26 June 2006 00:00 [Source: ICB]
Chevron and the Georgia Institute of Technology are joining forces to develop commercially viable processes for the production of transportation fuels from renewable resources such as forest and agricultural waste.
Over the next five years, Chevron says it will spend $12m on collaborations aimed at developing ‘second-generation’ energy technologies that are based on cellulosic biofuels and hydrogen.
‘Once developed, second-generation processing technology will allow waste products to be converted into renewable transportation fuels, opening the door to a new phase in alternative energy,’ said Rick Zalesky, vice president of biofuels and hydrogen at Chevron subsidiary, Chevron Technology Ventures.
The researchers aim to use a process called aqueous phase reforming to convert biomass such as wood or switchgrass directly into hydrogen or hydrocarbon transporation fuels.
Hydrogen is not a new energy source, but is an energy carrier. Produced from other energy sources such as coal, nuclear, natural gas or renewables, hydrogen energy is therefore only as clean as the original source from which it is made.
The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform was launched in 2004 to speed the development of these technologies in Europe, and is currently preparing an implementation setting out ‘targets and priorities for integrated research and demonstration actions needed to take the hydrogen and fuels cells to market readiness in five to ten years,’ said commissioner for science and research, Janez Potocnik, speaking at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference earlier this month.
However, some energy experts remain sceptical about a future hydrogen economy, as the gas is still expensive to produce, and would require a new energy structure costing hundreds of billions of euros to install.
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