nothing, I leave my solar powered lawn mower plugged into the solar panels and I can cut the lawn too. The same energy that makes the grass grow allows me to cut it, pollution free.


SJC, thats the same setup i'm running. I'm using a 10 year old 24 volt sears mulching mower. What are you using?


I built my own starting with a Black and Decker AC electric. I would imagine that Sears had B&D make the mower for them.

The solar charging makes good sense. You mow on the weekends and it charges during the week. No gasoline, no fumes, no pollution nor fire danger. Nice and quiet too.


And no extension cord?


No, it is a battery powered cordless mower. Black and Decker has had them for sale for about 10 years. Others have too.


Hmm. I'm ok with a push mower, but I think I might just get one for my father. What various bits and bobs do you need to make it solar?


Just solar panels and perhaps a voltage regulator. You would have to study the design of the cordless mower that you select.

If it is just unregulated DC coming from the device that you plug into the wall,
and the mower charge circuitry can tolerate the higher no load voltage of the panels, you may be able to just plug the panels right in.

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