A California-based company recently announced that it has created gasoline using a giant miscanthus variety developed at Mississippi State University (MSU).
Cool Planet Biofuels used Freedom giant miscanthus, developed by plant geneticist Brian Baldwin as a biofuel feedstock. MSU filed a plant patent application for the variety in 2010 and licensed it to Georgia-based Repreve Renewables LLC.
In the pilot testing phase, Cool Planet Biofuels officials say they generated an estimated 4,000 gallons of gasoline per acre of biomass based on nearly optimal growing conditions. They estimate an average yield of 3,000 gallons per acre. The gasoline is produced using mild process conditions that take in-field, air-dried and coarsely ground biomass and subject it to temperatures comparable to those of a kitchen stovetop and pressures comparable to those of a portable tire inflator.
“We met the people from Cool Planet Biofuels two years ago at a conference,” says Craig Patterson, manager of commercial operations with Repreve Renewables. “We provided them with samples of Freedom giant miscanthus, which they used in their process of converting biomass to gasoline. Their product is a drop-in, tank-ready gasoline, chemically identical to gasoline made from fossil fuels.”
While agricultural wastes such as corn stover and other bioenergy crops such as switchgrass can be used to create gasoline, Cool Planet’s announcement shows that Freedom giant miscanthus outperforms other materials in yield per acre, says Patterson.
He points out that cellulose-based gasoline has several advantages over ethanol.
“A gallon of ethanol does not replace a gallon of gas,” he says. “Most cars can use up to 15% ethanol. Ethanol extends our fuel supply; it doesn’t replace it. Ethanol can’t be used with the current fuel infrastructure – it has to travel in separate pipelines and requires modified pumps at the station, which translates to huge costs.”
Cool Planet Biofuels is road-testing its product in California, a state known for its strict auto emissions regulations. Because the biofuel has an octane level of 109, it’s mixed with a lower-octane gasoline to create a useable product for standard engines.