Sunday, March 16, 2008

Projecting costs in the Coskata process for making ethanol

A commenter on greentechmedia writing about the Coskata process:

Capital cost for the Coskata operation will be approximately $.60/gallon. Putting aside the obvious complexity of MSW as a feedstock (including that it must be dry and separated from metals and such to be efficiently put through a gasifier) and other so-called 'waste' and 'negative-cost' feedstock, American farmers will charge at least $40-60/ton of dry biomass, if not more when considering storage and transportation issues. So, at a minimum, capital and product feedstock will run at least a dollar per gallon of ethanol, if not more.

Next, you have the portion of the feedstock (which must also be dried, read: additional energy) to run the system. Yes, you get heat off the system to do this or that, but there is no free ride on energy. That energy will translate to something like another $.30/gallon of ethanol. Then, there is labor, overhead and all the other goodies that it takes to run an operation. That will add another $.50/gallon. Now, conservatively, or perhaps the opposite, we are easily now at $1.50/gallon, probably $2/gallon. Assuming the biological system, with the bugs dying continuously (nothing lives forever), maintenance costs on keeping the culture up, including labs, labor, etc., you very likely will have another $.25/gallon.

This pushes the likely costs close to $2/gallon and counting-without considering anything else that might affect the costs. Nothing really wrong with $2, mind you. That translates to an equivalent of about $3 bucks for gasoline production, energy for energy delivered to the wheelsÂ…except that gasoline costs considerably less at the production point in the vertical integration.

See also:
GM aligns with Coskata on cellulosic ethanol; good plan or Exxon's Reliance re-visited?

***Separately, on biofilms, EarthTimes writes:

MELBOURNE, Florida, February 7, 2008-- QuoNova LLC, which is 88.7% owned by XL TechGroup, Inc., has generated preliminary in-vitro data indicating high efficacy of selected Quorum Sensing Blockers ("QSB") in inhibiting biofilm formation by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) strains and fungal organisms such as Candida sp.

QuoNova's business strategy is to develop and commercialize its proprietary QSB "disruptive technology" platform to address unmet needs in several multi-billion dollar markets including therapeutics, medical devices, consumer care, agriculture and several industrial applications.

QuoNova has optimized its proprietary QSB technology to obtain small molecules with a broad activity profile that are effective against multiple pathogenic Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains as well as fungi. These promising results, which are the subject of continuing research, further underscore the potential of QuoNova's QSB in combating the detrimental effects of biofilms, especially in clinical environments, where mixed microbial communities predominate. MRSA bacteria (hospital and community acquired) cause increasing healthcare problems due to their resistance against most conventional antibiotic therapies.


Blogger Wes said...

I left this response at EcoGeek, but AlcoholFool posted in a number of places back in January that I was not able to follow up with. Here is what I said back then.....

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.

2:43 PM  

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