Tuesday, January 15, 2008


What has Coskata done to attract the interest of one of the world’s largest car companies and the backing of some of the biggest names in cleantech? The Warrenville, Ill.-based startup says it can produce commercial-scale ethanol for under $1 per gallon, made from either biomass (like energy crops switch grass), municipal solid waste or other recycled materials (like old tires – one reason GM is interested). At the pump the company claims its product could be anywhere from 50 cents to $1 per gallon cheaper than gasoline.

Coskata’s methods, surprisingly enough, aren’t that revolutionary — they’re mostly a smart combination of techniques that have been used before. But its secret sauce is the micro-organisms it has developed that produce ethanol, as well as the bioreactor where the organisms live and get the work done.

The company uses a hybrid of thermochemical and biological steps, and basically takes feedstock and gasifies it; the resulting bacteria then converts the syngas to ethanol. Coskata is working with five strains of bacteria that “breathe” syngas and “exhale” almost pure ethanol, in contrast with other methods, which produce a variety of alcohols.

They plan to finish their pilot project at the headquarters by the end of January, and scale up to a 40,000-gallon demonstration facility by the end of the year. They are also working on a 100 million-gallon-per-year facility somewhere in the U.S., which they hope will go online by early 2011.
If they really can produce this non-corn ethanol at 50¢ to $1 a gallon less than gasoline, then this is a game changer.

But why does it take 3 years to ramp up to just 100 million gallons a year? That is just a drop in the bucket of the 146 billion gallons of gasoline used in the US each year.

via Earth2Tech

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