|Gas chromatograph traces of conventional 87 octane gasoline (top) and CoolPlanetBioFuels drop-in gasoline produced from corn cobs. Source: CoolPlanetBioFuels. Click to enlarge.|
GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE, has joined an $8-million funding round for CoolPlanetBioFuels, a start-up company developing a technology that converts low-grade biomass into high-grade fuels, including gasoline, and carbon that can be sequestered. This venture capital investment was led by North Bridge Venture Partners, which had also led CoolPlanet’s financing round last year. Additional financial details were not disclosed. CoolPlanet’s research and development facilities are located in Camarillo, CA.
CoolPlanetBioFuels is developing modular thermal/mechanical processors which directly input raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residue, and algae and produces multiple distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional fuel components.
In support of the biomass fractionator, the company is also developing a range of one-step catalytic conversion processes which mate with the fractionator’s output gas streams to produce products such as eBTX (high octane gasoline), synthetic diesel and proprietary ultra-high crop yield “super” fuels.
|CoolPlanetFuels’s proprietary biofractionator modules can produce a range of high-value hydrocarbon fuel components at low cost. Click to enlarge.|
At the GoingGreen Silicon Valley 2010 conference in October, Mike Rocke, CoolPlanetBiofuels VP Business Development, said that the startup could produce carbon-neutral gasoline from biomass for less than $1.00/gallon US.
Biomass throughput time in the biomass fractionator is minutes, Rocke said earlier at a conference at Stanford. Two fractionators in a module can produce one million gallons of gasoline per year, with capex of $0.50/gallon to install—i.e., $0.10/gallon over a five year life.
CoolPlanetBioFuels plans to package its biomass fractionator together with an open architecture chemical processing section in standard modular shipping containers which can each produce up to 1 million gallons of fuel per year. These modular fuel processors can be equipped with CoolPlanetBioFuels’ catalytic conversion processes and/or a third-party selection of dryers, separators, catalytic processes, and so on.
Fast thermal/mechanical processing of biomass typically also produces a large quantity of neutral carbon since biomass has substantial excess carbon versus hydrogen when used to produce conventional petrochemical fuel components. The company is also developing long term sequestration options for this excess carbon.
When the excess process carbon is used for fuel such as a coal substitute, the entire process is carbon neutral and, thus produces both carbon neutral petrochemical compatible components and a carbon neutral coal substitute, the company says.
Alternately, if the excess carbon is sequestered long term as soil conditioner, the corresponding petrochemical components can have an N100 Negative Carbon Rating. That is, their use is not only carbon neutral in nature, but has associated with it, an equivalent amount of carbon sequestration, thus providing up to twice the global warming reduction benefits of technologies such as solar or wind electricity production and solar or wind recharged electric vehicles.
We’ve been very impressed by the progress CoolPlanet has made since we initially backed it one year ago and are pleased to have GE on board. The fuel market is one of the world’s largest at about $4 trillion per year. Today, biofuels are only a tiny portion of that market, but are poised for rapid growth based on concerns about global warming and importing oil.—Basil R. Horangic, North Bridge Venture Partners