Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels using engineered cyanobacteria (earlier post), the successful results from third-party testing of its ethanol fuel (Sunflow-E), setting the stage to obtain certification for commercial use.
Initiated by Audi, Joule’s strategic partner in the automotive space (earlier post), the test results confirm that Joule’s ethanol meets: American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel; and German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol.
Joule has initiated efforts to use these results to obtain the government approvals needed for commercialization of its ethanol fuel.
Joule and Audi formed a partnership in 2011 to accelerate the development and commercialization of CO2-neutral fuels. These efforts include fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule’s production facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, where demonstration-scale production of ethanol is underway.
Audi is also supporting Joule’s hydrocarbon product, which was previously tested and shown to meet ASTM specifications in diesel blends of up to 50%. This product will follow ethanol to market.
Joule’s CO2-derived ethanol will address a global biofuels market of approximately 1.9 million barrels consumed per day. It is chemically identical to fuel-grade ethanol on the market today, yet it differs in the way it is produced. Unlike processes requiring the fermentation of sugars from corn, cellulose or other biomass materials, Joule uses engineered biocatalysts to recycle industrial CO2 emissions directly into ethanol, avoiding the use of crops, arable land and fresh water. At full-scale commercialization, Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre annually.
New financing. Joule also the closing of $40 million in private equity and venture debt financing, supporting the company’s growth towards commercialization. The round was led by existing investors, including Flagship Ventures, and brings the company’s total to $200 million raised to date.
The proceeds will be applied towards a staged industrialization of its process, including the near-term expansion of Joule’s production field in Hobbs, New Mexico. This will lead to the longer-term build-out of a 1,000-acre plant to begin in 2017.
In an optimal location, a plant of this size has the potential to convert 150,000 tonnes of waste CO2 into 25 million gallons of ethanol or 15 million gallons of diesel per year with no reliance on arable land, crops or fresh water. The phased build-out will demonstrate the scalability of Joule’s modular SolarConverter system, which enables the direct, continuous production of fuel from CO2 and sunlight.