Most fuel ethanol is currently produced from starch in the United States and cane sugar in Brazil, and new technologies are emerging for ethanol production from cellulosic biomass such as wood, grasses, and agricultural and forestry residues. However, because most of the ethanol in the United States is limited to 10% blends with gasoline, current ethanol production in the United States has virtually saturated that market. The resulting "blend wall" and lack of vehicles that can run on higher concentrations of ethanol (E85) limits further expansion of corn ethanol production in the United States. It also means that emerging technologies for conversion of cellulosic biomass into ethanol must compete head-on with corn ethanol. This situation presents a major challenge and potential barrier for further growth of sustainable transportation fuels production.
VERTIMASS TECHNOLOGY, DEPLOYMENT AND TEAM:
Vertimass LLC was awarded a worldwide exclusive license for novel catalyst technology invented at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the conversion of ethanol into jet fuel, diesel fuel, and gasoline blend stocks that are compatible with the current transportation fuel infrastructure. These blend stocks are anticipated to qualify for the Renewable Fuel Standard at the same level as the ethanol used as the feedstock. The technology can also inexpensively convert ethanol into renewable chemicals
The Vertimass process for transforming ethanol into hydrocarbons benefits from:
- Virtually complete conversion of ethanol into hydrocarbons,
- No hydrogen addition,
- Production of minimal light gases,
- Mild (relatively low temperature and atmospheric pressure) operating conditions,
- Ability to process 5% to 100% ethanol concentrations,
- Product flexibility to respond to changing market demands,
- Bolt onto to existing ethanol plants with very low capital and operating costs,
- Potential ability to replace dehydration and rectification,
- Potential to reduce energy and water use for ethanol production, and
- Potential to increase corn grind or other feedstock feed rates to existing processes
Vertimass seeks to commercialize this novel technology to overcome obstacles that limit ethanol use in gasoline for light duty vehicles and open up new ethanol markets for aircraft and heavy-duty vehicles. Vertimass plans to partner with ethanol producers to integrate this technology into existing ethanol plants (current U.S. production ~ 14 billion gallons/year) as rapidly as possible to overcome the blend wall. This novel catalyst can also help the airline industry achieve a target of 1 billion gallons of renewable aviation fuel by 2018. Overall, Vertimass technology has the potential to expand opportunities to use ethanol from corn in the United States, cane sugar in Brazil, and cellulosic biomass worldwide.
Vertimass has assembled a synergistic team of business executives, engineers, scientists, and consultants to move this technology to commercial use. The team is led by Bill Shopoff (Chairman), Charles Wyman, PhD (President and CEO), John Hannon, PhD (COO), and Tom Mullen (EVP). The team also includes Chaitanya Narula, PhD (catalyst chemist), Brian Davison, PhD, and Martin Keller, PhD (board member), the three inventors of this novel technology. Vertimass has lined up an experienced team of consultants with expertise in catalysis, ethanol production, fuels, and scale up. Vertimass plans to work with catalyst manufacturers, engineering and construction firms, fuels markets, and others to rapidly commercialize the technology.