Top 10 Low Carbon Fuels made from greenhouse gases all around you

September 1, 2015 |

NO_sign_transNo fossil fuel, no biomass, low carbon, no kidding.

Can you make an affordable low-carbon fuel, at scale, using available greenhouse gases instead of biomass grown on the farm? As the political slogan put it, “Yes, you can.” And this time, it could really, really be “change you can believe in”.

Here’s the Essential Background on the who, what, where and how.

Methane’s Sputnik Moment

The Three MicrobeteersMethanogens, methanotrophs, acetogens and knallgas bacteria

The top 10 new technologies.

Note: Some amazing technologies such as Industrial Microbes, Trelys, Kiverdi and Mango Materials fell outside the concept for this rankings — generally because of a focus on chemicals, nutraceuticals, proteins or biomaterials. In addition, there are many renewable biogas projects around the world that use legacy technology, but make a great renewable natural gas fuel (and you can learn more about that here).

#1. LanzaTech

LanzaTech has developed a fully sustainable integrative gas to fuels and chemicals platform that has no impact on food, water security or high biodiversity land use.

LanzaTech’s gas fermentation platform disrupts the current highly centralized global energy system by enabling the regional production of low-cost energy from local wastes and residues, including gases as varied as industrial flue gas, gasified biomass wastes and residues, biogas, and high-CO2 stranded natural gas. The company was originally founded in 2005 in New Zealand.

The Essential Background 

Hot 50 ranking: #1, 2014/15

2015 8-Slide Guide

2015 5-Minute Guide

#2. Algenol

Algenol is a global, industrial biotechnology company that is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels.

Algenol’s patented technology enables the production of the four most important fuels (ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) for around $1.30 per gallon each using proprietary algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and saltwater at production levels of 8,000 total gallons of liquid fuel per acre per year. Algenol’s technology produces high yields and relies on Algenol’s patented photobioreactors and proprietary downstream separation techniques for low-cost fuel production.  These novel, low-cost techniques have the added benefit of consuming carbon dioxide from industrial sources, not using farmland or food crops and being able to provide freshwater.

The Essential Background 

Hot 50 ranking: #3, 2014/15

2015 5-Minute Guide

2015 8-Slide Guide

#3. Joule

Joule is advancing a production platform for Liquid Fuel from the Sun, expected to eclipse the scale, productivity and cost efficiency of any known alternative to fossil fuel today. Its transformative Helioculture platform directly and continuously converts sunlight and waste CO2 to infrastructure-ready diesel, ethanol or commodity chemicals with no dependence on biomass feedstocks, downstream processing or precious natural resources.

This process can yield renewable fuels and chemicals in unprecedented volumes with a fraction of the land required by current methods, leapfrogging biomass-dependent approaches and eliminating the economic and environmental disadvantages of fossil fuels.

Start your “countdown to commercial-scale” clocks, Digesterati, we are in the last 31 months and no more until the build-out of a 1,000-acre plant is set to begin in 2017, where as Joule observes “in an optimal location, a plant of this size has the potential to convert 150,000 tonnes of waste CO2 into 25 million gallons of ethanol or 15 million gallons of diesel per year – with no reliance on arable land, crops or fresh water.”

The Essential Background 

Hot 50 ranking: #27, 2014/15

2015 8-Slide Guide

2015 5-Minute Guide

The backstory.

#4. Intrexon

To achieve industrial-scale bioconversion of natural gas to chemicals, lubricants and fuels, Intrexon is developing microbial cell lines genetically enhanced to convert methane to higher carbon content compounds at ambient temperatures and pressures, thereby reducing the significant expenditures compared to standard gas-to-liquid (GTL) processes. Traditional conversion platforms rely on costly thermochemical catalytic processes, such as the Fischer-Tropsch method of carbon upgrading, or depend on available sugar-based technologies or plant-based feedstocks, which are expensive sources of carbon.

Earlier this month, Intrexon Energy Partners and Dominion Energy said they are exploring the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol, using Intrexon’s proprietary methanotroph bioconversion platform, which can convert natural gas into higher carbon compounds such as isobutanol and farnesene under ambient temperatures and pressures.

The Essential Background 

The Intrexon backstory.

