Randy CORTRIGHT, et al.


Virent's Dr. Randy Cortright holds a beaker of the company's biogasoline. (Photo courtesy Shell)

Plants Converted Directly Into Biogasoline, Not Ethanol

MADISON, Wisconsin, March 27, 2008 (ENS) - A Wisconsin bioscience company and Royal Dutch Shell say they have developed a process to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components, rather than ethanol.

The collaboration aims to create new biofuels that can be used at high blend rates in standard gasoline engines in place of fossil fuels. This could potentially eliminate the need for specialized infrastructure, new engine designs and blending equipment.

The patented and trademarked BioForming process pioneered by Virent Energy Systems, Inc. of Madison converts plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery. The biomass feedstocks are converted into conventional hydrocarbon fuels and products, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

"The technical properties of today's biofuels pose some challenges to widespread adoption," said Dr. Graeme Sweeney, Shell executive vice president Future Fuels and C02. "Fuel distribution infrastructure and vehicle engines are being modified to cope but new fuels on the horizon, such as Virent's, with characteristics similar or even superior to gasoline and diesel, are very exciting."

Traditionally, sugars have been fermented into ethanol and distilled. These new "biogasoline" molecules have higher energy content than ethanol or butanol and deliver better fuel efficiency.

"They can be blended seamlessly to make conventional gasoline or combined with gasoline containing ethanol," the companies said Wednesday in a statement.

The sugars can be sourced from non-food sources like corn stover, switchgrass, wheat straw and sugarcane pulp, in addition to conventional biofuel feedstock like wheat, corn and sugarcane.

The companies have so far collaborated for one year on the research. They say the technology has advanced rapidly, exceeding milestones for yield, product composition, and cost.

Future efforts will focus on further improving the technology and scaling it up for larger volume commercial production.

Dr. Randy Cortright, Virent chief technology officer, co-founder and executive vice president, said, "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," said Cortright.

Virent has 68 employees located in a state-of-the-art catalytic biorefining development facility in Madison. The technology is based on the Aqueous Phase Reforming process, which Virent has exclusively licensed from the Wisconsin Alumni Redation.

Cortright says the biogasoline process delivers more net energy and offers a scalable, cost-effective alternative to traditional biofuel production routes.

Headquartered in the Netherlands and the UK, Royal Dutch Shell companies have operations in more than 130 countries, with businesses including: oil and gas exploration; production and marketing of liquefied natural gas and gas to liquids; marketing and shipping of oil products and chemicals; and renewable energy projects including wind, solar and biofuels.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

Virentís BioFormingô process pioneers the commercial production of biofuels and bioproducts which are both sustainable and economical.  This technology can convert a wide roster of feedstocks, including non-food and home grown energy sources, into the variety of fuels and chemicals now made from fossil fuels.

Key benefits of the BioForming platform:

Maximizes Land Utilization --- Produces gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels with 2X the net energy yield per acre as traditional ethanol processes. This will provide more value for farmers without reducing available food supplies.

Economical --- Gasoline made via the BioForming process will enjoy a 20% to 30% per BTU cost advantage over ethanol.  The systemís scalability enables the economical matching of production with available feedstock supplies.

Immediate Market Acceptance --- Virentís products are cost-effective and universally usable, requiring no new infrastructure investment.  They are compatible with existing engines, pipelines, and fuel pumps.

Catalysts, not Bugs --- Avoids dependence on fragile creatures and biology resulting in a faster, more robust process that is completely in line with mainstream catalytic petroleum processing.  Catalysts have been proven to be the most effective way to produce fuels and petrochemicals and have greater success utilizing cellulosic biomass than fermentation methods.

Carbon neutral --- Low energy input and biomass based feedstocks offer near zero CO2 emissions.

Virentís BioForming technology is transforming how biofuels and bioproducts are sourced, produced, and transported.   Itís the sustainable and economical solution to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.  Itís the BioForming difference.

