What if there was a way to take plant waste (like corn husks) and turn it into bio fuels? What if this also removed carbon from our atmosphere? What if the same process also produced a substance that would help turn deserts back into productive crop land? What if this process could be done on an industrial scale but also could be made self-contained in a small village so that farmers all over the world could get the economic benefits of producing bio fuels with their agri-waste and simultaneously help clean our atmosphere? Too good to be true?
CoolPlanet Energy Systems is developing a revolutionary thermal/mechanical processor which directly inputs raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residue, algae, etc. and produces multiple distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional fuel components.
In support of the above biomass fractionator , the company is also developing a range of simple one-step catalytic conversion processes which mate with the fractionator’s output gas streams to produce useful products such as eBTX (high octane gasoline), synthetic diesel and proprietary ultra-high crop yield super fuels.
CoolPlanet Energy Systems plans to package its proprietary biomass fractionator together with an “open architecture” chemical processing section in standard modular shipping containers which can each produce up to 2 million gallons of fuel per year. These modular fuel processors can be equipped with CoolPlanet Energy Systems’ catalytic conversion processes and/or your own selection of dryers, separators, catalytic processes, etc.
Fast thermal/mechanical processing of biomass typically also produces a large quantity of neutral carbon since biomass has substantial excess carbon versus hydrogen when used to produce conventional petrochemical fuel components. The company is also developing long term sequestration options for this excess carbon.
Cool Planet is developing technology to convert any type of cellulosic biomass including agricultural waste and fast growing energy crops into sustainable gasoline. The fuel that Cool Planet produces can be carbon neutral because it comes from bio-sources and the company is also pioneering revolutionary negative carbon fuels which can more aggressively address global warming and sustainability issues. Cool Planet’s investors include General Electric, Google, BP, Conoco Phillips, NRG and the Constellation Energy division of Exelon as well as venture capitalists North Bridge Venture Partners and Shea Ventures. Cool Planet Energy Systems plans to mass produce refinery equipment for the conversion of biomass to liquid fuels and its Cool Planet Biofuels division will partner with a wide range of commercial interests to operate these mini-refineries around the world.
In Feb, 2012, Cool Planet BioFuels announced that it has made a major breakthrough in converting biomass to gasoline. The Company achieved 4,000 gallons/acre biomass to gasoline conversion in pilot testing using giant miscanthus, an advanced bioenergy crop. Gasoline has about one and a half times the energy of ethanol, so this is about twelve times more yield than current corn ethanol production levels. The giant miscanthus was developed at the University of Mississippi and provided from a high yield plot by Repreve Renewables. Other advanced bio-energy crops, such as sorghum and switch grass, can provide similar annual yields using this new process.
“These test results are based on nearly optimal crop growth conditions and demonstrate what is possible in a good growing season. Under more routine growing conditions, we estimate yields of about 3,000 gallons/acre should be achievable throughout the Midwest by selecting the proper energy crop for local conditions,” says Mike Cheiky, Cool Planet’s founder and CEO.
Agricultural waste from food crops can also produce up to 1,000 gallons of gasoline/acre using this new technology. The process creates ultra-high surface area carbon in an intermediate step of the conversion process. Some of this carbon can be diverted to form a very potent soil enhancer which can grow more crops and sequester carbon dioxide. Although opting to divert some of the carbon to soil enhancer will reduce the current fuel output, it can generate more fertile farm land for more food and fuel production over a several year period, particularly in areas which have low land productivity today. This sequestering process gives the Cool Planet fuel a low or even negative carbon rating.
More on the renewable cellulosic gasoline process:
This breakthrough utilizes mild process conditions, with process temperatures comparable to a kitchen stovetop and maximum pressures comparable to a portable tire inflator. Input biomass is coarsely ground from in field air-dried bioenergy crops with moisture content in the 10-20% range. Many advanced energy crops retain root structure for several years and are simply cut down once a year for harvesting, dramatically reducing the carbon intensity of agricultural activities versus other bio sources such as algae farming or wood clearing, chipping and drying. The total process time from biomass to fuel is under one hour. Total energy and biomass feedstock cost using today’s commodity pricing is under 60 cents/gallon.
Cool Planet’s cellulosic gasoline is chemically identical to fossil gasoline. The only way it can be detected is by carbon 14 isotope analysis which determines the ratio of carbon from biomass versus carbon from fossil sources in a fuel mixture. Since this gasoline has no oxygenates, it is not subject to the ethanol blend wall and can be seamlessly mixed with pump gas. Cool Planet’s fuel has been tested by independent laboratories as well as four of the top ten gasoline producers in the world. The Company has received California (CARB) and U.S. EPA approval for fleet testing as a splash blend with conventional pump gasoline. Cool Planet’s pilot facilities can support several fleet tests. Cool Planet has started fabrication of a mass production ready modular refinery, a design that facilitates rapid deployment around the US and the world. The Company plans to install several plants over the next two years with rapid build out thereafter to provide a significant amount of the world’s liquid fuel by 2020.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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