Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sundrop Fuels

In a post titled Chesapeake's Plan To Seed Natural-Gas Market Wins Praise Of Analysts, online wsj discussed Chesapeake's funding of $155 million for privately held Sundrop Fuels. Chesapeake's co-founder and chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, has pushed natural gas as a way to reduce oil imports. Here, the source of hydrocarbon is biomass, which is gasified to CO and H2. The Sundrop website notes:

Sundrop Fuels gasification technology almost instantly turns any plant material into synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that is then converted into drop-in biobased “green gasoline”, diesel or aviation fuel using well-established commercial processes.

Our process is similar to conventional biomass gasification except for one major difference: We use radiation heat transfer to rapidly drive the extremely high temperatures needed to create the syngas that is then converted into advanced biofuels. At the center of our patented approach is the Sundrop Fuels RP Reactor™ , a radiation-driven biomass gasifier that generates temperatures of more than 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,372 degrees Fahrenheit).

A post at marketwatch stated: To be sure, Exxon Mobil’s Research and Engineering Company first commercialized its Methane-to-Gasoline technology about 23 years ago in New Zealand. But the fact that it’s turning up in a new biofuel effort illustrates the company’s role in developing new sources of fuel.

To be clear on this one, 23 years ago there was no Exxon Mobil, and the technology in question was developed by Mobil. US patent 7,022,888 gives some background:

A number of U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,928,483 (1975), 3,931,349 (1976), and 4,05,576 (1977), 4,046,825 (1977), and 4,138,440(1979), assigned to Mobil oil corporation disclosed process for the production of gasoline from methanol, other alcohol and ether, using shape selective ZSM-5 zeolite catalyst. A commercial plant based on Mobil's methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process, involving production of methanol from methane via syngas route: methane steam reforming to syngas and syngas conversion to methanol, was also successfully operated in New Zealand in 1985.


A 14,500 barrel-per-day natural gas-to-gasoline plant started operating in New Zealand in 1985 and was on stream producing 87 octane unleaded gasoline until recently. In this process, natural gas was first converted to methanol via synthesis gas, followed by conversion of methanol to gasoline using a novel catalyst developed by Mobil in the 1970s. A portion of Mobills development efforts was funded by the Fossil Energy Program of the USDOE.

**As to Sundrop's technology, see for example published US application 20100237291, titled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR SOLAR-THERMAL GASIFICATION OF BIOMASS with abstract:

A method, apparatus, and system for a solar-driven chemical plant that may include a solar thermal receiver having a cavity with an inner wall, where the solar thermal receiver is aligned to absorb concentrated solar energy from one or more of 1) an array of heliostats, 2) solar concentrating dishes, and 3) any combination of the two. Some embodiments may include a solar-driven chemical reactor having multiple reactor tubes located inside the cavity of solar thermal receiver, wherein a chemical reaction driven by radiant heat occurs in the multiple reactor tubes, and wherein particles of biomass are gasified in the presence of a steam (H2O) carrier gas and methane (CH4) in a simultaneous steam reformation and steam biomass gasification reaction to produce reaction products that include hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas using the solar thermal energy from the absorbed concentrated solar energy in the multiple reactor tubes.

AND US 20100303692 with abstract:

A method, apparatus, and system for a solar-driven chemical plant are disclosed. Some embodiments may include a solar thermal receiver to absorb concentrated solar energy from an array of heliostats and a solar-driven chemical reactor. This chemical reactor may have multiple reactor tubes, in which particles of biomass may be gasified in the presence of a carrier gas in a gasification reaction to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide products. High heat transfer rates of the walls and tubes may allow the particles of biomass to achieve a high enough temperature necessary for substantial tar destruction and complete gasification of greater than 90 percent of the biomass particles into reaction products including hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas in a very short residence time between a range of 0.01 and 5 seconds.

**IPBiz notes that Coskata is also involved in synthesis gas matters.


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