26 Mar Virent and Shell announce plans to develop biogasoline
Madison, Wis. – Rather than develop ethanol, Shell and Virent Energy Systems of Madison have announced a joint research and development collaboration to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components.
The companies said their extended collaboration could herald the availability of new biofuels that can be used at high blend rates in standard gasoline engines, and potentially eliminate the need for special infrastructure, new engine designs, and blending equipment.
Virent is a biofuels company that is working to commercialize new fuel technology, including its BioForming platform, to end society’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Thus far, in the first year of its research collaboration with Shell, Virent has found that its BioForming technology exceeded milestones for yield, product composition, and cost. The BioForming platform uses catalysts to convert plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery.
In addition to conventional biofuel feedstock like wheat, corn, and sugarcane, the sugars can be sourced from non-food sources like corn stover, switch grass, wheat straw, and sugarcane pulp.
Non-food sources are growing in importance as corn-based ethanol comes under fire for driving up the demand for corn and therefore the cost of corn that is so prevalent in food products.
Future plans call for additional improvements to the BioForming technology, and for scaling it up to achieve large volume commercial production.
Dr. Randy Cortright, chief technology officer and a co-founder of Virent, said the company has proven that sugars can be converted into the same hydrocarbon mixtures of today’s gasoline blends. Sugars also have been fermented into ethanol and distilled, but the new biogasoline molecules have higher energy content than ethanol and deliver better fuel efficiency. They also can be blended to make conventional gasoline or combined with gasoline containing ethanol.
In a statement released by Virent, Cortright said the results to date justify accelerating commercialization of the BioForming technology. “Our products match petroleum gasoline in functionality and performance,” he stated, adding that biogasoline can be produced at competitive costs.
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