Canadian Manufacturing

Biofuel breakthrough: biomass fuel that costs $0.56 per litre

What makes the process so affordable, according to Cool Planet Energy Systems, is how they handle refining.

CAMARILLO, Calif.—Cool Planet Energy Systems says it can make gas from grass, keep it compatible with today’s cars and do it all for $1.50 per gallon, or $0.56 a litre.

If you’re thinking “Yeah? Where does the line-up start?” you aren’t alone.

Indeed, you’ll have to get in line behind investors including General Electric, Google Ventures, BP, ConocoPhillips, NRG and the Constellation Energy division of Exelon.

Camarillo, Calif.-based Cool Planet announced a breakthrough in the commercialization and affordability of biofuels from non-food biomass which actually removes carbon from the atmosphere during the course of production.

A field trial by Google Inc. at their Mountain View, CA headquarters, tested five per cent Cool Planet fuel blended with 95 per cent regular gasoline.

The test car blend met California’s 2020 Low Carbon Fuel Standard, eight years ahead of schedule.

The control car used 100 per cent regular gasoline. The test car successfully passed five smog checks with no significant difference between cars over a total of 2,490 miles, while the control car managed to travel 2,514 miles.

How they do it

A two-step thermal processing technology converts biomass into hydrocarbons, using wood chips, agricultural waste like corn stover and biomass crops like giant miscanthus or switch grass.

These materials are put through a mechanical biomass fractioning system that uses pressure and heat to create a series of useful volatile components.

After catalytic conversion, the end result is high-octane gasoline that is fully compatible with today’s standard automobiles and existing conventional fuel distribution systems.

What makes the process so affordable, according to the company, is how they handle refining.

“By mass producing mobile, pre-fabricated micro-refineries that are easily transportable to the biomass source, we significantly reduce costs of feedstock transportation, which maximizes our overall capital efficiency,” said Howard Janzen, President and CEO at Cool Planet Energy Systems. “Each micro-refinery is one hundred times smaller than a typical oil refinery and can produce 10 million gallons of fuel per year.”

A byproduct of producing biofuel is the activated carbon, or biochar, which can be used as soil remediation while isolating the carbon captured from the atmosphere, resulting in up to a 150 per cent carbon footprint reduction, as calculated using the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation Model (GREET) developed by Argonne National Laboratory.

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