Incitor and the Birth of a New Low-Cost Fuel Molecule
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) A new drop-in, low-cost, high-octane fuel molecule? How does that work, and why, and when? How does it change the energy independence equation? Today, the Digest visits Incitor to find out about Alestron.
…Back in 2008, there was a flurry of coverage of a new class of fuel molecules that could be made affordably from cellulose – the furans. There was some exciting work at Berkeley. Companies like Avantium and Lignol were working with one member of that class, furfural. Raven Biofuels had a process that landed it briefly in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy.
The efforts didn’t pan out as hoped – primarily, the companies simply couldn’t shake enough of the costs out of the process, and had more promising near-term technologies to focus on.
But the idea was most intriguing.
First, the processes didn’t lose carbon by producing CO2 as a byproduct of fermentation.
Second, they generally produced a fuel molecule with around 120,000 BTUs (around the same as gasoline), that could safely run in 50 percent blends with gasoline or diesel.
Third, they used ethanol as a feedstock for the second step in a two-step conversion process – thereby giving you a path for getting around the E10-E15 ethanol “blend wall”.
Now, along comes Incitor. This intriguing company aims for some of the same chemistries, and a cost of $2.25 per gallon for a fuel that it has dubbed Alestron (which it produces from a process that also yields companion chemical market molecules, including ethyl levulinate). All based on a modeled cost of $75 per tonne of biomass.
…Part of Incitor’s magic? They are using an organic catalyst – no expensive rare-metal catalysts that have to be recovered as completely as possible due to their high costs, requiring a whole recovery system to be designed into the overall process. And, a low-temperature process, which shakes out much of the energy cost.
You can read more about Incitor’s process here.
…Incitor’s process works with “corn stover, wheat straw, woody waste, solid waste, algae, or pretty much any sugar containing biomass,” the founders say.
Intriguing, that algae option – generally, that means residual algae biomass after the lipids are extracted – as sugars are the target here. READ MORE