Shell, Iogen announce cellulosic advancements

By Hope Deutscher
Posted June 11, 2009, at 3:10 p.m. CST

On June 10, Royal Dutch Shell plc announced one of its Ottawa service stations would provide cellulosic E10 produced by Iogen Corp.; a day later, Shell announced it's blending the same fuel into the company's Shell V-Power race fuel at the 24 Hours of LeMans Race in France on June 13.

For one month, regular gasoline purchased at the Shell station will contain 10 percent cellulosic ethanol, which was produced using wheat and barley straw at Iogen's 2 MMly (500,000 gallon per year) demonstration-scale facility in Ottawa, which uses advanced conversion processes.

"This one small retail station in Ottawa is one big step forward for advanced biofuels globally," said Canada's Transport and Infrastructure Minister John Baird, who is also a longtime advocate of cellulose ethanol. "This is a great day for Canadian technology and proof that Canada's commitment to developing low carbon dioxide fuels is starting to pay dividends for the environment, farmers and consumers."

Gordon Quaiattini, president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association called the announcement of cellulosic E10 being sold at a Shell gas station "a milestone achievement for advanced biofuels. It is another example of Canada developing a vibrant and diverse advanced biofuels industry."

Shell first took an equity stake in Iogen in 2002. A year ago, the two companies announced an extended commercial alliance to accelerate developing and deploying cellulosic ethanol. According to Shell, the international company is working to meet government mandates for biofuel and with its experience and assets, has become the world's largest distributor of biofuels. "I am excited we are leading the pack in cellulosic ethanol production technology and, with this event, showing what is possible in the future," said Graeme Sweeney, Shell's executive vice president of future fuels and carbon dioxide. "While it will be some time before general customers can buy this product at local service stations, we are working with governments to make large-scale production economic."

Shell's global program includes several collaborations relating to advanced biofuels. The company is collaborating with Choren Industries GmbH on the production of biomass-to-liquids (BTL); Codexis Inc. on production of enzyme conversion; Virent Energy Systems Inc. on the development of biogasoline; and it has partnered with HR Biopetroleum Inc. to form the joint venture company Cellana to research marine algae for vegetable oil.

On July 11, Shell announced that for the first time an advanced biofuel would be used in the gasoline at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Race. "Shell is proud to be the official fuel supplier for the 24 Hours of Le Mans," said Richard Karlstetter, Shell's global technology manager for racing fuels. "We see motorsport as a technical test bed and we are excited about demonstrating Iogen cellulosic ethanol in our Shell V-Power gasoline race fuel this year."

Shell has previously blended BTL into its Shell V-Power diesel race fuel at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A small amount will be used again, together with the established, high-performance gas-to-liquid component.

For the past two years, Iogen's fuel has been used to fuel Green Alternative Motorsports' cars at the 25 Hours of Thunder Hill Endurance Race in Willows, Calif. As well, Iogen's own fleet runs on its cellulosic E10 fuel and it also provides E85 to various departments within the Canadian federal government.

"Building a demo plant is one thing but you then need to go through the process of operating the new technology at scale, learning, modifying and lowering costs," said Brian Foody, Iogen's CEO. "With the volumes we're producing today, we're confident about the future."