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More On Coskata's $1 per Gallon Ethanol

The Coskata process that GM is promoting can use a wide range of different feedstocks to produce ethanol. Materials ranging from agricultural waste to purpose grown crops that can be raised on marginal lands (switchgrass being the buy canada in cialis most widely known example of this) to waste materials such as old tires and even municipal waste streams can all be used as the buy cialis proffessional raw materials that can be turned into ethanol with very little to zero landfill waste.

The Coskata process is fundamentally a biological reaction that takes place inside a specialized reactor (which is simply a vessel to tramadol overnight free contain the microbes and keep them in an environment where they are happy to live and produce ethanol). Anaerobic bacteria are fed carbon monoxide and hydrogen (known as syngas), which are produced by gasification, which can be done a number of different ways, depending on the feedstock material.

The reactor for this process is a sealed plastic tube filled with millions of filaments on which the bacteria live. Having bacteria living on the filaments provides an enormous amount of surface area for them to live on in a very concentrated volume. The syngas is passed through the reactor, and bacteria feed on the carbon monoxide and hydrogen and produce ethanol.

Other methods for ethanol production typically use enzymatic reaction to break down materials which are then fermented and turned into alcohols by microorganisms. Coskata's process uses gasification to directly convert raw materials into syngas (which is mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas). This makes Coskata's process more efficient than vat-type bio-processes, and leads to less waste produced.

The process of plasma gasification which we wrote about last year is another one of the potential front-end methods that could be used, particularly in conjunction with more variable sources of raw materials such as municipal or factory waste streams. (In fact, this is one area GM and Coskata have talked about working together; expect to see a waste gasification/ethanol production plant at a GM manufacturing plant in the near future as a pilot demonstration of cialis online shop uk the process working with a highly variable source of raw materials and contributing to a zero landfill waste production facility.)

Coskata has taken pains to note that they are NOT using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in this process, and that the look here viagra online microbes they are using are not pathogenic. In fact, because these bacteria are anaerobic, if there was a breakdown and they were released into the atmosphere, they would quickly die off, just as we would if we wandered into a roomful of carbon monoxide. One part of Coskata's research has been to identify suitable strains of bacteria that work well in their process and then selectively breed them to produce "thoroughbred" strains that work better.

Coskata's process is also significantly less taxing on water resources. While other current methods of ethanol production take 3 to 4 gallons of water for each gallon of levitra vardenafil fuel produced, the Coskata process needs less than a gallon of water per gallon of fuel.

Link: Coskata (w/ Flash Animation)

Note: GM paid for my travel to attend a background briefing about this program.

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Comments (23)Add Comment
Energy in = Energy out?
written by spencer lindsay, January 13, 2008
Just wondering what kind of energy is required to produce plasma gasification... If you compile all the energy used to create a gallon of ethanol including farming equipment, pumping water, transportation, plasma gasification, etc., is is less than the output from this process?

Not being a smartass, just wondering.

Energy In = Energy out?
written by nicster, January 14, 2008
Gasification would use significantly more energy to rx cialis heat the "food" than would many other "vat-type" processes. It has to go from complex carbohydrates to CO and H2. That takes a bunch of energy.

On the other hand, there's probably not much energy put into farming. Most of the "food" is probably the corn-stalk (and other waste ag products) that's wasted in a simple sugar-to-ethanol-via-yeast processes. This process would actually save the cost of getting rid of those waste products.

Plants put a lot of energy into putting C, O and H together into carbohydrates. A lot of that is going to get wasted if you go to CO and H2 and then back to ethanol. There are some other bacteria-based processes that go from complex carbs to simpler ethanol without wasting as much of those already-created bonds.

There are lots of ways to get from plant material to ethanol. It will be interesting to see which pan out.

Energy Inputs in Plasma Gasification
written by Heather M, January 14, 2008
I wondered that myself. But actually, the plasma gasification systems designed at least by Startech are self-sustaining once they get going.

Some of the heat used in the gasification is released with the syngas byproducts, then run through a cooling system which produces steam and powers turbines. Check out EcoGeek's article on it and its original source article - really interesting.

