Looks like some big players are making a push for cellulosic ethanol. This past July, Royal Dutch Shell signed a deal with Iogen, a Canadian biotech company. Iogen has been working on bringing cellulosic ethanol production to scale, using feedstocks such as straw and corn stover (leaves and stalks). They recently shipped the first 100,000 liters of ethanol to Shell.
It makes sense that Shell is looking to ethanol. If I was an oil company, I would be most interested in alternative energy sources that are most compatible with my technology. Ethanol is already blended into gasoline here in the US up to 15%. Combustion engines can be modified, too, in order to run on higher blends of ethanol; in Brazil, most cars run on 100% ethanol. The technology – the combustion engine – is still the same, and it is therefore a natural choice for an oil company looking to expand to new markets.
The fact that Iogen has started to deliver the ethanol is good news. It makes a clear statement that cellulosic ethanol is a real technology, not just a laboratory idea. Hopefully, as more companies bring cellulosic ethanol to scale, we will be able to move away from the first generation of biofuels, which have been extensively criticized due to the fact that they compete with food production.
Via Green Car Congress
Image Courtesy of Iogen