ing research on next-generation biofuels. In addition to supporting the Energy Biosciences Institute in Berkeley, California, BP has formed partnerships with DuPont and Verenium.
The DuPont program is focused on developing efficient ways to produce biobutanol, a fuel with a lower emissions profile and higher energy density than corn-based ethanol. A pilot plant is under construction in the United Kingdom, and a second plant is expected to be built in the United States in the 2012-2013 timeframe.
BP is also partnering with Verenium, a startup company developing cellulosic conversion technologies. It is planning to build the first cellulosic commercial-scale biofuel production plant in Florida next year with full production predicted to begin by 2012. The plant will use a biochemical pathway that BP expects to be more competitive in the long run because costs are not as dependent on scale as are plants using thermal chemical or biochemical processes.
During the workshop, a representative from a venture capital firm talked about research being done by ZeaChem, which bypasses more traditional thermochemical and biochemical processes. The new process can be used to produce both biofuels and industrial chemicals using cellulosic feedstocks.
Another presenter described efforts to develop other biomass-derived fuels—hydrocarbon biofuels. He explained that hydrocarbon biofuels have the same energy content as petroleum, and thus do not create a mileage penalty. He added that these fuels can use the existing infrastructure facilities developed for gasoline—transport pipelines, fuel pumps, and storage facilities eliminating the need to duplicate infrastructure.
Several presentations discussed potential future feedstocks. For example, the U.S. Forest Service and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are currently updating bioenergy feedstock estimates in the 2005 billion-ton study.2 The initial study suggested that about 400 million tons could be provided from wood sources— logging residue, forest thinnings, mill residue, and urban wood wastes. Short-rotation woody crops were counted as an agricultural source. These estimates are now being revised to indicate the economic feasibility and sustainability of woody biomass feedstocks at a county level. Unlike other potential cellulosic feedstocks, woody biomass already represents a large share of total U.S. renewable energy supplies, and can be used for liquid fuels as well as to produce electricity and heat. With more than half the states in the nation now having renewable portfolio
Perlack, Robert D., Lynn L. Wright, and Anthony F. Turhollow. 2005. Biomass as a Feedback for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply. A report prepared for the United States Department of Energy and the United States Department of Agriculture. Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Available at www.ornl.gov/~webworks/cppr/y2001/rpt/123021.pdf.