Shell and Virent Energy Systems, Inc., (Virent™) have announced a joint research and development effort to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components, via the BioForming™ process, rather than producing ethanol. The process is a simple reactor system operating at relatively low temperatures and pressures and once it is functioning, no additional energy inputs are required. The resulting "biogasoline" could potentially eliminate the need for specialized infrastructure, new engine designs and blending equipment.
The production of gasoline via BioForming™ is a new pathway for the production of liquid fuels and chemicals from biiomass rather than from fossil fuels. Virent has received significant commercial interest and entered into key strategic industrial collaborations, including with Shell for the development of liquid fuels, which will speed the technology’s time to market and enable broad commercial penetration
Virents process is a technology that economically transforms the sugars from biomass into universally usable fuel. The sugars can be sourced from non-food sources like corn stover, switch grass, wheat straw and sugarcane pulp, in addition to conventional biofuel feedstock like wheat, corn and sugarcane. It produces gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels with with twice the net energy yield per acre as traditional ethanol processes and with a small CO2 footprint. Gasoline made via the BioForming™ process will enjoy a 20% to 30% per BTU cost advantage over ethanol.
The resultant biofuels have the same properties as their petroleum based counterparts. They have the same energy content (for example, gasoline has 52 percent more energy per gallon than ethanol). The fuels produced through this process are fully compatible with existing engines, pipelines and fuel pumps. Virent’s products are universally usable, requiring no new infrastructure investment. They are compatible with existing engines, pipelines, and fuel pumps.
“Virent has proven that sugars can be converted into the same hydrocarbon mixtures of today’s gasoline blends. Our products match petroleum gasoline in functionality and performance. Virent’s unique catalytic process uses a variety of biomass-derived feedstocks to generate biogasoline at competitive costs. Our results to date fully justify accelerating commercialization of this technology.
-- Dr. Randy Cortright, Virent CTO, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President