Shell, Virent To Dev Sugar Biofuels For Standard Car Engines
Wednesday March 26th, 2008 / 15h25
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) Wednesday said it
was developing sugar biofuels suitable for standard car engines with a
U.S. fuel technology company, in its latest move to bring new energies
closer to mass consumption.
Shell said it had started a joint research and development effort with
Virent Energy Systems, Inc., a Madison, Wisconsin, company to convert
plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components,
rather than ethanol.
Biofuels, plant-based fuels considered a cleaner form of energy than
fossil ones, have been boosted by rising oil prices.
But the development of such blends has been hindered by the need for
special fuel distribution infrastructure and vehicle engines.
The Anglo-Dutch major said the move could potentially eliminate such needs.
It said Virent's technology uses catalysts to convert sugars into
hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery,
instead of fermenting and distilling them. The new molecules produced as
a result can be blended seamlessly to make conventional gasoline.
The companies have so far collaborated for one year on the research.
The news comes after last year Shell announced it was teaming up with
U.S. biotech company HR Biopetroleum to grow marine algae and produce
vegetable oil for conversion into biofuel in a Hawaii-based project.
It also signed a deal with another U.S. company, Codexis Inc. to develop
new "super enzymes" that can convert a range of raw materials into
Shell is diversifying into biofuels as crude prices - which jumped over
$100 a barrel this year - squeeze refining margins and hurt its profits.
The oil giant says biofuels will represent 5% to 7% of global transport
fuel demand by 2030 compared with 1% now.
Other major oil companies have also entered the fray. In June, BP PLC
(BP.LN) formed joint ventures with U.K. biofuel producer D1 Oils PLC
(DOO.LN) to grow oilseed-bearing trees to make cleaner burning diesel
fuel and with Associated British Foods PLC (ASBFY) and DuPont Co. to
build a $400 million biofuel plant in the U.K.
Biofuels, though, have been accused of encouraging deforestation and
pushing up food prices. But Shell said the sugars can be sourced from
non-food sources like corn stover, switch grass, wheat straw and
Company Web site: http://www.shell.com
-By Benoit Faucon, Dow Jones Newswires; +44-20-7842-9266; benoit.faucon
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/