Like back to the future
written by chris, January 14, 2008
Like the Mr. Fusion!
Starting to become pop
written by Hillary Short, January 14, 2008
This kind of tec. is already in use for quite a while in Germany. At the beginning this type of Ethanol production was subsidized by the gov., until the oil was too expensive to compete.
Re: Energy Inputs in Plasma Gasification
written by Spencer Lindsay, January 14, 2008
I totally bypassed that link Heather - thanks for the heads up.

Man, if this could be put into production along with some large scale wind/solar systems quickly, not only would we address our growing landfill problems, we'd reduce our dependence on fossil fuels overnight.

(still dreaming)

written by psychic readings, January 14, 2008
thanks for this article!
biochar revolution
written by stephen, January 15, 2008
biochar a closely related concept that everyone should check out. there is the potential for a carbon NEGATIVE fuel, just wikipedia it
i wander
written by projectmanagement, January 15, 2008
if this is a true solution or just a way to hold on to old engines. I have seen quite a few 'fake' solutions that are only suboptimalising the buying levitra without prescription situation. We need to cheap tramadol without prescription consider the whole chain of materials and energy to judge if this is a good idea.
written by Foto, January 15, 2008
1$ per gallon not bad ;-).
Fool For Alcohol Fuel
written by AlcoholFool, January 15, 2008
In the U.S., it would cost at least $40-50/dry ton of biomass, including a small profit for the farmer. 100 gallons of ethanol/dry ton therefore would equal approximately $.50/gallon. I don't know, but I suspect that gasification would cost at least $.50/gallon (or $50/ton-which may be a low estimate). That's a buck per gallon without the fermentation process, at a minimum.

The capital cost described is something like $300 million. That translates to something like $.60/gallon-including gasification equipment, so that at least firms up the buck a gallon before other expenses. Labor, overhead, and such will definitely add another $.50/gallon.

Then there is the energy to run the system. There are no free rides on energy, so you probably have to buy another $.25-.40/gallon for biomass to provide the system energy for gasification and temperature control, and drying of wet incoming biomass (gasifiers cannot use wet biomass efficiently).

It seems unlikely that the final cost will be under $2/gallon, and in all liklihood it will be around $2.25/gallon.

The "Press" said they saw a drip into a carboy (5 gallon glass vessel), and somewhere it was mentioned that they are scaling from a few gallon a day "pilot plant". The indication is that their reactor is "infintitely" expandable. I was wondering why they didn't list their engineers who have confirmed absolute scalability, before they did this astonishingly upbeat Press announcement..and why didn't they wait until they had built the 40,000 gallon per year pilot plant? Oh, GM is desperate for any positive news, and as you saw in Lutz's statement, they want to try to stem the buy cheap levitra tide on overall criticism of buying viagra online from canada the car industry, and GM in particular.

As a creature of this planet I certainly hope that this technology can 1) work on scale up and 2) be $1/gallon. But something tells me that the Devil is in the details. And there is this other company making precisely the same claims:

Hope it works! I am a Fool For Alcohol Fuel!
Some Verified Efficiency Numbers
written by P Proefrock, January 16, 2008
The Coskata process was evaluated by Argonne National Laboratory, among others. The well-to-wheels analysis on the process was that for a unit of energy spent in making ethanol through this process, it would produce 7.7 units of energy. That is at least double what a really good conventional ethanol (corn-ethanol) process can provide.

As Heather noted, we've covered plasma gasification, and it is actually a self-sustaining process once it is kicked off (and the syngas it produces is merely a byproduct).

I don't see much to back up the numbers AlcoholFool is applying to this, but I'm sure GM's and Coskata's scientists have run much more detailed numbers on the process to come up with the $1/gallon producer figure.

