Friday, May 04, 2012

Renewable Diesel and Power from Sweet Sorghum

Producers of advanced biofuels and high value products from biomass and engineered crops and microbes, are still out there working hard in labs around the world. The global bonanza of cheap shale gas may postpone the commercial debut of many of these products, processes, and systems, for a decade or more. But that will give these labs and field scientists more time to perfect their systems. In fact, there are many ways in which cheap methane could be a boon to the production of high value chemicals and fuels. And it is undeniable that high value bio-products can be grown and produced in almost any terrestrial location -- often in places far from hydrocarbon deposits or depots.

The following report demonstrates that top quality scientists are continuing to pursue viable paths to the production of renewable fuels, chemicals, polymers, lubricants, and other high value products.
GCC Amyris
Scientists from Amyris and Ceres are presenting new findings at a biotechnology conference in New Orleans on the production of renewable diesel and power from sweet sorghum. Here's more:
The pilot-scale project use both free (soluble) sugars and biomass (cellulosic) sugars from Ceres’ sweet sorghum hybrids grown in Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana and Tennessee. To process the soluble sugars that accumulate in the plants, the sorghum juice was first extracted from the stems and concentrated into sugar syrup by Ceres. The syrup was then processed by Amyris at its California pilot facility using its proprietary yeast fermentation system that converts plant sugars into its trademarked product, Biofene, a renewable hydrocarbon commonly known as farnesene....

The inedible plant fibers of the sweet sorghum provided an additional source of cellulosic sugars. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), at its Colorado pilot-scale biochemical conversion facility, converted the biomass from Ceres’ hybrids into cellulosic sugars, which Amyris subsequently fermented into renewable farnesene.

Farnesene is a 15-carbon isoprenoid hydrocarbon molecule that forms the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty chemical applications to transportation fuels such as diesel. When used as a fuel precursor, farnesene can be hydrogenated to farnesane, which has a high cetane number (58). Amyris modifies farnesene to become renewable diesel.

Life-cycle analysis of Amyris Diesel production from sweet sorghum indicates Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reductions of greater than 80%.

Secondary products from the biorefinery project include lubricants, polymers and other petrochemical substitutes. These secondary products are derived from the same C15 fermentation intermediate (farnesene) as Amyris Renewable Diesel, providing opportunities to de-risk commercial production. _GCC

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