Five major biofuels companies around the world
Australian Renewable Fuels Limited
According to Australian Renewable Fuels (ARF), world production of biodiesel is around five billion litres annually; and biodiesel is considered an attractive fuel source due to its low emission levels. ARF was established in 2001 by Amadeus Energy Limited. In 2006, the company completed construction of its biodiesel plants, which currently produce 44.5 million litres of biodiesel annually. The Adelaide and Picton facilities utilize various feedstocks, such as used cooking oils, tallow and vegetable oils, which are considered to be extremely cheap materials.
ARF utilizes the proven Energea process in its plant facilities. The company holds an exclusive agreement with Energea for the use of its technology within the Australasian region and particular areas of North America, including manufacturing rights. ARF’s vision is, “to become the pre-eminent Australian biodiesel producer by managing a planned roll-out of biodiesel plants within Australia.” ARF’s expansion program will involve establishing biodiesel plants overseas as well.
BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, Inc
BlueFire Ethanol utilizes the Arkenol patented process for producing ethanol from wood wastes, rice, wheat straws and other agricultural residues. The company is the only viable, world-wide cellulose-to-ethanol producer, having demonstrated production experience.
According to CEO, Arnold Klann, BlueFire’s combination of flexibility and experience has allowed the company to become successful.
Klann says, “BlueFire has the unique ability to produce various cellulosic biofuels and chemicals, allowing for a lot of synergistic opportunities. Our technology has been demonstrated by a third party, which has not only validated the technology, but also allowed for BlueFire to be in its unique position as being capable of deploying on a commercial scale.”
“BlueFire has accumulated thousands of hours of continuous operation in delivering cellulosic ethanol,” Klann explains. “BlueFire's process enables us to use mixed cellulosic waste streams to create pure and clean cellulosic sugars, which can then be converted into a wide array of different biofuels.”
Due to BlueFire’s advantage, it has recently partnered with Solazyme, Inc to act as its sugar supplier. BlueFire will be producing cellulosic sugars that Solazyme uses within its algae process to produce biodiesel.
BlueFire is currently seeking financing in order to build the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in the United States. Klann says, “We are looking to have that financing completed this year.”
Cosan produces clean energy from sugar cane, a renewable and high-performance resource. The largest sugarcane producer and processing company in Brazil, Cosan was founded in 1936 and currently possesses 23 production facilities, 21 of which are located in São Paulo State. Two additional plants are also underway, one of which is being constructed in the city of Jataí in Goiás State, and the other in Caarapó in Mato Grosso do Sul State. Additionally, the company owns and operates four refineries and two port terminals. Cosan produces amorphous liquid sucrose, crystal sugar (VHP), inverted liquid sugar, granulated refined sugar, organic sugar, ethanol and electric energy produced from sugarcane. The company is the third largest sugar producer, and the fifth largest ethanol producer in the world, as well as being the world’s single largest ethanol exporter. During its 2008 and 2009 harvests, the company crushed a record 44.2 million tons of sugarcane. Combined with NovAmérica, its overall crushing capacity is currently approximately 60 million tons.
Coskata, Inc. is a biology-based renewable energy business, with facilities located in the U.S. The company was established in July of 2006 by GreatPoint Ventures. After recently scaling up its technology to a semi-commercial scale, Coskata is now in the process of completing designs for its first commercial facility.
Wesley Bolsen, Chief Marketing Officer for Coskata, explains, “Coskata will continue to produce ethanol and demonstrate its commercial viability at its integrated biorefinery in Pennsylvania. General Motors will continue to test the fuel at their Milford Proving Grounds, in Michigan. We also completed the engineering for a 55 million gallon per year wood biomass facility to be located in the south-eastern United States.”
The company maintains a low-cost platform technology, allowing for the production of fuels from a variety of source materials, such as agriculture, biomass and municipal wastes and various other carbonaceous materials.
