CoolPlanet BioFuels, a start-up developing technology to convert low-grade biomass into high-grade fuels including gasoline, and carbon that can be sequestered (earlier post), claims it has achieved a conversion yield of 4,000 gallons gasoline/acre biomass in pilot testing using giant miscanthus, an advanced bioenergy crop.
On an energy basis, that yield is about 12 times greater than current corn ethanol production levels, the company noted.
These test results are based on nearly optimal crop growth conditions and demonstrate what is possible in a good growing season. Under more routine growing conditions, we estimate yields of about 3,000 gallons/acre should be achievable throughout the Midwest by selecting the proper energy crop for local conditions.—Mike Cheiky, Cool Planet’s founder and CEO
The giant miscanthus was developed at the University of Mississippi and provided from a high yield plot by Repreve Renewables. Other advanced bio-energy crops, such as sorghum and switch grass, can provide similar annual yields using this new process.
Agricultural waste from food crops can also produce up to 1,000 gallons of gasoline/acre using this new technology.
Cool Planet utilizes mild process conditions. Input biomass is coarsely ground from in field air-dried bioenergy crops with moisture content in the 10-20% range. The total process time from biomass to fuel is under one hour. Total energy and biomass feedstock cost using today’s commodity pricing is under 60 cents/gallon.
The process creates ultra-high surface area carbon in an intermediate step of the conversion process. Some of this carbon can be diverted to form a soil enhancer which can grow more crops and sequester carbon dioxide.
Although opting to divert some of the carbon to soil enhancer will reduce the current fuel output, it can generate more fertile farm land for more food and fuel production over a several year period, particularly in areas which have low land productivity today. This sequestering process gives the Cool Planet fuel a low or even negative carbon rating.
CoolPlanet’s cellulosic gasoline is chemically identical to fossil gasoline. The only way it can be detected is by carbon 14 isotope analysis which determines the ratio of carbon from biomass versus carbon from fossil sources in a fuel mixture. Since this gasoline has no oxygenates, it is not subject to the ethanol blend wall and can be seamlessly mixed with pump gas.
CoolPlanet’s fuel has been tested by independent laboratories as well as four of the top ten gasoline producers in the world. The company has received California (CARB) and US EPA approval for fleet testing as a splash blend with conventional pump gasoline.
CoolPlanet’s pilot facilities can support several fleet tests. CoolPlanet has started fabrication of a mass production ready modular refinery, a design that facilitates rapid deployment around the US and the world. The company plans to install several plants over the next two years with rapid build out thereafter.
Investors in CoolPlanet include BP, Shea Ventures, General Electric, Google Ventures, ConocoPhillips, NRG and North Bridge Venture Partners. (Earlier post.)