4 minutes with…Karl Seck, President, Mercurius Biorefining

November 25, 2014 |

seckTell us about your organization and it’s role in the advanced bioeconomy.

Mercurius is on a mission to develop and commercialize our liquid phase catalytic process that efficiently converts any biomass into drop-in, hydrocarbon jet fuel and diesel as well as green chemicals. The technology is called REACH which stands for Renewable Acid-hydrolysis Condensation Hydrotreating, describing the three steps of the process.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

I’m focused like a laser on completing our pilot plant project as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are through the first budget period of our DOE grant and have the green light to proceed the next budget period, which is front end engineering. We proved to the DOE that we have completed research optimization steps and that we are ready to proceed to the next activity. The project will build and operate a pilot plant to scale-up and optimize the technology so that we can move into a commercial project.

So far we have been able to lower the project costs, and more importantly, speed up the project cycle by incorporating existing equipment and facilities into the project instead of building everything from scratch. We intend to continue with this strategy whenever possible and beneficial.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

We have to start making a significant dent in the RFS cellulosic biofuel mandate. By showing that the economics of the drop-in, cellulosic fuels are possible and even profitable so the industry will start to pull in more petroleum industry partners as they realize that low cost biofuels are an inevitable part of battling climate change.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

I would create a more robust investment community that would be willing to learn lessons from past mistakes, and use those lessons to become more sophisticated instead of turning their back on biofuels investments that are so crucial to our planet’s energy strategy.

Where are you from? 

Born and raised in the Kansas City area. Almost Royals!

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas. Honestly, I was attracted to the high starting salary.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

In my professional life I’ve learned to trust my instincts – but instincts that have been bolstered by experience.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Hiking, snowboarding, and bicycling.

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

Three biographies of innovative people. For example: “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

Just started “No Logo” by Naomi Klein and have her next book, “The Shock Doctrine”, teed up next.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

I generally try to go to new places. If I had to choose a place I’ve already been, Australia and Croatia would be on my short list.

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Category: Million Minds

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