Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunlight + CO2 = Hydrocarbon Fuels and Chemicals

Joule Biotechnologies announced its process for microbial fuels production at the Bio Pacific Rim Conference in Honolulu.
unlike algae and other current biomass-derived fuels, the Helioculture process does not produce biomass, requires no agricultural feedstock and minimizes land and water use. It is also direct-to-product, so there is no lengthy extraction and/or refinement process.

The breakthrough was made possible by the discovery of unique genes coding for enzymatic mechanisms that enable the direct synthesis of both alkane and olefin molecules – the chemical composition of diesel. Production was achieved at lab scale, with pilot development slated for early 2011.

Because its organisms are being engineered to directly secrete hydrocarbon molecules, Joule will avoid costly steps such as large-scale biomass collection, energy-intensive degradation, or other downstream refinement. In addition, Joule’s process requires just marginal, non-arable land, no crops and no fresh water. __BiofuelsDigest
This is just an announcement of a lab finding, but it is an indication of the direction that the biofuels industry is eventually trending.

For those slow thinkers who are still worried that biomass production will not be able to keep up with the looming demand for biofuels, Ceres tells them to think again:
Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. plans to expand an advanced trait development project to increase biomass yields of several energy grasses by as much as 40% in coming years, while simultaneously decreasing the use of inputs such as nitrogen fertilizers. The project will be funded in part by a $5 million ARPA-E grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE). (Earlier post.)

Projections indicate that the Ceres traits alone could displace 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 58 million tons of coal over a ten-year period. Depending on cropping practices, 1.2 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer could be eliminated (about the amount of nitrogen needed for 24 million acres of cotton), among other benefits. _GCC
Most critics of biofuels in academia, media, government, and think tanks, are mere bureaucratic mentalities. They lack the imagination and resourcefulness that people in growing and innovative industries require as a basic prerequisite. It is no wonder that these bureaucrats are always several years behind what is happening.

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