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January 16, 2008


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Paul F. Dietz

Or they could make methanol from the syngas (and possibly gasoline from the methanol using Shell's well proven zeolite technology.)

Grass Man

The real revolution will come if they can simplify and shrink that down to the size of a washing machine that I can put in my garage and dump grass clippings and kitchen waste into, then we're talking about really living off the grid.


If this stuff is real it should spell the end of corn based ethanol.

Of course issues like waste products, and soil depletion need to be resolved. Hopefully the waste products can be put back onto the fields recycling nutrients and trace minerals.

Roger Brown

In my mind one of the big questions about the economics of this process is the performance of the gasifier. Biomass gasification has been proposed for a number of application but has proven to have high capital costs relative to alternatives. Also it has proven difficult to make the gasification yields feedstock independent.

Cyril R.

Roger is correct, it's not easy to gasify some biomass types, and gasifiers are expensive. High capital costs make fast adoption problematic; it comes as no surprise that the projected scale-up is slow. A drop in the bucket by 2011. That means this technology will likely be competing with cellulosic. It'll be interesting to see which one proves to be better.

A biofuel processing plant technology (and in fact, any energy technology) with very low capital costs could make a big difference I think.

What bothered me was that there is no mention of the exact yield (output/input*100%). Right here it says that it has the highest conversion rates of feedstock to ethanol in the industry. Compared to what? Corn ethanol? That's not too difficult is it now!? If it's better than cellulosic then that would be a real accomplishment. Yield is crucial as there will be a limited amount of biomass available we'd want to get the most out of it as possible.

The Coskata website mentions 100 gallons per dry ton carbonaceous. That sounds a lot better than conventional corn ethanol, perhaps similar to future cellulosic yields. But then, how many MJ's are in a "dry ton carbonaceous"? Where are the numbers?

Cyril R.

Or they could make methanol from the syngas (and possibly gasoline from the methanol using Shell's well proven zeolite technology.)

Paul Dietz, would that yield more than Coskata's process?

Paul F. Dietz

Paul Dietz, would that yield more than Coskata's process?

I don't know, but would not be surprised if it did. The waste heat also would come out at a higher temperature, which would make it more valuable. More practically, it would involve off the shelf, proven technology, so the risk would be lower.

Cyril R.

That's true. This source gives some figures:

Advantages of the process
• The synthetic gasoline is free of sulphur and nitrogen.
• The overall energy efficiency of the MTG process including processing energy is high, about 92-93%. The energy balance is extremely favourable, 95% of the thermal energy of the methanol feed is preserved in the hydrocarbon product. The remaining 5% is liberating as heat of reaction. However, if one includes the thermal efficiency for the methanol synthesis process from natural gas (~60%), then the overall energy efficiency (natural gas to gasoline) is about 50-60%.
• The product meets or exceeds existing gasoline specifications.
• Methanol conversion is virtually complete. Gasoline yield high.

It appears NG to methanol has a rather low yield. Biomass to methanol would probably be more like 70-80%. The Hynol process claims higher than 85% with a much lower cost target per gallon of methanol than Coskata's for a gallon of ethanol. I'm not sure how much the zeolite process would add to the cost though. Considering methanol's high octane number, it would be more efficient to use the methanol itself as a fuel. Right now making gasoline is probably best.

Possibly >80% yield of HHV? I did not think such high conversion yields would be possible, especially with gasoline as the end product and using off the shelf equipment. It looks like you may be right Paul.

Cyril R.

OK, so ethanol contains about 89 MJ per gallon. Coskata's 100 gallon per ton (I'll take it that's a metric) means they get about 9 GJ per metric ton of dry biomass.

The problem is the biomass. Typical dry biomass energy content would be 10-20 GJ per metric ton, which means Coskata's yield would be between 45% and 90%. That's not very informative and if they're using non-metric tons... Sigh.


Why isn't this process being developed for producing butanol instead of ethanol? Butanol has been proven to be easier to handle (non-corrosive), and to have a BTU/gallon rating very close to gasoline.


Why isn't this process being developed for producing butanol instead of ethanol? Butanol has been proven to be easier to handle (non-corrosive), and to have a BTU/gallon rating very close to gasoline.

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Good decision from GM they can earn huge profit.


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How great, $1/gallon is good, right? I know that I would like that to be the cost of gas at the pump!

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Good stuff, is there partnership still going well?

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I am unfamiliar with Coskata, but they sound like a pretty good company with good research going on.

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Is this commercial plant up and running yet??

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Smart of GM to get in on this, it could be a goldmine for them.

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