Emerging Tech

Biofuel start-up to make ethanol at $1 a gallon

Coskata, a firm from Illinois, promises to produce ethanol for less than $1 per gallon from a process that uses bacteria for ethanol generation from organic material.

Coskata, a firm from Illinois, promises to produce ethanol for less than $1 per gallon from a process that uses bacteria for ethanol generation from organic material.

An excerpt from Wired:

"It's not five years away, it's not 10 years away. It's affordable, and it's now," said Wes Bolsen, the company's vice president of business development.

The discovery underscores the rapid innovation under way in the race to make cellulosic ethanol cheaply. With the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requiring an almost five-fold increase in ethanol production to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022, scientists are working quickly to reach that breakthrough.

"It signals just how hot the competition is right now," said David Friedman, research director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "There are a lot of people diving into this right now, trying to figure out how to crack the nut. This increases my confidence that someone will do it."

Besides cutting production costs to fire sale prices, the process avoids some key drawbacks of making ethanol from corn, company officials said. It wouldn't impact the food supply, and its net energy balance is high because the technique works almost anywhere using almost anything with great efficiency. The end result will be E85 sold at the pump for about a dollar cheaper per gallon than gasoline, according to the company.

The firm is backed by investors, such as General Motors, and it is looking forward to setting up regional production centers that can operate on local feedstock. The process to generate cellulosic ethanol can include materials ranging from corn husks to household thrash. These developments should be a major push for the use of E85 fuel.

34 comments
symblogogy
symblogogy

Bacteria Delivers "Buck-A-Gallon" Biofuel Solution (two approaches) There was a time one could buy fuel for ones car or truck for a "Buck-A-Gallon" and it is a past we can embrace right now ... TODAY! Well, at least General Motors seems to think so with its investment in Biofuel processing startup Coskata. The key to the conversion approach Coskata has perfected uses bacteria to break down the broad array of organic waste (switch grasses, twigs, corn husks, leaves, landscape waste, and other non-food sources of organic material) and make Ethanol for a fuel mix or replacement. The real kicker is that this process not only protects our current food paradigm built upon corn for feed and food, this bacteria process uses far less petroleum fuel (about 13% as opposed to 77% - or 17 times more efficient) and water while greatly increasing the productive output per bale of feedstock in order to create a gallon of this cleaner burning substance here on the Oblate Spheroid. The second approach comes from the research work pursued at The Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University. The biofuel developed for ASU's "Tubes in the Desert" project avoids many of the downsides presented by biofuels such as corn, cellulose or other crops/plants. Because it uses a microscopic bacteria as the fuel source, it doesn't compete with food crops and could yield a much larger amount of fuel per acre. The bacteria are grown in transparent tubes, hence the name. Source Link>> http://oblate-spheroid.blogspot.com/2008/01/bacteria-delivers-buck-gallon-biofuel.html

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

relied on 'synthetic self-reproducing fuel protoid' to power the star cruiser they crashed in Lake Michigan. Looks like we're at last catching up! Will have to put a bunch of these in my next Star Cruiser (which will get really lousy AU per protoid) Learn to Drive, Incompentant Humans!

Biofuelsimon
Biofuelsimon

the approach to use old tech based around fischer tropsch technology is probably going to be pretty solid. If it takes more energy to make than gasoline, then increase fuel efficiency. Gasoline is well underpriced for the benefits that it gives to drivers.

DanLM
DanLM

Shoot, I own a flex car. And I can't find a bloody e85 station close enough to make it worth the trouble of using it. I bought it just for this reason, I wanted to move away from gasoline. I will waist more fuel trying to find a damn e85 station then I will just not using it. Only part of the problem has been solved. Distribution is the other part. Dan

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

The fuel costs more and the heat content is less. (meaning far less mileage) And you can't actually buy the fuel. Whoopee. No wonder they government has to give these things away. The reality is, that ethenol and the like is not going to go anywhere until it become economical. If it really can be pulled off at $1/gallon, then that's awesome. Until then...

