10 July 2008 20:54 [Source: ICIS news]
NEW YORK (ICIS News)--US bioscience company Virent Energy Systems is planning for a larger scale pilot plant for its sugar-based gasoline, with a capacity of around 25 gal/day (95 litres/day), a senior executive said on Thursday.
The six-year old firm expects to get the new pilot plant operating next year, said Randy Cortright, vice president and chief technical officer.
Virent’s current gasoline units generate about 0.5 gal/day. The company has 16 pilot plants in operation.
“We are looking at [building] a commercial demonstration unit within 3-4 years, and we see commercial production at around the 6-7 year time frame,” Cortright said. “We’d like to go faster, but, in order to get more funding, you have to prove the technology works.”
He added, “If we are going to build a 100m gal/year biogasoline plant, we are looking at an investment of $200m-300m [€128m-192m].”
Virent’s biogasoline currently uses non-food grade sugar from sugarcane, and it is produced through a patented catalytic chemical reaction instead of fermentation.
The company’s process also has the flexibility to use different biomass sources or even mixed sugar feedstock, Cortright said.
The company's gasoline is already fully compatible with existing engine vehicles, pipelines and fuel pumps, he said. “Our biogasoline has the same components, functionality and performance as that of standard unleaded gas.”
In terms of production costs, Cortright said Virent’s process is more competitive compared with ethanol, at 20%-30% less per BTU cost.
Virent formed a five-year joint venture with Shell in March to further improve its gasoline product for commercialisation. The companies started collaborating last year, mostly for hydrogen production from biomass.
Aside from hydrogen and hydrocarbon fuels, the company’s technology can also produce sugar-based and glycerol-based chemicals, Cortright said.
Virent is also developing sugar-based jet fuels with a partner and will soon announce a collaboration deal, he said.
“We can make with our process the same molecules that you see in standard jet fuel,” Cortright said.
($1 = €0.64)
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