Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MIT Tech Review on KiOR and cellulosic biofuel

In a piece on KiOR titled A Lifeline for a Cellulosic-Biofuel Company , Kevin Bullis concludes:

But big challenges remain. If Kior hopes to break even and eventually turn a profit, it needs the economies of scale that come from even bigger refineries, and building those will require more funding. Funding for cellulosic plants has been particularly hard to come by, since investors are reluctant to take a risk on the new technology.

Bullis also quotes Mike Ritzenthaler, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray:

For example, he [ Ritzenthaler ] notes that production levels are increasing, and the company looks on track to produce a million gallons of fuel by the end of the year. Kior also has the advantage of making gasoline rather than ethanol, the market for which is saturated in the United States.

An October 7, 2013 Bloomberg report had noted

Denatured ethanol for November delivery was unchanged at $1.687 a gallon on the Chicago Board of Trade. Prices have dropped 23 percent this year.

Gasoline for November delivery rose 1.85 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $2.6261 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract covers reformulated gasoline, made to be blended with ethanol before delivery to filling stations.

Note KiOR's US 20120101318, titled PRODUCTION OF RENEWABLE BIOFUELS with first claim:

A process for producing a renewable fuel, said process comprising: (a) providing a bio-oil having an oxygen content of less than 15 weight percent; (b) separating said bio-oil into at least a light fraction and a heavy fraction, wherein the mid-boiling point of said heavy fraction is at least C. greater than the mid-boiling point of said light fraction; (c) hydrotreating at least a portion of said heavy fraction to thereby provide a hydrotreated product; and (d) combining at least a portion of said light fraction and at least a portion of said hydrotreated product with a petroleum-derived gasoline to thereby produce a renewable gasoline, wherein said renewable gasoline comprises said petroleum-derived gasoline in an amount of at least 60 weight percent, said light fraction in an amount of at least 0.1 weight percent, and said hydrotreated product in an amount of at least 0.1 weight percent.

The case was docketed for examination on 4 April 2013.

Note the earlier US 20100105970, filed via Green Tech petition on Jan. 20, 2011 and leading to issued patent 8,003,835, with first claim

A process for the conversion of solid biomass to hydrocarbons comprising: a. contacting said solid biomass with a catalyst in a first riser operated at a temperature in the range of from about C. to about C. to thereby produce a first biomass-catalyst mixture and a first product comprising hydrocarbons; b. separating said first product from said first biomass-catalyst mixture; c. charging said first biomass-catalyst mixture to a second riser operated at a temperature in the range of from about C. to about C. to thereby produce a second biomass-catalyst mixture and a second product comprising hydrocarbons; d. separating said second product from said second biomass-catalyst mixture; e. charging said second biomass-catalyst mixture to a third riser operated at a temperature greater than about C. to thereby produce a spent catalyst and a third product comprising hydrocarbons; and f. separating said third effluent from said spent catalyst.

From the specification:

In various embodiments the invention includes methods, apparatuses, kits, and compositions for converting cellulosic (e.g., including ligno- and hemi-cellulosic) material in biomass (e.g., including edible and inedible portions) into fuels and/or specialty chemicals under conditions that can mitigate equipment cost, energy cost, and/or degradation or undesirable reaction of conversion product. Examples of fuels include light gases (ethane, propane, butane), naphtha, and distillates (jet fuel, diesel, heating oil). Examples of chemicals include light olefins (ethylene, propylene, butylenes), acids (like formic and acetic), aldehydes, alcohols (ethanol, propanol, butanol, phenols), ketones, furans, and the like. For example, the technology includes preparing solid biomass particles for catalytic conversion, which can improve conversion of the biomass into fuels and/or specialty chemicals in conventional petroleum refining processes (e.g., known petrochemical refining units). The technology also includes adapting existing refinery processes for processing biomass (e.g., change operating parameters, catalyst, and feedstock), retrofitting existing refinery process units for processing biomass (e.g., adding an extra riser for biomass catalytic cracking or adding a solid biomass feeder system to introduce biomass), and constructing new, purpose-built biomass reactors (e.g., employ commercially available conventional reactor components). Thus, the methods, apparatuses, kits, and compositions can reduce the cost and increase the availability of fuel and/or specialty chemicals derived from biomass. Preparation can have a synergistic effect, reducing the temperature necessary for catalytic or pyrolytic conversion of the biomass and/or increasing the conversion efficiency of the biomass, as well as facilitating processing in conventional refining units.


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