DanLM
DanLM

Would be clsoe enough to the growing states to see the stations becoming a reality. As far as the tax credit, sorry. I did it because I can't stand sending money to foreign nations for my fuel use. Sorry If I'm not out to rape the system like alot of people are. dan

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

It's merely consumers acting rationally. I recently read an article stating that perhaps less than 10% of the "flex" fuel cars/trucks are actually using the fuel. Most people bought them because they were artificially cheaper or because they wanted to look or feel "green". Don't get me wrong; I'm not knocking you. Given the choice with everything being equal I'd just assume my energy dollars stay here as well. But the problem is that we're a long way off from everything "being equal", and politicians picking winners and losers is only going to make the wait even longer.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

when it becomes a fuel by itself. right now the high price, limited availability (by itself) and mandatory mix-in with reg gas mean that's where it goes, and it IS in most gas mixes (at the 10% or whatever low level is). This should change, should enuf of the fuel become available. people will both buy flex fuel cars (good) and do conversions themselves like they did for bio-diesel (not as good as not designed for it orig.) methanol / ethanol can be shipped using exising pipelines, problem is only portions go where we want, as they come from oil areas not farm areas but last half portions might be used into cities. etc. chicken and egg thing. Being greedy capitalists, we are flexible and will figure it out with minimum disruption. This will continue the venture capital to ethanol which was drying up due to people realizing was way expensive. Farmers will be more self reliant, be able to power their own plant and vehicles. or at least buy from nearby ethanol plants. Even power their underground mara-hoochie farms with ethanol so as not to attract attention from excess electricity use.

roog
roog

Nothing is "Going To Go" in the Energy field, unless the Present Energy Companies control IT and its Profits. POWER (what ever kind; Energy, Economic, Religious, Political, or Social) all has to yield, To Power. And don't kid yourself, We The People, Don't have the POWER

DanLM
DanLM

Wake up child. You have BIG business investing in this right now. From private equity firms to GMAC. What else do you need to see, the stars from being slapped along side the head to come down off your anti big buisness soap box? Dan

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Not even the evil energy cartels control the laws of physics or even economics.

DanLM
DanLM

I made a prediction last year march time when I bought this car that ethanol would become popular. Basically got my face ripped off, but thats ok. My feelings then, as they are now is as follows: Advances will be made to make ethanol economical. I have no predictions now, nor did I then, on how the final product would be made. Still don't know why farmers don't figure out a way to grow sugar cane here. Cross breading, what ever. Ethanol is not the final answer, it is only part of the answer to the energy crisis. To rely solely on ethanol is to put ourselves in the same position we are now. Under the thumb. I would rather pay an American farmer then some foreign national that hates this country for my energy. If it means paying more, so be it. At least I will be helping a fellow country man/woman who believes in this nation and not someone that spits when ever they mention the United States. The most important point being though, this is not the final solution. This is only part of the solution. And from everything I have been told, it is not a large part of the solution. Dan

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

ethanol from corn is a farce, expensive one. Ethanol from cellulose should be getting much cheaper. If you have a flex fuel car, will come in handy in a few years as oil hits $150 and $200/barrel. You're right, only part of energy solution, but a good part. They can't grow sugarcane in north as not enuf intense sunlight and warmth. No matter what they breed it with. Switchgrass and others are like sugarcane but without the 'free sugars', all energy bound up in the lignins and cellulose. I foresee large areas of cheap solar PV panels and thermo-solar in the SW like AZ and CA. the crust under CA is 800oF so thermal power will also be booming (20% of total, in next 4 years). Not so much thermal on east coast as crust is 400o only. Nukes have no CO2 but have horrible waste disposal, toxic release and expense problems. (not a cheap form of e-) And there are vast areas of midwest where strong winds can come into play. Not to e- directly but perhaps to electrolyze water and store it as methanol by combining with the CO2 in the air or byproduct of plants.

bellboy
bellboy

David Bransby, professor of energy crops at Auburn University, is an expert on switch grass, which President Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address. Bransby says switch grass is cheap to grow and provides a high yield crop that can make a lot of ethanol for a low cost. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5183608

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Use this stuff and wreck your car.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

And as usual, I wonder why I reply since you're a seagull. "Somebody Slap Me!"

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

you dont get slaps when you want them. However, I did feed a troll earlier :0 What's wrong, not getting the daily minimums? Feeling left out? Try Tequila

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Great Googly Moogly, aren't I screwed up enough for you when I'm sober?

