Virent receives $1 million to research biogasoline

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Sept. 19, 2008 at 10:19 a.m. CST

Virent Energy Systems Inc. in Madison, Wis., has been awarded a $500,000 grant and a $500,000 loan from the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund to help design, build and operate a pilot plant that will produce up to 10,000 gallons of biogasoline from biomass annually.

More details about the pilot plant are not available, said Mary Blanchard, director of marketing for Virent Energy Systems. However, the company announced that several of its patent applications had been published on Sept. 12 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization. The company also released a whitepaper disclosing technical details about its trademarked BioForming technology, an aqueous phase reforming technology that converts plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules, which can be converted using pseudo-traditional petroleum refining processes into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other chemicals. Virent's process involves using a solid-state catalyst to convert a variety of process sugars into hydrocarbons. Base patents have been exclusively licensed to Virent from the University of Wisconsin's Alumni Research Foundation. Other patents are owned outright by Virent.

The company said its technology is competitive with petroleum when crude oil prices are higher than $60 per barrel. Virent has been working with international petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC for the past 18 months on the project. The partnership between Virent and Shell is a five-year agreement. The company has received investment capital from Cargill Inc. and American Honda Motor Co., the company said.