The Hillary Step: 7 Biofuels Contenders, 7 Routes to Scale, Who’s Near the Summit, Who Will Plant the Flag?
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) Every biofuels contender has its own route to the top – with unique advantages and technical challenges. Who is nearing the Summit, what’s their Hillary Step, who’s got Sherpas, who’s got oxygen? It’s the race for scale in advanced biofuels and a clear first-mover advantage awaits the winners.
…Aemetis The route to the top: Utilizing existing first-generation biofuels plants as a platform to produce high-margin chemicals and advanced fuels – accelerating the time-to-market for new technologies. … Aemetis has signed the first license agreement of CLG and ARA’s Biofuels Isoconversion process technology, which can produce Jet A, JP-8, JP-5, F-76, gasoline and diesel fuel from a diverse array of plant oil feedstocks.
Why it may plant the flag: Low-cost processes? Restarting and upgrading existing facilities that have been acquired for pennies on the dollar?
…Beta Renewables The route to the top: Low-cost construction. The magical machine at Beta Renewables is the Proesa technology, and in particular its process for generating low-cost renewable sugars. …They’ve are completing construction on their first 20 million gallon cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy. Meanwhile, they’ve landed a $99M conditional loan guarantee for a project in North Carolina. And have signed for a deployment with Graal Bio in Brazil.
Why it may plant the flag: First-mover advantage. The company is putting steel in the ground and has a finished commercial design, deployable today.
…DuPont Industrial Biosciences The route to the top: DuPont is playing on multiple fronts. As a cellulosic biofuels developer, with a first commercial project imminent in Iowa. As a biobutanol developer, in the Butamax JV with BP. A hot biobased materials brand in SOrona. As an enzyme supplier through the Genencor unit it acquired. As a JV partner with BP in a wheat ethanol project in the UK.
…Gevo The route: Conversion of first-gen corn starch ethanol plants from the highly-competitive and low-margin ethanol business to the higher-margin isobutanol business. …
Why it may plant the flag: Despite scale-up delays, it has a fantastic value proposition for first-gen ethanol plants, and is out there with an operating technology right now.
Watch out for: The company has slowed down on the ramp up to full scale, following problems in maximizing yields due to side reactions in the fermenter.
…KiOR The route to the top: Converting low-cost woods, including Southern yellow pine, into biocrude intermediates that drop-in to existing oil refineries, using a low-cost thermochemical cracking process. …
Why it may plant the flag: By 2016, the company is expected to go sub-$3.00 in terms of cost per gallon for its fuels – thereby reaching the expected parity point with fossil fuels. If it reaches that milestone – essentially, as an infrastructure-compatible, made-at-home, drop-in fuel it should be fully independent of the Renewable Fuel Standard in terms of needing a mandate to assure a market.
…LS9 The route to the top: Advanced sugar fermentation – converting sugars to diesel, jet fuel and renewable chemicals in a one-step process.
…ZeaChem The route to the top: Converting low-cost, fast-growth feedtocks, including poplar, into ethyl acetate, acetic acid and cellulosic ethanol today; and opening up three-carbon and four-carbon platforms in the future. …
Why it may plant the flag: A super high-yield hybrid process that uses both fermentation and gasification – and can yield up to 2,100 gallons per acre. …The company also is expected to undertake thereafter the addition of its alcohol-to-jet process, which will produce renewable jet fuel from alcohol, as well as adding a C3 platform that will produce higher-value 3-carbon chemicals such as propylene. READ MORE