Green Gasoline From Non-Food Biomass

Terrabon's MixAlco plant
Terrabon’s MixAlco plant

Terrabon LLC has produced high-octane “green gasoline” made from non-food biomass. The gasoline was produced using Terrabon’s licensed MixAlco technology to pre-treat and ferment biomass at the Company’s advanced biofuels research facility, Energy Independence I, located in Bryan, Texas. This process yielded organic salts, which were converted to ketones and then to high-octane gasoline.

“The production of green gasoline is the culmination of 15 years of research and testing by our team,” said Gary W. Luce, Terrabon Chief Executive Officer. “It is an important milestone both for Terrabon and for the development of renewable energy resources that can lower our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. With the successful production of green gasoline, Terrabon has taken the technology risk off the table, and we can now intensify our focus on the engineering issues of improving yield and purity across each step of the process.”

“Some time ago, we proved in the laboratory and at our pilot plant that the MixAlco technology could be used to convert biomass into chemicals that can be processed into gasoline,” said Dr. Cesar B. Granda, Terrabon’s Chief Technology Officer. “We have now proven that the MixAlco technology can be used to produce gasoline on a commercial scale. Our fuel has a very similar distillation profile to gasoline produced in a refinery from the fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) unit, which represents about 40% of U.S. gasoline supply. However, this green gasoline has important advantages in that its sulfur content is four times lower than hydro processed FCC gasoline and the octane rating is much higher.”

Dr. Granda noted that the octane rating of the gasoline produced at the facility was well above that of premium gasoline and would be suitable for blending directly into a refinery’s petroleum-based fuel product stream without further processing.

Terrabon recently filed an application with the Department of Energy for a $25 million grant to build and operate a 55-ton per day bio-refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, with annual production of 1.3 million gallons of green gasoline at Valero Energy Corporation’s refinery. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010 with operations to commence in the second half of 2011. The Company has also applied for funding through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to support the conversion of municipal solid waste to green gasoline.

MixAlco is an advanced bio-refining process that converts low-cost, readily available non-food, non-sterile biomass into transportation fuels. The biomass that may be used as feedstock in the process includes municipal solid waste, sewage sludge, forest-product residues such as wood chips, wood molasses and other wood waste, and non-edible energy crops such as the sorghum used at Energy Independence I.

Because of the non-sterile nature of the conversion process, Terrabon anticipates that capital costs for MixAlco plants will be lower than that of other technologies. Based on a plant with a capacity of 220 dry tons per day of organic feedstock and using post-sorted municipal solid waste at a delivered price of $10.00 per ton, Terrabon believes its MixAlco technology can produce 5.5 million gallons per year of renewable gasoline for approximately $1.75 to $2.00 per gallon. This price range excludes any economic benefits accruing from the biofuel tax credit of $1.01 per gallon.

The MixAlco technology was developed by Dr. Mark T. Holtzapple and Dr. Granda at Texas A&M University. Terrabon holds the exclusive worldwide license from the Texas A&M University System related to this technology and intends to license and joint venture MixAlco with companies that control existing infrastructure for biomass collection and transportation.

Terrabon LLC was formed in 1995 to commercialize three technologies developed at Texas A&M University. Terrabon plans to deploy these cutting-edge technologies through licensing and joint venture arrangements. Its MixAlco technology converts biomass to green gasoline. AdVE is a water desalination process that utilizes advanced vapor-compression evaporation to desalinate salt water into potable water. SoluPro is a bioproducts process that converts inexpensive protein-bearing waste material into animal feed and “green” commercial adhesives. These technologies are exclusively licensed to Terrabon by Texas A&M University through its Office of Technology Commercialization.

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