Move Over Ethanol – Sugar Into Gasoline Is Cheaper And Easier, Say Researchers

Posted on September 22, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Old news from my blog, but important news for “media hyped on biuofuels”
From “new news” press release at scientificblogging.com
Chemical engineer Randy Cortright and his colleagues at Virent Energy Systems of Madison, Wisc., and researchers led by NSF-supported chemical engineer James Dumesic of the University of Wisconsin at Madison are now announcing that sugars and carbohydrates can be processed like petroleum into the full suite of products that drive the fuel, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
The physical properties of Virent’s Biogasoline product spontaneously separate from water. This requires very little energy for processing compared with the energy-intensive process of distillation required for ethanol purification.
 
The process Virent discovered in early 2006, and announced at the Growing the Bioeconomy conference sponsored by Iowa State University on Sept. 9, 2008, is the subject of patent applications published last week.
 
According to Dumesic, a key feature of the approach is that between the sugar or starch starter materials and the hydrocarbon end products, the chemicals go through an intermediate stage as an organic liquid composed of functional compounds.
 
“The intermediate compounds retain 95 percent of the energy of the biomass but only about 40 percent of the mass, and can be upgraded into different types of transportation fuels, such as gasoline, jet and diesel fuels,” said Dumesic. “Importantly, the formation of this functional intermediate oil does not require the need for an external source of hydrogen,” he added, since hydrogen comes from the slurry itself.
 
As part of a suite of second generation biofuel alternatives, green gasoline approaches like aqueous phase reforming are generating interest across the academic and industrial communities because they yield a product that is compatible with existing infrastructure, closer than many other alternatives in their net energy yield, and most importantly, can be crafted from plants grown in marginal soils, like switchgrass, or from agricultural waste.
 
While several years of further development will be needed to refine the process and scale it for production, the promise of gasoline and other petrochemicals from renewable plants has led to broad industrial interest.
 
Read full at scientificblogging.com
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