Virent Energy Systems: Partnership With Shell Brings First “Biogasoline” Plant

Shell and Virent Energy Systems, Inc., that production has started at the world’s first biogasoline plant.

The Madison, Wisc., facility converts plant sugars into gasoline instead of ethanol, making it usable in standard gasoline engines. The technology isn’t ready for primetime but it’s another major biofuel investment by Shell that could yield fruit in coming years, said Luis Scoffone, Vice President of Alternative Energies at Shell.

Scoffone said:

Moving from lab-scale to a demonstration production plant is an important milestone for biogasoline. ‘There is some way to go on the route to commercialisation, but we have been delighted with the speed of progress achieved by our collaboration with Virent.

Shell is the world’s largest distributor of biofuels and has been bullish on the prospects for the fuel.

Oil majors like Shell and Chevron, which announced the creation of a solar panel test facility yesterday, have been bringing their R&D expertise and cash to green energy projects with increasing frequency.

Virent, which is backed by Cargill and Honda, uses a patented “BioForming” technology to convert beet sugar into hydrocarbon molecules resembling gasoline, according to the news release.

The biogasoline molecules also have higher energy content than ethanol and provide better fuel economy.

The Madison demonstration plant has the capacity to produce 10,000 gallons per year.

Virent’s biofuel, which is made with non-food feedstocks, could eliminate the need for specialized infrastructure, engine modifications and blending equipment required for mixing gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol.

Virent’s Chief Executive Officer, Lee Edwards, said the collaboration with Shell brings low-emission, high quality renewable fuels closer to reality.

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