Friday, March 16, 2012

Biofuel from wood chips gets closer

The "biofuel from wood chips" process gets a backer:  last September I had posted (h/t NYTimes) about a Pennsylvania-based company with a new process involving using supercritical water to turn cellulose into biofuel. A commenter was dubious, but it turns out that "the largest diversified chemical company in the world" (link) is not: back in January, BASF announced it was investing $30 million into the company, Renmatix.   (Added 3/18: Cheap sugars are the new oil, says the CEO of a competitor. (link))

"Renmatix has a unique method for converting non-food biomass, such as wood chips, municipal waste, or grasses, into fuels or chemicals. Methods tried by other companies, including using specialty enzymes and heat-driven chemical processes, have by and large failed to scale up. The result is that nearly all biofuel, such as ethanol, is made from corn or sugar cane. " (link)

MIT's Technology Review has an article about the process.  Using wood waste rather than corn or sugarcane would have the advantage of letting the poor still eat while the rich drive.

And a competitor is progressing as well: earlier this month, California company Virdia (formerly HCL CleanTech) rebranded itself and announced a $75m deal with Mississippi for plants there.  Bloomberg reports that "The Mississippi plant will use concentrated acids to process 350,000 tons of wood a year...into 150,000 tons of sugar", according to new company CEO Philippe Lavielle.

Biofuels Digest might be the place to keep up on this news.  Are there other good resources?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Complete dissolution and hydrolysis of wood in hot water