The company says this is an industry first in renewable fuel production. Joule says this technology will allow it to expand its Sunflow product line — which uses solar energy to convert industrial waste CO2 into fuels — and help address global demand for hydrocarbon fuel replacements.
Additionally, the processes uses waste CO2 as a feedstock, allowing industrial emitters to produce fuels rather than discard emissions or employ costly measures for capture and sequestration.
To date, renewable hydrocarbon-based fuel substitutes have required the complex, multi-step conversion of algal or other agricultural biomass feedstocks into fuel pre-cursors, and subsequent chemical upgrading. In contrast, Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process.
The company says it has been scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With its latest breakthrough, Joule says it becomes the first company able to directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons, which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).
Joule’s hydrocarbon fuels are also sulfur-free. For the diesel and gasoline markets, this gives refiners the ability to meet sulfur content requirements without raising production costs or fuel prices.
In late March, the EPA proposed rules to further reduce the sulfur content of gasoline by more than 60 percent beginning in 2017. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers estimates this will require capital cost of $10 billion and additional annual operating cost of $2.4 billion for refiners.
Joule says its Sunflow-G can save refiners’ money, cutting sulfur content by comprising a substantial portion of the final product.
Joule is now commercializing its first product, Sunflow-E, for global availability in early 2015. The company says construction of its first commercial plants is planned to begin in 2014 in multiple locations worldwide.