“Coskata’s affordable, flexible and efficient process makes us a leader in the advanced biofuels industry. We have one of the lowest production costs in the industry and one of the highest ethanol yields-per-ton of biomass. The technology is highly feedstock flexible and has the ability to utilize various sources of feedstock or raw materials,” Bolsen says. “We are one of the few companies that have successfully scaled our technology.”
Bolsen adds, “Coskata’s continued success can be attributed to our industry leading technology, a talented and dedicated leadership team and strong partners.”
Sapphire Energy is a critical element to the biofuels industry. The company has been responsible for the development of breakthrough technologies for producing fungible, drop-in transportation fuels. The company produces 91-octane gasoline, 89-cetane diesel and jet fuel—all from a mixture of algae, sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2)—known as, “Green Crude.” According to a statement made by Sapphire Energy, “Our approach leverages the same industrial refining processes as current crude oil, yielding ‘drop-in’ replacement transportation fuels that meet ASTM standards for gasoline, jet fuel and diesel and that are environmentally sound, cost effective and scalable.”
Sapphire Energy has been in existence since 2007 and now operates in San Diego and Orange County, California, as well as in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The company believes, “From the start, our goal has been ambitious: to become the world’s leading producer of renewable fuels and petrochemical products. We’re on the right track and all indications support that. We believe that through the application of vision and technology, we have found a better way to achieve energy independence and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.”
Sakuu Corporation creates 3D printer for EV batteries
Sakuu Corporation has announced a new industrial-grade 3D printer for e-mobility batteries which it claims will unlock the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles.
Offering an industrial scale ‘local’ battery production capability, Sakuu believes the technology will provide increased manufacturer and consumer confidence. Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4.
Backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier to major OEMs, Musashi Seimitsu, Sakuu is set to enable fast and high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs) that, compared with lithium-ion batteries, have the same capacity yet are half the size and almost a third lighter.
The company’s KeraCel-branded SSBs will also use around 30%-50% fewer materials – which can be sourced locally – to achieve the same energy levels as lithium-ion options, significantly reducing production costs. Sakuu anticipates the 3D printer’s attributes being easily transferable to a host of different applications in other industry sectors.
"For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles,” said Robert Bagheri, Founder, CEO and chairman, Sakuu Corporation. “SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points."
The ability to provide on-demand, localised production will create more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains, he added.
Sakuu will initially focus on the two-, three- and smaller four-wheel electric vehicle market for whom the company’s SSB proposition delivers an obvious and desirable combination of small form factor, low weight and improved capacity benefits. The agility of Sakuu’s AM process also means that customers can easily switch production to different battery types and sizes, as necessary, for example to achieve double the energy in the same space or the same energy in half the space.
Beyond energy storage, Sakuu’s development of print capability opens complex end device markets previously closed off to current 3D printing platforms. These include active components like sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive; power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics; PH, temperature and pressure sensors within IoT; and pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices for medical, to name a few.
"As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets," said Bagheri.
Ongoing research and new funding collaborations
Omega Seiki, a part of Anglian Omega Group of companies, has partnered with New York-based company C4V to introduce SSBs for EVs and the renewable sector in India. As part of an MoU, the two companies are also looking at the manufacturing of SSBs in the country, according to reports.
Solid Power, which produces solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, recently announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future EVs. Solid Power plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company's pilot production line in early 2022.
"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing directly," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. "By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes."
A subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, Vinfast has signed an MoU with SSB manufacturer ProLogium - which picked up a bronze award at the recent Edison Awards - to accelerate commercialisation of batteries for EVs (click here).
Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is designing an SSB for ultra-high performance EV applications. The ultimate goal is to design a battery "that outperforms internal combustion engines so electrical vehicles accelerate the transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to renewable energy," according to The Harvard Gazette.
The dramatic increase in EV numbers means that the potential battery market is huge. McKinsey projects that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200GWh per year, which is enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15GWh per year.