#5. Siluria

Siluria’s catalytic process transforms methane into transportation fuels and commodity chemicals in an efficient, cost-effective, scalable manner using processes that can be seamlessly integrated into existing industry infrastructure.

Siluria’s oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) technology, catalytically converts methane (and can co-feed ethane) into ethylene and water. Ethylene is the world’s largest petrochemical building block used in the production of a wide range of plastics, coatings, adhesives, engine coolants, detergents and other everyday products.

The Essential Background 

2015 5-Minute Guide.

2015 8-Slide Guide.

#6. Cellana

Cellana, a leading developer of algae-based bioproducts, uses the most productive plants on earth — marine microalgae — to photosynthetically produce its ReNew line of Omega-3 EPA and DHA oils, animal feed/food, and biofuel feedstocks. Cellana’s patented ALDUO system enables economic, sustainable, and consistent production of photosynthetic, non-GMO algae at industrial scale. Cellana intends to construct and operate commercial facilities to produce these products as integrated algae-based biorefineries. To date, over $100 million has been invested in developing Cellana’s algae strains, patented and proprietary production technologies, and its Kona Demonstration Facility.

The Essential Background 

Hot 50 ranking: #50, 2014/15

2015 5-Minute Guide

2015 8-Slide Guide

#7. Oberon Fuels

Oberon Fuels is launching DME (dimethyl ether) in North America as a clean-burning, alternative to diesel. Using various, domestic feedstocks such as food and green waste and natural gas, Oberon has developed a modular, small-scale process that cost-effectively converts a variety of methane sources into a clean-burning, non-toxic fuel that can be derived from renewable sources. Its high cetane number and quiet combustion, as well as its inexpensive propane-like fueling system, make it an excellent, inexpensive diesel alternative.

Oberon has developed proprietary skid-mounted, small-scale production units that convert methane and carbon dioxide to DME from various feedstocks, such as biogas and natural gas. This small-scale process circumvents the financial, infrastructure, and permitting challenges that large-scale projects confront.

The Essential Background 

2015 5-Minute Guide

#8 Maverick Synfuels

Maverick builds modular production platforms based on unique combinations of thermochemical and methanol synthesis technology. Maverick’s modular plants can be deployed in oil fields, dairy farms and landfills to convert methane-rich waste gas, including associated gas, biogas and flare gas, into high-value transportation fuels and specialty chemicals.

Maverick currently operates demonstration plants in Florida and Colorado, and a research and development laboratory based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The Essential Background 

The Maverick backstory.

#9. Calysta

Calysta is using biotechnology to create innovative products from sustainable sources. Calysta has operations in the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Singapore and is headquartered in Menlo Park, CA. The company has two business units.

Calysta Nutrition develops and produces FeedKind protein feed, a high quality cost-competitive alternative for commercial aquaculture and livestock feed. FeedKind addresses the rapidly growing worldwide demand for high quality protein, particularly from the expanding middle classes in emerging nations.

Calysta Energy is developing the Biological Gas-to-Liquids and Biological Gas-to-Chemicals technologies using methane. These technologies allow conversion of a plentiful and sustainable energy resource into high value chemicals and industrial products with cost and performance advantages over current processes, and without competing for food, land or water.

The Essential Background 

2015 5-Minute Guide

#10. GreenLight BioSciences

GreenLight Biosciences breakthrough Cell-Free Bioprocessing Platform supports clean, sustainable bioprocesses, and addresses major global issues of oil dependency, specifically the use of petroleum-based feedstocks and other expensive natural substances in the production of chemicals.

GreenLight’s CFB Platform addresses all of the challenges of traditional, fermentation-based bio-manufacturing by eliminating the need to keep the host organism alive, while preserving the biological manufacturing capabilities of the cell.

In late 2013, GreenLight picked up $4,500,000 from ARPA-E for a project entitled, “Cell-Free Bioconversion for Access to Remote Natural Gas Sources.” In the project, GreenLight Biosciences aimed to “develop a cell-free bioreactor that can convert large quantities of methane to fuel in one step. This technology integrates the rapid conversion rate of chemical catalysis into a single-step bioconversion process that does not use traditional cells. If successful, it could enable mobile fermenters to access remote sources of natural gas for low-cost conversion of natural gas to liquid fuel.”

The Essential Background 

The Greenlight backstory.

 

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