The Sherpas: 7 Biofuels Feedstock Developers Clearing Paths to the Summit
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) Every great biofuels technology has its own companion feedstock strategy – with unique advantages and technical challenges. Who’s got what it takes to be a great Sherpa, providing that feedstock or intermediates edge that puts a processing technology first on the Summit? Who’s got speed and capacity?
We observed earlier that, while the critical expansion steps in biofuels scale-up are often described as the Valley of Death – the last steps are more like the mountaineering Death Zone above 8,000 meters – short on oxygen, fouling weather about, grueling steps in the thin air, and technical challenges abounding. The true winners know, as Everest veteran Ed Viesturs observed, “there are no shortcuts to the top.”
No processing technology makes it to the Summit without its trusty feedstock partner – the unsung Sherpas that provide the energy grasses and canes, oilseed crops, algae, or low-cost renewable sugars.
…Ceres Why a Sherpa? Developing high-yield energy canes and grasses with advanced traits such as drought-tolerance – notably, sweet sorghum that it is deploying as a rotation crop for Brazilian sugar cane, making it possible for Brazilian producers to continue to make sugar during a canefield’s down-months.
The latest from base camp: In September, for biomass markets, Ceres unveiled the next generation of improvements in its switchgrass product line — the first hybrid switchgrass developed for bioenergy.
…Chromatin Why a Sherpa? Developing high-yield biomass sorghum for the power, fuels and chemicals markets – has a unique gene-stacking technology that can insert multiple new traits in target crops, dramatically shortening the cycle time from lab to field.
The latest from base camp: Earlier this year, Chromatin scored a $5.7 million contract under the PETRO (Plants Engineered To Replace Oil) program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The award funds a three-year program to develop new varieties of sweet sorghum for use as an energy-rich, low cost feedstock for transportation fuels.
…Proterro Why a Sherpa? A developer of high-performance, low-cost renewable sugars using synthetic biology – generating sugars, using a modified cyanobacteria to make sucrose directly from CO2, water, nutrients and sunlight instead of growing biomass and extracting sugars therefrom.
...SG Biofuels Why a Sherpa? A developer of high-performing energy crops with improved yields and profitability, currently focused on “jatropha 2.0″, based on an intensive breeding and selection program identifies and develops productive, regionally adapted material from an extensive array of genetic diversity.
…Solazyme Why a Sherpa? A developer of renewable oils for a broad array of markets – foods, dielectric fluids, chemicals, and fuels. Produces its tailored oils from a platform based on heterotrophic (non photosynthetic algae) grown in fermenters.
...Sweetwater Energy Why a Sherpa? A developer of low-cost renewable sugars using multiple sources – from agricultural residues to harvested wood for biofuel, biochemical and bioplastics refineries, generating separate and concentrated individual streams of C5 and C6 sugars that allow a single processing site to serve the needs of multiple customers.
...Virdia Why a Sherpa? A developer of low-cost cellulosic sugars (and lignin), using concentrated hydrochloric acid hydrolysis, producing concentrated streams of greater than 90% monomeric sugars, containing a variety of hexoses and pentoses. Virdia’s sugars contain no inhibitors and ferment well when compared to corn or cane sugars. The sugars have negligible degradation products such as furfurals, HMF, acetic acid and soluble phenolic compounds. READ MORE