Shell has taken an equity stake in Virent Energy Systems Inc., (Virent) and begun a joint technology program, aiming to convert plant sugars directly into diesel.
Since 2007, Shell and Virent have been conducting a joint research and development effort to make biogasoline from plant sugars, culminating late last year in the start-up of a pilot plant. As part of an expanded relationship, Shell has become an investor in Virent and taken a seat on Virent’s board of directors. The existing joint research and development agreement will also be expanded to include research into the production of diesel.
“This investment demonstrates Shell’s confidence in Virent’s catalytic biofuel production processes,” said Luis Scoffone, vice president of alternative energies at Shell. ”The expansion of our joint technology program to include research into the production of diesel from plant sugars offers considerable potential and complements Shell’s wider biofuels portfolio.”
Traditionally, biodiesel has been made from vegetable oils. This new joint technology program will investigate Virent’s BioForming process as a means for converting plant sugars directly into diesel. The sugars could eventually be sourced from a range of non-food feedstocks, such as sugarcane bagasse, corn stover and other agricultural residues.
Diesel produced with the BioForming technology process would have the same properties as conventional diesel. It would not require specialized infrastructure and could be transported through existing pipelines. The fuel could also be blended with conventional diesel in higher concentrations than conventional biodiesel.
“Virent is proud to deepen our strategic relationship with Shell with their equity investment and expanded research collaboration”, said Lee Edwards, Virent president and CEO.
Shell is working to meet government mandates for biofuel and is working with biofuel manufacturers to secure cost-effective supply with clear social and environmental standards. Shell’s global program includes collaborations with Iogen Energy (on the production of enzymatic cellulosic ethanol from agricultural waste), Codexis (on enzyme conversion) and a joint venture called Cellana (research of marine algae for vegetable oil).