GM Banks on Coskata's Cellulosic Ethanol Breakthrough

coskata process

GM is pinning its biofuel hopes on Coskata, a biofuel start-up bankrolled by the likes of VC heavyweight Vinod Khosla, which has devised a commercially viable process to bring cellulosic ethanol to market by 2011. Coskata's process relies on a 3-step syngas-to-ethanol process (pictured above) and patented microorganisms to produce ethanol from almost any carbon-based feedstock - garbage, plant waste, even old tires - for roughly half the cost of producing gasoline.

It is enzyme independent and wouldn't require the addition of any extra chemicals or other pre-treatments. It consumes less than 1 gallon of water to produce the equivalent of ethanol; this compares very favorably with other processes, which typically consume upwards of 3 gallons. The proprietary process would be used to make ethanol from GM facilities' non-recyclable vehicle parts and waste

ethanol-powered car

Image courtesy of m.gifford via flickr

In initial tests conducted by the Argonne National Laboratory, the ethanol generated 7.7 times the energy used to produce it; corn-based ethanol, by comparison, only generates 1.3 times the energy used to produce it. Compared to gasoline, it also cut carbon dioxide emissions by 84%.

Coskata and GM expect to have a pilot plant up and operating by the fourth quarter of 2008; the ethanol will be used to test vehicles at GM's Milford Proving Grounds. The start-up expects to have a commercial-scale plant with the capacity to manufacture 50-100 m gallons of ethanol per year going by 2011.

Via ::Reuters: GM eyes breakthrough in cellulosic ethanol(news website)

See also: ::Conceptualize this: GM Unveils Yet Another Concept Car, ::GM 2007 Ride and Drive, ::GM Promotes Flexfuel When You Can't Find Ethanol

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