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

as high speed dragsters and others have been using it for years. the only thing it does bad to your car is eat away at fuel lines which is about a $100 replacement and dift settings for the combustion. Good thinking Balthor! Good ole' Al-quaida pot party corporations like General Motors with their Flex-fuel cars that take this stuff as fuel! Keep smoking that stuff and playing that music, you'll reach a higher plane.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The Brazilians have been making cellulosic ethanol for years. We're one of the few dumb enough to try to make it from corn. There are better sources that require less energy to extract, yield more ethanol per energy and material used, and use materials that would otherwise go to waste instead of competing with a food source.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

they have been making it from the sugar cane's sugars, not the cellulose. the cellulose, while composed of sugars, is VERY tightly bound together. Even termites can't eat it. They rely on protozoan's in their gut to break it down. Everyone has been waiting for mass production of cheap cellulosic enzymes that will allow it to be made from any cellulosic stock. This will pull pressure off food sources. And this will de-centralize this kind of energy production which is good for reliability of supply (and the 'little people'). The other hopeful piece in the puzzle has now come together: mass-fabricated solar cells in five layers directly on aluminum panels that are BELOW the cost of coal plant generation, and use NO crystalline silicon (costs way too much). Plant in CA has been in production since 12-2007 and plant in germany being built. (see nanosolar.com, and no, you can't invest in them)

jdclyde
jdclyde

as are the local sugar companies here in Michigan. They are looking HARD at using sugar and want to get in while people are throwing a lot of money at the problem. GW is making a lot of "environmentalists" very rich.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

Sugar Cane makes much better quality ethanol. On a side note: Brazil offered a HUGE amount of ethanol to replace gas here in the states, and was ready to setup thousands of acres for sugar cane/ethanol production. But the US was going to increase tarriffs to keep corn as the 'low cost' ethanol solution in the US.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

costwise till the cellulosic biofuel can be implemented, which it appears is now. We've been giving huge subsidizes to ethanol producers. hopefully they'll all switch to this new method and won't need to be subsized. The problem with farm subsidies is hard to get rid of them. The EU and others are mad at us for subsidizing farmers. The soft drink corporations are mad at us for dumping money onto sugarcane plantations in Florida for subsidies and price supports. And the taxpayers are the ones who get duped.

JCitizen
JCitizen

and don't let anyone tell you it takes more energy to make ethanol than gasoline. It is an outright ingnorant lie. Their are power companies lining up right and left willing to give up waste heat; heat that would have gone up in vapor from cooling towers; to use in the ethanol process. Ethanol might not be the whole answer but methanol will finish the argument for sure.

normhaga
normhaga

Physics indicates that there is nothing for free; somewhere there is an energy loss in the conversion of one thing to another. Why not run a car on water? You pass a DC voltage through water and produce Oxygen on one electrode and Hydrogen from the other. Mix these in a combustion chamber and you have an explosion producing heat and the waste product is water. The reason is energy inefficiency. Something like an 80 percent loss. This principle also applies to the production of ethanol from whatever.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

IF we're dumb enough to continue making it from corn. The corn lobby wants to push that as a source since driving up the demand for corn benefits the big ag firms. If we use a sensible resource, then no, it doesn't take more energy than making gas.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

is very expensive, that's why it's subsidized. not good. ethanol from cellulose waste should be much cheaper and use alot less energy to make when cheap enzymes are perfected. ethanol from sugarcane takes alot less energy to make than it does from corn. so the people making money off ethanol from corn will only have their payoff till alternate methods come thru.

jdclyde
jdclyde

you don't burn your food supply. Yeah, EVERYTHING that is dependent on Corn has gone through the roof, and I pass field after field on the way home that has been shifted over to corn for ethanol. they can use the genetically modified corn that they are not allowed to use for food sold in the US.

jdclyde
jdclyde

All I know is the legislation prevents the use of genetically engineered corn to enter OUR food supply. Of course there is nothing that stops us from selling it for food to other countries (Mexico).

jdclyde
jdclyde

All I know is the legislation prevents the use of genetically engineered corn to enter OUR food supply. Of course there is nothing that stops us from selling it for food to other countries (Mexico).

jdclyde
jdclyde

All I know is the legislation prevents the use of genetically engineered corn to enter OUR food supply. Of course there is nothing that stops us from selling it for food to other countries (Mexico).

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

this genetically altered corn as to not affecting the non-altered corn? Likely there are still some insects or birds that are fertilizing them, how are they going to contain the altered corn from mixing with the non-altered crops (for food)? Sorry, just an observation from your post.