Global Bioenergies, a Champagne region start-up, has invented a plant waste biofuel that can be injected directly into engines.
Plant-based biofuels compete with fossil fuels when the price of a barrel of oil goes above 50 dollars.
Stop throwing away your grass and hedge clippings and the other green waste you are about to begin accumulating with the arrival of spring. While gardens and green spaces are returning to their former glory, the petrochemical industry is feeling the pressure... and for good reason.
Collecting and using plant and other agricultural or forest residues - mainly wheat straw - gave a company in the Champagne region, Global Bioenergies, a sparkling idea: why not produce liquid hydrocarbons from biomass fermentation? And the icing on the grass is that it uses raw materials that don’t compete with food and feed production!
Acrylic paints, rubber, kerosene and fuel
Converted into fermentable sugars, these non-food resources produce isobutene, a gas that is essential for making rubber, plastics, certain acrylics, plexiglass, kerosene and fuel.
How? To produce isobutene, genetically modified bacteria immersed in a 500 liter tank transform the sugars - glucose and sucrose – that are in plants. The fermentation generates a gas which contains isobutene. This could well be as valuable as black gold. No less than 15 million tonnes of the petrochemical version are produced each year.
From isobutene to isooctane
Unlike other alternatives such as bioethanol, it is not necessary to modify or limit the percentage before injecting isobutene into an engine. Of course, to get the green fuel, the gas still has to be purified, liquefied and refined. It then becomes isooctane - and since it equates to Super 100 for gasoline engines, it can be used directly.
This inexpensive green gasoline has already got its share of imitators. Audi has tested it in its vehicles, and has even conducted extensive engine tests to validate isooctane’s specifications. Green technology could soon arrive at the gas pumps, especially since by 2020 Europe will be requiring 10% of transport fuels to be biofuel.
Main picture: Getty Image