Cobalt Biofuels of Mountainview, CA, has developed what promises to be a cheap way to make butanol from biomass. Butanol is a cousin of Ethanol but it packs more energy per gallon and works better with the existing infrastructure for delivering gas to the pump. Last week, the company announced that it had raised $25 million to expand from a small laboratory-scale production to a pilot-scale plant that can produce about 35,000 gallons of fuel per year.
35,000 gallons isn't much but it will give Cobalt valuable information on how to scale up their very interesting technology.
Biobutanol - Fuel From Biomass
Biobutanol is a biofuel that can be used as a direct substitute for gasoline, as an additive to gasoline or as an additive to diesel fuel. Moreover Biobutanol can be distributed through existing pipelines, something ethanol can't do.
Cobalt Biofuels' new technology allows it to economically produce biobutanol from a diverse range of non-food feedstocks such as corn stalks and other agricultural waste.
From Technology Review:
"Our models tell us it is a very low-cost process that can be competitive with anything on the market today," says Pamela Contag, the company's founder and CEO. The process is cheaper because it uses improved strains of bacteria to break down and ferment biomass, as well as improved equipment for managing fermentation and reducing water and energy consumption, she says.
Butanol could help increase the use of biofuels, since it doesn't have the same limitations as ethanol, the primary biofuel made in the United States. It has more energy than ethanol: a gallon of butanol contains about 90 percent as much energy as a gallon of gasoline, while ethanol only has about 70 percent as much. What's more, while ethanol requires special pipelines for shipping, butanol can be shipped in unmodified gasoline pipelines. And butanol can be blended with gasoline in higher percentages than ethanol without requiring modifications to engines.
More at: Technology Review
Also Check Out: Sustainable Design Update