Technical Articles

The following are published research papers of interest regarding the innovative Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR) pathway to bioproducts and biofuels.Virentís BioFormingô process is based on the APR pathway.

Hydrogen from catalytic reforming of biomass-derived hydrocarbons in liquid water.
Nature 2002, 418, 964-967
Cortright, R.D.; Davda, R.R.; Dumesic, J.A.

Raney Ni-Sn catalyst for H2 production from biomass-derived hydrocarbons.
Science 2003, 300, 2075-2077
Huber, G.W.; Shabaker, J.W.; Dumesic, J.A.

Production of Liquid Alkanes by Aqueous-Phase Processing of Biomass-Derived Carbohydrates.
Science 2005, 308, 1446-1450
Huber, G.W.; Chheda, J.N.; Barrett, C.J.; Dumesic, J.A.

Renewable alkanes by aqueous-phase reforming of biomass-derived oxygenates.
Angewandte Chemie International 2004, 43, 1549-1551
Huber, G.W.; Cortright, R.D.; Dumesic, J.A.

Sn-modified Ni catalysts for aqueous-phase reforming:  Characterization and deactivation studies.
Journal of Catalysis 2005, 231, 67-76
Shabaker, J.W.; Simonetti, D.A.; Cortright, R.D.; Dumesic, J.A.

A review of catalytic issues and process conditions for renewable hydrogen and alkanes by aqueous-phase reforming of oxygenated hydrocarbons over supported metal catalysts.
Applied Catalysis, B: Environmental,  2005, 56, 171-186
Davda, R.R.; Shabaker, J.W.; Huber, G.W.; Cortright, R.D.; Dumesic, J.A.

Aqueous-phase reforming of ethylene glycol on silica-supported metal catalysts.
Applied Catalysis, B: Environmental 2002, 43, 13-26
Davda, R.R.; Shabaker, J.W.; Huber, G.W.; Cortright, R.D.; Dumesic, J.A.

Kinetics of the aqueous-phase reforming of methanol and ethylene glycol over alumina-supported platinum catalysts.
Journal of Catalysis 2003, 215, 344-352
Shabaker, J.W.; Huber, G.W.; Davda, R.R.; Cortright, R.D.; Dumesic, J.A.

Aqueous-phase reforming of ethylene glycol over supported platinum catalysts.
Catalysis Letters 2003, 88, 1-8
Shabaker, J.W.; Huber, G.W.; Davda, R.R.; Cortright, R.D.; Dumesic, J.A.

Catalytic reforming of oxygenated hydrocarbons for hydrogen with low levels of carbon monoxide.
Angewandte Chemie International 2003, 42, 4068-4071
Davda, R.R.; Dumesic, J.A.

Randy CORTRIGHT , et al.

BioGasoline Patents

Methods and Systems for Generating Polyols

Abstract --- Disclosed are methods for generating propylene glycol, ethylene glycol and other polyols, diols, ketones, aldehydes, carboxylic acids and alcohols from biomass using hydrogen produced from the biomass. The methods involve reacting a portion of an aqueous stream of a biomass feedstock solution over a catalyst under aqueous phase reforming conditions to produce hydrogen, and then reacting the hydrogen and the aqueous feedstock solution over a catalyst to produce propylene glycol, ethylene glycal and the other polyols, diols, ketones, aldehydes, carboxylic acids and alcohols. The disclosed methods can be run at lower temperatures and pressures, and allows for the production of oxygenated hydrocarbons without the need for hydrogen from an external source.

Method for Producing BioFuel...

Abstract --- A low-temperature catalytic process for converting biomass (preferably glycerol recovered from the fabrication of bio-diesel) to synthesis gas (i.e., H2/CO gas mixture) in an endothermic gasification reaction is described. The synthesis gas is used in exothermic carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions, such as Fischer-Tropsch, methanol, or dimethylether syntheses. The heat from the exothermic carbon-carbon bond-forming reaction is integrated with the endothermic gasification reaction, thus providing an energy-efficient route for producing fuels and chemicals from renewable biomass resources.


