Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thermomechanical Biomass to Fuels Company Raises $3 million

Cool Planet Biofuels recently raised $3 million from an undisclosed funding source. Cool Planet converts biomass to fuels using a thermomechanical process:
CoolPlanetBioFuels is developing a revolutionary thermal/mechanical processor which directly inputs raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residue, algae, etc. and produces multiple distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional fuel components.

In support of the above biomass fractionator , the company is also developing a range of simple one-step catalytic conversion processes which mate with the fractionator's output gas streams to produce useful products such as eBTX (high octane gasoline), synthetic diesel and proprietary ultra-high crop yield super fuels.

CoolPlanetBioFuels plans to package its proprietary biomass fractionator together with an "open architecture" chemical processing section in standard modular shipping containers which can each produce up to 1 million gallons of fuel per year. These modular fuel processors can be equipped with CoolPlanet's catalytic conversion processes and/or your own selection of dryers, separators, catalytic processes, etc. _CoolPlanet

Cool Planet's process sounds like a type of fast pyrolysis using mechanical pressing and vaporisation of ground biomass + catalytic hydrogenation/synthesis approach.

With private financing, the company doesn't need to disclose too many details. The technology sounds expensive. And we really have no idea about its current yields or realistic yields for the near to medium future. The company claims that one standard modular shipping container sized processor will produce 1 million gallons of fuel per year. The US consumes about 65 billion gallons of gasoline a year.

It is foolish to talk about replacing all petroleum fuels with one alternative process or another, but it would take about 65,000 of Cool Planet's container-sized pyrolysis processors plus catalytic refinery units to supply the US with gasoline, if they work as advertised.

There are too many unknowns to predict any type of timeline for this company. The biomass to advanced fuels race has a lot of contestants, but only a few of them will be winners on a large scale. On a smaller scale -- the local and regional scale -- there will be a lot of winners who go home with a modest prize of a sustainable local bioenergy industry. That is nothing to sneeze at for tens of thousands of communities and regions.

Part of the problem of the boom and bust cycles of global markets is the compulsion to build everything to such a huge scale -- to beat down all of the competition -- that the process is unsustainable.

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