Shell and Virent Energy Working on Biogasoline
Royal Dutch Shell PLC and privately held Virent Energy Systems, Inc. of Madison, Wis., will work together to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components, rather than ethanol.
The aim is to create new biofuels that can be used at high blend rates in standard gasoline engines. They could also eliminate the need for the specialized infrastructure, new engine designs and blending equipment needed for ethanol.
Virent’s technology, called BioForming, uses catalysts to convert plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery. Traditionally, sugars have been fermented into ethanol and distilled. The company says the new “biogasoline” molecules have higher energy content than ethanol and deliver better fuel efficiency.
The sugars for Virent’s process can come from nonfood sources like corn leaves and stalks, switch grass, wheat straw and sugarcane pulp, as well as conventional biofuel feedstock such as wheat, corn and sugarcane.
Virent says its BioForming process can also convert feedstocks into other conventional hydrocarbon fuels and products, including diesel, jet fuel and liquefied petroleum gas.