Joule Unlimited: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

February 3, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoJoule 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.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #27, 2014/15

The Situation

There’s been further changeover in the leadership, with former Total CEO Serge Tchuruk as new President and CEO, replacing Paul Snaith, who replaced Bill Sims a couple of years ago.

Most recently, Joule signed a MOU to accelerate the global production of CO2 with DNV GL, a technical assurance and advisory service provider for the energy industry. Through the terms of the MoU, DNV GL will provide technology qualification and verification services, including assessments from a commercial perspective to facilitate Joule’s global deployment. Joule will also benefit from advisory services in the areas of value chain creation, risk mitigation, process modeling for specific plant locations, and blending and transport of Joule’s fuel products.

Joule has increasingly turned to global development in 2014, intending to commercially develop diesel fuel and also bring products to market via strategic development partnerships. The company is now commercializing its first product, Sunflow-E, for global availability in early 2015.

In April 2013, the company announced direct conversion of waste CO2 into the essential components of gasoline and jet fuel. The breakthrough gives Joule the opportunity to expand its Sunflow product line and help address global demand for true hydrocarbon fuel replacements.

Joule is now commercializing its first product, Sunflow-E, for global availability most recently described as “expected in early 2015”.

Joule Fuels will initially commercialize Sunflow-E, with Sunflow-D for the global diesel market to follow. Unlike biodiesel, a low-concentration blendstock, Sunflow-D is comprised of diesel-range paraffinic alkanes and can therefore be blended with conventional diesel in concentrations of 50% or greater, displacing more oil. Moreover, Sunflow-D is inherently sulfur-free and has a very high cetane value. Sunflow-D is now in development with an ultimate productivity target of 15,000 gallons/acre/year at costs as low as $50/barrel without subsidies.

Major Investors

Flagship Ventures plus private and institutional investors


A platform for the direct, continuous conversion of sunlight and waste CO2 to liquid fuels and chemicals.


Industrial waste CO2


Hydrocarbon diesel, ethanol and multiple chemicals conventionally derived from petroleum

Product Cost 

Diesel = $0.48/gallon with subsidies ($1.19/gallon without subsidies)

Ethanol = $0.60/gallon with subsidies ($1.23/gallon without subsidies)

Past Milestones

In September 2014, Joule and Scatec Solar ASA signed an MOU to work toward a partnership to support the roll-out of Joule production plants featuring photovoltaic power.

The terms of the MoU anticipate that Scatec Solar ASA will become preferred supplier and operator of photovoltaic power installations for Joule plants, with an initial deployment goal of up to 25,000 acres (~10,000 hectares) and a power requirement of 2 gigawatts. A deployment of this scale would generate up to 625 million gallons (~15 million barrels) of ethanol or 375 million gallons (~9 million barrels) of diesel per year, while consuming about 4 million tonnes of industrial waste CO2 annually in the process.

The use of photovoltaic power for plant operations is expected to reduce Joule’s system-level carbon footprint, netting more than a 90% improvement over conventional fuel production and setting the stage for truly sustainable mobility.

In July 2014, word arrived from Joule that the EPA favorably reviewed the company’s Microbial Commercial Activity Notice for Joule’s first commercial ethanol-producing catalyst. This cleared the catalyst for commercial use at the company’s demonstration plant in New Mexico, the company says.

It marked the first time that EPA has allowed the commercial use of a modified cyanobacterium. MCAN filings are required by the EPA prior to commercial use of certain modified microbes, including for biofuel or bio-based chemical production. In its review of Joule’s MCAN, EPA had no health or safety objections to use of the modified strain at the Hobbs facility. Joule and EPA have entered into a voluntary consent order which allows Joule to use this catalyst strain commercially at the Hobbs facility, while also providing EPA with further data resulting from such use.

In May 2014, the company tipped that its Sunflow-D and Sunflow-J CO2-neutral fuels comply with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for diesel and jet fuel. The CO2-derived fuels require no chemical upgrading and can be blended with fossil fuels up to 50 percent. The ASTM standards compliance moves Joule one step closer to commercial availability.

In 2012, Joule announced a global, exclusive partnership with  Audi, to accelerate the commercialization of its sustainable transportation fuels, Sunflow-E and Sunflow-D, for the global ethanol and diesel markets respectively.

Though financial terms were not disclosed, the partnership is mutually exclusive, and that Audi selected Joule as its exclusive partner in the development of biologically-derived diesel and ethanol, after extensive evaluations of Joule’s proprietary technology and commercial plans. The relationship will help spur production of Joule Sunflow-E and Sunflow-D, including fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule’s SunSprings demonstration facility located in Hobbs, New Mexico, which began operations this month. Joule will also benefit from Audi’s considerable expertise and global reach as well as from the strength of its brand. In turn, Audi will have a first mover advantage as Joule’s exclusive partner in the automotive sector.

Also in 2012, the company commissioned its first SunSprings demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico, where the company will prove its scalable platform for solar fuel production – the first of its kind – using a fraction of the land and capital investment required for algae-derived or agricultural biofuels. Joule aims to show that its uniquely modular system can achieve replicable results whether installed across one or thousands of acres – opening the door to near-term deployment by eliminating scale-up costs and risks that have hamstrung biofuels for years.

Future Milestones

• Continue technology/system optimization towards ethanol and diesel productivity targets

• Incrementally scale up to commercial production and deployment of facilities worldwide, with commercially available products less expensive than biofuels.

Business Model

The company intends to commercially develop diesel fuel and also bring products to market via strategic development partnerships. Joule will also provide SolarConverter hardware, technology and deployment know-how transfer and controlled access to production strains.

Competitive Edge

• Proven conversion of sunlight and waste CO2 directly into infrastructure-ready

• Directly produces fungible fuels vs. oils that require refining or chemical upgrading

• No dependence on costly biomass feedstocks or complex processing/logistics

• An integrated system up to 100X more efficient than biomass-dependent processes

• Productivity up to 15,000 gal diesel/acre/year and 25,000 gal ethanol/acre/year

• Costs (including capital) as low as $20/bble of diesel and $0.60/gal ethanol, including subsidies

• Fully modular system and scalable to billions of gallons with comparatively minimal land use

• Ecologically-sound process doesn’t require arable land or fresh water

• Strong IP position with 6 U.S. patents granted and 70+ applications filed

• World-class team of biologists, biochemists, engineers, industrial experts and executive leadership


Company Website

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Category: 5-Minute Guide

Thank you for visting the Digest.