I haven't yet been able to find out about combining this with a biochar system, but I'm in total agreement that there would be a lot of good around such a system, and that such a facility would be very exciting to see come into being.
written by sinbad, January 16, 2008
Thank you very much for taking the time to right this article. I don't really think $1/gal is that bad at all.
written by AlcoholFool, January 21, 2008
P. Proefrock, I am unclear about Argonne's commercial track record, but the starting point of the cost of biomass as I outlined above is pretty darned simple, and doesn't require a PhD. If we are talking switchgrass or anything grown or gathered by farmers, those numbers stand and are probably even conservative over a ten year span. And that makes the starting point $.50 gallon anyway you want to cut the grass. Let's see if we can consensus on that before going on. Saying Argonne says so, doesn't make it so..........IMHO
written by AlcoholFool, January 22, 2008
Howdy again

Being the fool that I am, I contacted KMW Energy in Canada, gasification experts. They confirmed that a gasification process requires low moisture materials, or the efficiency drops precipitously. Thus, all biomass entering the gasification process, if wet, must be dried first. Municipal Solid Waste is approximately 50% moisture. Energy is required, as I stated above, to dry this material.

If the biomass is farm produced, then the cost to the farmer is well above $40/dry ton. With profit, it easily hits $50/ton. Taking Coskata's own numbers, they claim to produce 100 gallons of ethanol from any ton of biomass, anywhere. Gradeschool math tells us that 100 gallons at a cost of $50 is $.50. If you have to dry it, as is the case with MSW, the cost per gallon goes even higher. While Coskata expects high tipping fees, there are monumental problems getting that biomass into usable form for gasification. And on the farm, the biomass must also be hauled to the central ethanol plant, and must be stored. These costs put the biomass easily into the $.75/gallon range, delivered and the best site effect of levitra on women ready for processing. If it is up north, the storage must be on-site at the ethanol plant, as the 500 trucks per day, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week to maintain a single ethanol plant (corn ethanol plants have it brought in by the trainload from distant silos) is difficult in winter. Think about it: 500 trucks per day, every day of the year.

You can do the math on the capital cost which Coskata has published, and divide it back into the number of gallons they claim they will produce, and you will have AT LEAST $.60/gallon. So, you have at least $.75 for dry, ready biomass and $.60/gallon for capital equipment. That is, without the need for engineers or super scientists $1.25/gallon. And as mentioned, labor, overhead (overhead is about 3.5 times labor), maintenance, management and ahem..profit, push the FOB price per gallon for Coskata at about $2/gallon, easy.

Ask Argonne to post a direct, point by point response to each of my numbers above. If you have any questions about any of cialis 50mg my numbers, ask away. I will do my best to answer your question(s).

written by Wes Bolsen, January 29, 2008
This is Wes Bolsen, the CMO & Vice President of Coskata. I was looking at what you guys were posting and decided to help the discussion.

We can make ethanol for under $1/gallon. Unfortunately, I was not able to talk to AlcoholFool to share the economics of Coskata, so I thought that I would share in this forum. We did our baseline model at $50/dry ton which is much higher than almost any other cellulosic player is forecasting. So yes... the feedstock, even if it is $0.40 or $0.50 per gallon is by far the biggest piece of the equation.

There are no catalysts, no enzymes, and no back end solids handling. The organisms are highly efficient making more than 100 gallons from one dry ton. Once you pay the capital cost of the gasifier, you only have ongoing maintenance cost, so it is not like it costs you $0.25 per gallon to gasify (or you get to factor that in to capital recovery). Once you start the reaction, it will continue to burn with very little energy input.

AlcoholFool, we also have 1700 degree synthesis gas that we are cooling to 100 degrees F and recovering power all along the way to not only power our whole plant, but possibly sell back to the grid.

There is enough "excess syngas", or tailgas as it is called, that is above the lower flamable limit that we can use to produce evergy as well.

The organisms are able to "regenerate" themselves using only a small portion of the chemical energy contained in the syngas to do this. So not a lot of cost added here at all. This is why the fermentation process is so efficient.

The separtations process is patented and currently used in the chemicals industry, so we have a leg up in potentially reducing the energy required by as much as 50% to do "separations" employing this design.

We have factored in all of the people that it takes to run the plant paying them good wages, working capital, and all of the other things included in the production cost of the ethanol.

We honestly get to less than $1/gallon production cost for the ethanol. We are not waiting for invention, or some breakthrough, or something special to happen. We are ready today. This is what GM saw. They evaluated all of the top technologies, including some that you guys mention in this article plus others before selecting Coskata to commercialize around the globe. Of course we are pleased with the independent validation from Argonne national labs on the environmental benefits (up to 84% reduction in CO2) as well as the full well-to-wheel anaysis, including all of the energy used to make the ethanol, being up to 7.7 times as energy positive.

