Oil companies are trying to do greener things to explore renewable sources of energy and also perhaps improve their public image as dealers of fossil fuels. Yesterday we had Chevron talking about the showcasing of solar technologies at one of its converted California refineries. Today it is Shell announcing a joint biogasoline research and development effort with Virent, a developer of technology for the production of fungible advanced biofuels, including renewable biogasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
This joint effort is manifesting itself in the start of what is said to be the world’s first biogasoline production plant at Virent’s facilities in Madison, Wisconsin. This demonstration plant will have the capacity to produce up to 38,000 litres (10,000 U.S. gallons) per year, which will be used for engine and fleet testing. The biofuel produced at this plant, according to Shell, “can be blended with gasoline in high concentrations for use in standard gasoline engines” and “has the potential to eliminate the need for specialized infrastructure, engine modifications, and blending equipment necessary for the use of gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol.”
The Virent technology behind this biofuel production is called Biofarming. It is described as using catalysts to convert plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery. This particular process is said to produce fuel molecules that have higher energy content than ethanol, deliver better fuel economy and “can be blended seamlessly to make conventional gasoline or combined with gasoline containing ethanol.” Sources of this fuel can come from non-food feedstocks such as corn stover, wheat straw and sugarcane pulp as well as wheat, corn and sugarcane.
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