Abstract --- Disclosed are catalysts and methods that can reform aqueous solutions of oxygenated compounds such as ethylene glycol, glycerol, sugar alcohols, and sugars to generate products such as hydrogen and alkanes. In some embodiments, aqueous solutions containing at least 20 wt% of the oxygenated compounds can be reformed over a catalyst comprising a Group VIII transition metal and a Group VIIB transition metal, preferably supported on an activated carbon-supported catalyst. In other embodiments, catalysts are provided for the production of hydrogen or alkanes at reaction temperatures less than 300< DEG >C.

Low-Temperature Hydrogen Production from Oxygenated Hydrocarbons

Abstract --- Disclosed is a method of producing hydrogen from oxygenated hydrocarbon reactants, such as glycerol, glucose, or sorbitol. The method can take place in the vapor phase or in the condensed liquid phase. The method includes the steps of reacting water and a water-soluble oxygenated hydrocarbon having at least two carbon atoms, in the presence of a metal-containing catalyst. The catalyst contains a metal selected from the group consisting of Group VIII transitional metals, alloys thereof, and mixtures thereof. The disclosed method can be run at lower temperatures than those used in the conventional steam reforming of alkanes.

Low-Temperature Hydrocarbon Production from Oxygenated Hydrocarbons

Abstract --- Disclosed is a method of producing hydrocarbons from oxygenated hydrocarbon reactants, such as glycerol, glucose, or sorbitol. The method can take place in the vapor phase or in the condensed liquid phase (preferably in the condensed liquid phase). The method includes the steps of reacting water and a water-soluble oxygenated hydrocarbon having at least two carbon atoms, in the presence of a metal-containing catalyst. The catalyst contains a metal selected from the group consisting of Group VIIIB transitional metals, alloys thereof, and mixtures thereof. These metals are supported on supports that exhibit acidity or the reaction is conducted under liquid-phase conditions at acidic pHs. The disclosed method allows the production of hydrocarbon by the liquid-phase reaction of water with biomass-derived oxygenated compounds.

Method for Catalyticallly Reducing Carboxylic Acid Groups to Hydroxyl Groups in Hydroxycarboxylic Acids

Abstract --- A method for catalytically reducing the carboxylic acid group of hydroxycarboxylic acids to a hydroxyl group is disclosed. An organic compound having an alpha-hydroxyl group and at least one carboxylic acid group is contacted with a catalyst in the presence of hydrogen to yield a reduced product having at least two hydroxyl groups, the carboxylic acid group having been converted into one of the hydroxyl groups. The catalytic process may be conducted at hydrogen pressures of less than about 50 atm and is particularly suited for converting alpha-hydroxycarboxylic acids, such as lactic acid or glycolic acid, to 1,2-dihydroxy alkanes, such as 1,2-propanediol or ethylene glycol, using zero valent copper. The catalyst may be supported on silica, and the hydroxyl groups on the silica may be capped with hydrophobic groups including alkyl groups and silanes, such as trialkylsilanes.

Catalyst to Dehydrogenate Paraffin Hydrocarbons

Abstract --- A new catalyst for the selective conversion of isobutane to isobutylene. This catalyst also could be applied to the selective dehydrogenation of other light paraffins such as propane and n-butane. The catalyst is comprised of platinum, tin, and potassium supported on K-L-zeolite. This catalyst exhibits greater than 98% selectivity for conversion of isobutane to isobutylene at isobutane conversion levels greater than 50%. In addition, this catalyst exhibits excellent stability. The preferred catalyst would have an atomic ratio of Sn to Pt greater than 1.0 as well as an atomic ratio of K to Pt greater than 1.0.


ProduÁ„o de Hidrocarboneto de Baixa Temperatura a Partir de Hidrocarbonetos Oxigenados

Low-Temperature Hydrogen Production from Oxygenated Hydrocarbons