Crossing the Valley of NLACM with alcohol-to-hydrocarbon technology

Crossing the Valley of NLACM with alcohol-to-hydrocarbon technology

Biofuels Digest, Jim Lane, September 7, 2017 – There’s one crossing worse than the Valley of Death and that is the Valley of NLACM.

Although it sounds more like a goose trying to say “You’ll like him” — it’s the Natural Law of Alternative Commodity Markets, and it’s the biggest single impediment, globally, retarding the advance of renewable transport fuels as a world-scale low-carbon alternative to petroleum.

NLACM states that no one will make a fuel, however attractive to customers (such as a drop-in hydrocarbon fuel) if the market value of the intermediates (such as an alcohol) is higher when sold separately.

In other words, no one will ever make a hydrocarbon fuel from Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch, excepting a complete emergency, no matter if the technology exists or not.

And as long as renewables are confined to niche markets like E10 ethanol or B5 biodiesel blending — they can be good business for producers, and good investments, but they are not decarbonizing transportation fuel to the extent they could be.

Now, along comes Vertimass technology as a neat advance in alcohol-to-hydrocarbons. It is the first (or perhaps others, or many, to come) that leaps the Valley of NLACM. It’s not yet proven at scale yet, so let’s keep a perspective on promise vs. delivery. But here are the need to knows…