Producing Liquid Fuels from Waste CO2

Context of Transport Climate Action

Limited energy supplies, oil pricing volatility and climate change concerns have converged to create one of the greatest challenges of our time. Nearly $700 billion is being invested in pursuit of diminishing petroleum, including newer and even riskier practices to obtain “unconventional oil.” At the same time, man-made CO2 emissions are reaching record levels, contributing to climate change and prompting governments around the world to seek sequestration solutions.

Joule has developed a technology platform for the production of liquid transportation fuels from waste CO2. This platform has the ability to both reduce our dependence on petroleum and mitigate global CO2 emissions through direct conversion into valuable products. Joule’s CO2-recycled fuels, including ethanol, diesel and jet, are compatible with existing infrastructure. Because they consume as much CO2 when produced as they emit when burned, these fuels can enable carbon-neutral transportation.

Description

Joule’s process employs engineered cyanobacteria as living, fuel-producing factories. Photosynthetic by nature, they capture sunlight and consume CO2 in order to grow. However, by altering their metabolism, we have redirected the output of this natural process from biomass to fuels. The conversion of CO2 to fuel is direct and continuous, in contrast to the multi-step retrieval and processing of sugars or oils from plant or algal biomass.

Joule’s facilities feature a completely integrated production process, from cyanobacterial strain construction to product generation, separation and storage. At the heart of this process is the modular SolarConverter® system, which enables direct conversion of CO2 to fuels in a single step. The system is designed for ease of installation and expansion in modular increments, making it readily scalable and customizable to targeted output levels based on solar insolation and availability of non-arable land, non-potable water and waste CO2.

Implementation

We have successfully proven our technology in the lab and in the field, incorporating many improvements over the course of 8 years and $200 million invested. For example:

  • We have engineered strains to divert 95% of fixed carbon to fuel production – an industry first.
  • We have designed and implemented next-generation reactors that increase CO2-to-product efficiency and reduce costs.
  • We have confirmed via independent testing that our ethanol, diesel and jet fuel products will meet industry specifications.

We currently operate a demonstration facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, where we are producing ethanol. The strains, system and process that are being tested and optimized in Hobbs will form the fully-validated “blueprint” for commercial roll out. We are in the process of expanding our production field in Hobbs, which will further demonstrate the scalability of our system.

We intend to break ground on our first 1000-acre commercial facility in 2017, with operations beginning in 2018. We can accelerate commercial deployment with outside support, including:  capex grants, inclusive policy for CO2-as-feedstock, and public-private partnerships.

Upon widespread global deployment, Joule could supply virtually unlimited volumes of carbon-neutral fuel. With just 100 commercial plants, we could capture 15 million tonnes of CO2 per year, and generate an equivalent fuel reserve of more than 30 billion CO2-neutral barrels.

Benefits

Joule’s process offers numerous advantages both as a source of sustainable fuel and a carbon mitigation solution. These include the following:

  • CO2 utilization – Ability to monetize industrial waste CO2 while also complying with reduction goals and mandates. On average, a 1000-acre commercial facility will utilize 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
  • Simple requirements – The process requires only sunlight, non-arable land, non-potable water and waste CO2.
  • Infrastructure readiness – Drop-in fuels include ethanol, hydrocarbon diesel and jet fuel.
  • Abundant supply at stable costs – Target capacity for Joule ethanol or diesel competes with fossil sources at depressed prices.
  • Modular, scalable system – “Copy/paste” roll-out allows ease of market deployment and expansion.
  • Flexibility – Platform can accommodate multiple fuel or chemical products.
  • Transformative technology – Advances in strain engineering, reactor design and process engineering result in high CO2-to-product conversion efficiency.
  • Sustainability – Favorable lifecycle analysis. No depletion of agricultural land or crops
  • Robust IP portfolio – 64 patents, validations, and allowances, plus 95+ applications pending

Potential for scaling up

We have already identified more than 1000 sites around the world that can accommodate our process, and we are now seeking partners and government support to initiate global deployment.

The modular design of our system makes it readily scalable with minimized risk. We intend to demonstrate a fully validated 10-acre module, which will become the increment for replication and commercial roll out.

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Selected references

Ancient Bacteria Sweat Fuel Under New Mexico Sun (Bloomberg)
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2015-05-20/ancient-bacteria-sweat-fuel-under-new-mexico-s-desert-sun

A New Dawn for Industrial Photosynthesis (Photosynthesis Research)

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11120-011-9631-7

PROJECT INFORMATION

Location:

The Joule technology will be deployed along the sun-belt of the earth (e.g. Asia, Africa, Europe, North-America, Latin America, Australia-Pacific)

Start:

Commercial production starting 2017

Finish:

Ongoing Improvements in productivity of the system

Tags:

Global, Mitigation, Passenger, Freight, Technology

Organizer/s:

Joule Unlimited

Contact/s:

C.P. van de Kerk: cvdkerk@joulefuels.com

“Joule’s CO2-recycled fuel is on track to become a real answer for carbon neutrality. It provides a solution which is both practical and economical for global mobility and it can be implemented in the short term.”
-Serge Tchuruk, President & CEO, Joule