We are very excited here at Coskata, and look forward to having commercial plants announced very soon.

Wes Bolsen
CMO & VP, Coskata Inc.
written by AlcoholFool, February 15, 2008
Mr. Bolsen

Thanks for your response and comments.

So, with a feedstock cost of 50 cents per gallon of ethanol, all other costs including capital debt on 300 million installation cost, energy, labor, overhead, management, etc. comes to 50 cents per gallon, correct?

That is useful and interesting information. And one of the most extraordinary feats in industrial history, statistically-speaking.

I feel so Foolish.

Kindest Regards

Coskata sounds too good to be true
written by tkn, March 18, 2008
Right after I heard about Coskata on public radio (Talk of the Nation Science Friday) a few weeks ago, I sent them an email suggesting they locate a plant here in Corvallis.

I suppose at this point we're all eagerly waiting to see if they can really pull this off.

I'm particularly interested in the municipal solid waste and old tires feedstock option. How much of the landfill stream could be diverted to ethanol production? How much potential fuel is lying about the country in the form of cheap tramadol no prescription 180ct old tires?

BTW, what is the net carbon effect of Coskata's process?

written by William Winfield, May 01, 2008
I have greatly enjoyed the banter here--most informative. Coskata certainly has the most credible claims I have seen for sustainable energy except for one other producer. The rival product is mixed-alcohols product with superior performance characteristics to ethanol. Wes Bolsen did a real good job with his commentary--I am glad he participated.

Energy Oracle
The Story Doesn't Add Up
written by Mr. Mercy Vetsel, May 03, 2008
> This is Wes Bolsen, the CMO & Vice President
> of Coskata. I was looking at what you guys were
> posting and decided to help the discussion.

> We can make ethanol for under $1/gallon.

Okay, so we're supposed to just believe this is different from other incredible "next energy" claims that hit the media at the rate of five per day, even though the 10 year future price of oil hasn't budged. I have two questions:

1) How much taxpayer subsidy is factored into that $1/gallon price, i.e. how much would it cost without any capital or per unit subsidy?

2) If you can prove the economics of your process, why dicker around? The capital markets can raise $1 billion if the profits are there. Exxon alone spends $1 billion PER MONTH to suck energy out of the ground with a lower return. You should have billions of dollars of capital beating a path to your door to build 100 plants not another piddling "pilot".

I don't need to see a black hole to believe it exists, but I do expect to see the effect of it's gravitational field.

It's one thing to claim that the capital markets don't care about the environment; you're asking us to believe they don't care about making money.

written by Crazy Rob, May 22, 2008
You guys don't understand that R&D behind this, they haven't scaled this to 1million gallons a year have they?
Thats the point of the pilot plant, so you dont waste $400 million on a plant that doesn't work.

And what about conversion on the 99.8% of cars in the USA that can't run, even on E85 without adding gas?

I have tuned my car on E85, and gasoline.
There is a big difference in the running properties of good choice generic viagra professional both, Ethanol is a better performing fuel.
Optimist at heart, hard to believe.
written by Aristos Kalamanies, January 11, 2009
I want to believe these claims, I really do. But something does not add up. We have been studying biofilms for years and if there is one thing that biofilms have taught us - they are all unstable and it's highly unlikely that they can be used on an industrial level.

Moreso - do a literature search. Find where the 100 mg cialis magical microbes come from. Read the publications that were authored by the founder of these Microbes - Raulph Tanner. We are asked to believe that the production of Ethanol that Tanner reports was the baseline - increasing it to the degree that Coskata has "managed" to do would make us believe that the microbes are swimming in Ethanol (that's how efficient they are). Back up, the microbes create the amout of Ethanol that Tanner reports because that's highest they can withstand physically. Additionally, Ethanol is a solvent and highly toxic to the microbes. If exposed at a high level, it will only serve to kill these microbes.

I want to believe them, I really do. But I would ask to see the hard facts before I put my money on this.
written by skeptical at best, April 22, 2009
Funny that Coskata is no longer claiming $1 per gallon on their website isn't it?

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