Liquid Light: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

March 11, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoLiquid Light develops electrocatalytic technology to make major chemicals from low-cost, globally abundant carbon dioxide (CO2).  Licensees benefit from a lower cost of production and can reduce their carbon footprint.

Liquid Light is funded by Sustainable Conversion Ventures, BP Ventures, Redpoint, Osage University, VantagePoint and Chrysalix, and now coming out of stealth after six years of developing a technology to convert CO2 into an array of speciality chemicals at reactivity rates — and thereby costs — that not only make it attractive as a carbon remediation, but in this case actually lower the cost of carbon compared to using fossil oil & gas in the first place.

Liquid Light’s first process is for the production of ethylene glycol (MEG), with a $27 billion annual market, which is used to make a wide range of consumer products such as plastic bottles, antifreeze and polyester clothing. Liquid Light’s technology can be used to produce more than 60 chemicals with large existing markets, including propylene, isopropanol, methyl-methacrylate and acetic acid.

For example, this process requires $125 or less of CO2 to make a ton of MEG (based on a CO2 cost of $75-$80 per ton) Other processes require an estimated $617 – $1,113 of feedstocks derived from oil, natural gas or corn. These differences are especially significant as MEG sells for $700 – $1,400 per metric ton. Source of the hydrogen in this case varies — organic molecules can be used, or water.


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The Situation

Liquid Light’s core technology, developed initially based on licensed processes from Princeton and substantially enhanced since then, is centered on low-energy catalytic electrochemistry to convert CO2 to chemicals, combined with hydrogenation and purification operations. By adjusting the design of the catalyst, Liquid Light can produce a range of commercially important multi-carbon chemicals. Additionally, by using ‘co-feedstocks’ along with CO2, a plant built with Liquid Light’s technology may produce multiple products simultaneously.

The company’s technology is not aimed at capture — it would work with any existing carbon capture strategy. It’s goal is to be logistically simple and low cost — a drop-in complement acquired on-site and used on-site, at a relatively low cost.

Based on lab data, the company is projecting that a 400kT per year Liquid Light MEG plant would offer more than $250 million in added project value as compared to a plant built using the best currently available process technology. A 625kTa plant would have a 15 year net present value of over $850 million to a licensee.


Technology developer.

Competitive Edge

Liquid Light’s process can sequester carbon – meaning it is a net reducer of carbon in the environment – when using energy sources like solar, hydro, wind or nuclear power. To further demonstrate this potential benefit, the company has shown that the process can be powered by intermittently-available renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The result is that chemicals can be made directly from renewable energy sources and CO2.

Past milestones

In September 2014, the company announced that it had closed a $15 million Series B financing. New investors include Sustainable Conversion Ventures, which focuses on renewable fuels and chemicals investments. Existing investors VantagePoint Capital Partners, BP Ventures, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, and Osage University Partners also participated in this round. The financing was completed at a significant increase in company valuation. The new financing will be used to complete process development at pilot scale, providing the information needed for further scale up to a tons-per-day plant. The scale-up work is also aimed at validating the quality of the chemicals produced by the process, to confirm their suitability for use in key applications such as the PET used to make plastic soda bottles.

In March 2014, Liquid Light unveiled its new process, showcased its demonstration-scale ‘reaction cell’ and confirmed the potential for cost-advantaged process economics.

In April 2014, the company picked up a CAD 500K seed grant via Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation’s the CA$35M Grand Challenge.

Liquid Light was chosen for its proposal to design and build a pilot plant to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into chemicals and polymer precursors using clean sources of energy, in conjunction with a major chemical industry partner. The pilot plant located in Canada would produce a ton of products per day and further validate the technical and economic feasibility of Liquid Light’s approach. Through the deployment of Liquid Light’s electro-catalytic carbon conversion technology, CO2 can be used as a low-cost feedstock for the creation of widely-used chemicals with significant market value. CCEMC’s investment recognizes the commercial potential for Liquid Light’s process as an economically viable, scalable and replicable CO2 utilization platform.

Future milestones

Think 2017-2018 for the company to be ready for deployment of large-scale systems. The company is at lab-stage and completed a commercial prototype — now it will be proceeding to build its pilot reactor and then a demonstration of the complete reactor cell and all components.


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