Issue: Jan 2012


OIL GIANT, TOTAL, ADOPTS BIO FUEL TECHNOLOGY



by Bob Brooks

France based Total, one of the six major international oil companies with operations in 130 countries, has formed a joint venture with U.S. based Amyris, Inc. for worldwide commercialization of Amyris bio diesel and jet fuels. 

Published reports by the two firms focus on the ability of Amyris technology to produce “no compromise”, cost competitive diesel and jet fuels that meet the highest levels of cold flow, stability and energy content compared with petroleum based fuel. Amyris explains that its system of synthetic biology, primarily yeast, as living factories in established fermentation processes, convert sugars from cellulosic materials into diesel and jet fuel. Resulting diesel fuel meets ASTM D975 requirements with complete drop-in compatibility with existing engines.. 

Amryis is also quoted as saying the Renmatix Inc. supercritical fluid hydrolysis system for extracting C5 & C6 from sugars in cellulosic materials, may also be employed
for its low cost. 

A current leading reason for efforts to commercialize JetA fuel for the airlines, is
EU imposition of taxes on airline use of high carbon fuel flying into and out of the EU. Australia is not far behind with similar tax on airline CO2. Bio based jet fuel has become a leading candidate for replacement of petroleum JetA for CO2 reduction.
Not the least of all needs for new sources of fuel raw material is recovery of its cost
by fuel using nations rather than outflow of wealth to petroleum oil supplier nationals. In effect, it can be said that the issue of fuel raw material wealth distribution is either fast approaching or has already reached the start of the so called tipping point . Accordingly, the question now is not whether the major energy consuming nations will develop alternative fuel but rather at what rate petroleum oil will be replaced. Many of the less developed nations have already begun to harvest petroleum alternatives such as labor intensive energy crops (jatropha, for instance) that produce oil bearing beans convertible into diesel fuel. 

Total and other international energy interests have stepped up the debate on which of the alternatives will receive the massive investments needed, whether based on cellulosic, algae, fermentation, pyrolysis, hybrid(cellulosic + natural gas), or other technology.


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