Cellulosic ethanol is this close??

Whilst at the Saab Australia expose of the BioPower range of vehicles, Richo and I had the pleasure of riding in the minivan to the test track with a scientist from the CSIRO – Australia’s top bunch of scientific boffins.

We wer full of questions about all the studies that he’d done on ethanol and it’s potential for use here in Australia. He was a keener supporter of the whole BioPower concept than I figured he would be, which was a pleasant surprise.

One of the questions I asked him had to do with cellulosic ethanol. This is perceived to be the holy grail of ethanol production, whereby producers would use vegetation based waste material to produce ethanol. It’s forecasted to be cheaper and more efficient than ethanol production from corn and other direct foodstocks, the methods most prevalent in the US right now.

When I asked him about the timeline when we might expect to see cellulosic ethanol in production, his response was “not in my lifetime”. I’d put him in his late 50s or early 60s and reasonable healthy.

With this in mind, it was a surprise to see this story on AutoblogGreen today:

Range Fuels will open wood-waste-using cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia

Range Fuels, Inc…… will build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia to turn wood waste into the biofuel. Range Fuels says its proprietary cellulosic ethanol technology can turn wood chips, agricultural wastes, grasses, cornstalks, hog manure, municipal garbage, sawdust or paper pulp into ethanol. Without using enzymes, the K2 system first turns the biomass into a synthetic gas and then into ethanol.

If this can happen, the price of ethanol should become substantially cheaper, further enhancing the appeal of E85 powered vehicles.

A surprise and welcome discovery.

As mentioned earlier, Saab engineers are leading much of GM’s powertrain research into the ethanol use so it’s a good thing for our Swedish techie buddies.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi all!
    This is already happening! This text is cut from the link below:
    “BioFuel Region is the propelling force in a long-term process where regional co-operation is used to implement the development and introduction of renewable fuel, which is based on biomass from forests, fields and recycling.”

    Just like in the movie “Back to the future” The car runs on waste.

    http://www.biofuelregion.se/english.cfm?open=eng

  2. BTW, there are some other interesting methods that are being employed now to get petroleum as well. One company, for example, has successfully implemented a method for converting turkey waste into crude oil. They can get 500 barrels of oil every day- pretty impressive.

    The article is at Wikipedia.org, on the subject of Thermal depolymerization. Here’s the link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerization

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