Biofuel Survivor Joule Lands New CEO, Plans Larger CO2-to-Fuel Plants
by Martin LaMonica (Xconomy) The list of advanced biofuel companies that failed to live up to their ambitions is long and discouraging. Joule Unlimited, though, appears to be making progress despite the headwinds of skeptical investors and, more recently, falling oil prices.
The Bedford, MA-based company last week said that Serge Tchuruk joined as CEO. He was the chairman of French telecom company Alcatel during its merger with Lucent until 2008 and was previously CEO of oil giant Total.
Tchuruk hadn’t even heard of Joule until a few months ago (he joined the board in July.) But he joined because he was intrigued by the potential of Joule’s technology, which could produce fuels from waste carbon dioxide and sunlight.
Joule has a completely different approach: it grows microorganisms that produce the fuel directly. These bugs, which grow in water, are fed carbon dioxide, sunlight, and nutrients in plastic bioreactors. The fuel is continuously siphoned off as the green-colored cyanobacteria grow.
The key to their process is genetic engineering. The microbes they grow were genetically tuned to consume carbon dioxide and secrete specific molecules, such as ethanol or diesel. The carbon dioxide would be supplied from the flue gases of a power plant or other polluter.
Tchuruk says Joule will continue to focus on fuels and scale up its operations in phases, which its modular reactors allow it to do. To build a very large-scale operation, it would likely partner with another company, he says. READ MORE