Thursday, June 02, 2011

ZeaChem and Procter & Gamble's Green Chemistry Venture

Cellulosic ethanol producer ZeaChem utilises both biomass gasification and microbial fermentation to produce biofuels from cellulose. But the small startup is joining with commercial giant Procter & Gamble to use ZeaChem's biorefinery platform for producing larger and more sophisticated high value chemicals from cellulose:
In Colorado, ZeaChem announced a binding multi-year joint development agreement with Procter & Gamble. The agreement will accelerate development of ZeaChem’s product platform beyond C2 through the commercialization of “drop-in” bio-based chemicals and other products.

The two companies will utilize ZeaChem’s existing infrastructure at its lab in Menlo Park, Calif., pilot facility at Hazen Research in Golden, Colo., and demonstration-scale biorefinery in Boardman, Ore. Together, P&G and ZeaChem will research, develop and demonstrate, scale-up, and commercialize this new product platform.

...ZeaChem’s technology is a parallel hybrid system of fermentation and gasification. This hybrid process achieves 40% higher yield than other cellulosic processes. Theoretical maximum for biochemical and thermochemical players is approximately 100 gallons/BDT compared to ZeaChem’s theoretical maximum of 165 gallons/BDT. At 85% efficiency, actual yield for biochemical and thermochemical only processes will be around 90 gallons/BDT compared to 135 gallon/BDT for ZeaChem’s technology. This significant yield advantage translates into economic saving and environmental benefits. _BiofuelsDigest
Higher yield biorefinery processes will certainly push up the timetable for viable biofuels. In the case of ZeaChem, both gasification and microbial fermentation will be advanced. Other companies will emphasise gasification plus F-T or similar catalytic synthesis -- OR -- will take the microbial path from beginning to end, cellulose to fuels or chemicals.

It is possible that other approaches besides thermochemical, catalytic synthesis, or microbial metabolism, will prove even more viable in the long run. According to Al Fin energy analysts, the year 2020 is the target date for competitively priced drop-in renewable substitutes for petrofuels and chemicals, using microbes (including algae) as primary producers and biomass as the primary feedstock. For competitively priced dropin fuels and chemicals using thermochemical approaches primarily, the year 2015 is the target date.

In the long run, microbes and nano-tech synthesis will sweep every other approach to chemicals and fuels off the stage due to economic and overall energy efficiencies.

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