Renewable diesel projects to use cellulosic feedstocks

By Kris Bevill
Recent renewable diesel collaborations have provided interesting insights into the future possibilities of cellulosic feedstocks. Several companies are working on using everything from sugarcane to municipal solid waste to produce diesel fuels and are having promising results in the early stages of development.

California-based technology company Amyris Biotechnologies has joined forces with Crystalsev, one of Brazil's largest ethanol distribution and marketing companies, to form Amyris-Crystalsev Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do Biocombustiveeis Ltd. The new company plans to produce renewable diesel from sugarcane on a commercial scale by 2010. At press time, a research and development facility was scheduled to open in Campinas, Brazil, in June. A pilot plant is scheduled to open in the same location in 2009.

Amyris, the majority stakeholder in the new venture, will provide the technology to create hydrocarbons through sugar fermentation. Amyris Chief Executive Officer John Melo said the collaboration represents a "historic first for the global transportation fuels industry." He added that with the feedstock provided by Crystalsev and Santelisa Vale, one of the largest sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil, Amyris can take its technology out of the lab and rapidly scale production to begin meeting the world's fuel needs.

Two other California-based companies, BioGold Fuels Corp. and Energy Dynamics Corp. International, have entered into a strategic licensing agreement to produce renewable diesel from municipal solid waste and other waste streams. BioGold will provide the front-end technology to sterilize, sort and size the feedstocks. Energy Dynamics will be responsible for the gasification technology to produce a diesel blendstock, among other products. BioGold intends to utilize Energy Dynamics' technology to build and operate a biorefinery in Kansas, according to BioGold CEO Steve Raccosin. No other details had been released to BioGold's stockholders at press time, so the company couldn't comment further as to the progress of the partnership, according to its Chief Financial Officer Chris Barsness.

BioGold uses an "organic gas emissions reduction" processing system to convert many types of waste into renewable fuels. The company's goal is to eliminate the need for landfills while providing a source of fuel and electricity.

Energy Dynamics aims to collaborate with companies such as BioGold in order to use its gasification technology to convert municipal solid waste and other types of biomass feedstocks into usable fuels. The company plans to make its waste-to-energy technologies available to companies worldwide.