Heat Death: Joule Unlimited Collapses as Oil Prices Flag, Time Passes, Pressure Mounts
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) One of the more striking outcomes from the DOE Bioeconomy 2017 conference in Washington DC was confirmation of the demise of Joule Unlimited. “We had a lot of prospects last year,” former CEO Brian Baynes told The Digest, “but those new investor prospects walked away, particularly post election. The insiders would have been happy to see this project go forward, but didn’t have an ability to go it alone given the amount of capital we needed. Baynes was responding to reports that the technology and the Hobbs, New Mexico pilot facility would be auctioned shortly.
Baynes clarified to The Digest that the cessation of development of Joule’s technology by its investor set would not have any direct impact on Red Rock Biofuels, which was acquired by Joule and continues to seek to finance its first commercial plant to make diesel and aviation fuels from wood residues, under the management of Jeff Matternech and Terry Kulesa.
The news marks another victim of investor gloom over what is turning into a long-term depression in oil prices.
Joule technology applied engineered biocatalysts to continuously convert waste CO2 directly into renewable fuels such as ethanol or hydrocarbons for diesel, jet fuel and gasoline.
One continuing quest for Joule had been obtaining low-cost, clean CO2 for its process that created ethanol. diesel and jet fuel from CO2 and water. We last reported an update on CO2 acquisition efforts in December 2015 when Joule and HeidelbergCement announced a partnership designed to explore application of Joule’s technology to mitigate carbon emissions in cement manufacturing — and opened up the possibility of co-locating a Joule plant at a Heidelberg site.
The Joule-RedRock merger — now, unmerged
In November 2015, we reported that Joule and Red Rock merged — always, an odd marriage of convenience. The technologies had similar end goals in renewable diesel and jet fuel, but wildly different approaches (Red Rock, based in gasification and the Fisher-Tropsch process, while Joule was fermentation-based and used cyanobacteria). READ MORE