Agonizing over a choice between affordable energy and drought accompanied by inundating oceans and dying polar bears is ended. Joule Unlimited of Bedford, MA has killed, smashed, obliterated that Hobson’s choice once and forever.
Joule is operating a pilot facility in Hobbs, NM which makes gasoline, diesel and ethanol from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, applying the twenty first century science of synthetic biology. There is no feedstock like corn or sugarcane and the end product needs no downstream refining like crude oil.
Key to the process is a genetically modified cyanobacteria, the stuff in plants which facilitates photosynthesis. When it is applied to most any available water source along with carbon dioxide and exposed to sunlight, it will produce any of the above mentioned hydrocarbons depending on the gene selection used to modify the cyanobacteria.
In contrast with corn based ethanol which uses fertile farmland and produces 400 gallons of ethanol per acre per year, the Joule process functions best in an arid, dry, sun-drenched location and produces 25,000 gallons per acre per year. Projected retail price is $1.20 per gallon.
The company, which started in 2007 is planning for full commercialization in 2017 and issued the following press release.
“Major Regulatory Milestones in First Quarter Set Joule Up for Commercial Success
Joule, the pioneer of drop-in liquid fuels from recycled CO2, today announced major accomplishments in the first quarter of 2016 that are accelerating the commercialization of environmentally sustainable ultra-low carbon fuel. These advancements include EPA approval of Joule’s Sunflow®-E ethanol process as an advanced biofuel and technical breakthroughs of Joule’s award-winning CO2-to-fuel process.
“To make its Sunflow-E ethanol, which is chemically identical to traditional ethanol, Joule converts CO2 to ethanol directly in a continuous process, using engineered bacteria as living catalysts rather than biomass feedstocks. Following a rigorous vetting process, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has qualified Joule’s Sunflow-E ethanol pathway for generating advanced biofuel (D-code 5) RINs under the Clean Air Act (CAA).
“Joule’s highly efficient process and production system are well suited for deployment around the world, unhindered by land or resource constraints. This uniquely modular system can achieve replicable productivity, whether installed across 100 or 1,000 acres, mitigating scale-up risks and ensuring stability of supply. At full-scale commercialization in ideal locations, the company ultimately targets 25,000 US gallons of Joule Sunflow®-E (solar ethanol) or 15,000 US gallons of Joule Sunflow®-D (solar diesel) per acre annually, for approximately $1.20/US gallon ($50/barrel). “
A video showing the process in operation at their Hobbs, NM facility can be found at http://www.jouleunlimited.com/ .