xF Technologies Inc., developer of a family of low cost, renewable furoate esters (xF) for use as oxygenating blend components (5%-20%) in both gasoline and diesel fuels, as well as heating oil and other specialty applications, has appointed former GM Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Tom Stephens as an independent director of the Company, effective immediately. (xF calls its family of molecules “408”—a phonetic play on furoate.)
xF’s continuous production technology uses common materials (steel and plastic) at moderate operating conditions to convert a biomass feedstock into a chemical intermediate that is subsequently combined with an alcohol to form the furoate ester product. The technology allows the production of numerous products depending on the type of or mixture of alcohols. These products exhibit fuel properties similar to each other and are named for the primary alcohol used in their production. For the four smallest chain alcohols, the resultant products are called Methyl 408, Ethyl 408, Isopropyl 408 and Butyl 408.
Key properties shared by the variety of furoate esters include:
- High energy content
- High octane and acceptable cetane
- Reduction in particulate emissions of approximately 50% in diesel engine tests
- Improvement of diesel fuel lubricity
- Non-soluble in water
- Cold flow property improvement when added to biodiesel
- Corrosion inhibition properties
- Qualification expected as an advanced biofuel under RFS-2
- MSDS available for a homologue that is approved by the FDA and WHO as a food additive
In xF’s initial production step, biomass (cellulosic or starch) is broken down into sugars and lignin via acid hydrolysis. The lignin and C5 sugars are removed via filtration while the C6 sugars are routed downstream for conversion.
In a plug flow reactor, the C6 sugars are converted into the chemical intermediate chloromethyl furfural (CMF) via a proprietary chemical process. The hydrochloric acid used in hydrolysis is separated from the aqueous solution and recycled back to the inlet. The operating conditions are approximately 100 °C and 7 atm and water is formed and removed as a co-product.
The aqueous solution contains solids, and is filtered to collect the humic compost as a co-product. The filtrate flows into a stirred tank reactor where the CMF is combined with an alcohol in the presence of a proprietary, organic homogeneous catalyst to form the furoate ester.
Most commercial plants are expected to use ethanol due to local availability although methanol, propanol and butanol are also likely reactants.
Tom’s in-depth knowledge of the automotive and transportation industry, gleaned from his 43-year career at General Motors, will be invaluable in helping xF Technologies chart a course that meets the needs of the auto OEMs while reducing emissions through the production of cleaner burning advanced biofuels.—Len Rand, Chairman and CEO of xF Technologies
Prior to his retirement in 2012, Stephens was also Chairman of GM’s Energy and Environmental Strategy Board and served on GM’s Executive Committee, Global Product Development Council, GM Global Technology Operations, Inc. Board, General Motors Overseas Corporation Board, OnStar, LLC Board of Directors, and GM Technologies, LLC Board of Directors.