$12 million for emerging energy technologies

Chevron Corporation and the Georgia Institute of Technology have formed a strategic research alliance to pursue advanced technology aimed at making cellulosic biofuels and hydrogen viable transportation fuels.



According to a statement, Chevron Technology Ventures, a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, plans to collaborate with Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute and contribute up to $12 million over five years for research into and development of these emerging energy technologies.



The focus of the joint research is to develop commercially viable processes for the production of transportation fuels from renewable resources such as forest and agricultural waste. This is viewed as an important advancement over first-generation biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which are made from agricultural crops such as corn, sugarcane and soybeans.



“This research alliance underscores Chevron’s commitment to expand and diversify the world’s energy sources and represents an ambitious effort to achieve breakthrough technology in the development of cellulosic biofuels,” said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation.



“Beyond this project, Chevron in 2006 expects to spend approximately $400 million in the development of alternative and renewable energy technologies and in delivering energy efficiency solutions,” added Paul.



“Once developed, second-generation processing technology will allow waste products to be converted into renewable transportation fuels, opening the door to a new phase in alternative energy,” said Rick Zalesky, vice president of Biofuels and Hydrogen, Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV).



Chevron and Georgia Tech formed the alliance because their research and development goals related to emerging energy technologies are closely aligned.



The alliance will focus its research on four areas: production of cellulosic biofuels, understanding the characteristics of biofuel feedstocks, developing regenerative sorbents and improving sorbents used to produce high- purity hydrogen.



Cellulosic Biofuels



Through a process called aqueous phase reforming, researchers will develop processes to directly convert biomass such as wood or switchgrass into hydrogen or hydrocarbon transportation fuels. The study will help researchers determine the feasibility of producing commercial volumes of cellulosic biofuels or hydrogen from biomass and also understand the conditions needed for large-scale production facilities.



Another focus area will be to understand the characteristics of biofuels produced from different feedstocks and their effects on biofuel production processes. Defining the properties of various biofuels will help in the design of equipment and procedures to accommodate different feedstocks.



Hydrogen



Sorbents are used in hydrogen production from natural gas to remove odorants that contain sulphur. They are usually costly and can be used only once. Scientists from Chevron and Georgia Tech are working to develop regenerative sorbents that can be used repeatedly, thereby reducing the cost of hydrogen production from natural gas.



In a related project, researchers are working to develop sorbents for the purification of hydrogen produced from natural gas reforming. Both hydrogen performance and vehicle performance increase with sorbent performance, leading to greater overall energy efficiency.


In addition to the advanced research that the Georgia Tech initiative will conduct, Chevron is making significant investments in conventional biofuels. The company recently formed a biofuels business unit to advance technology and pursue commercial opportunities related to the production and distribution of biofuels in the United States. Chevron also recently invested in a new biodiesel facility in Galveston, Texas, that will produce diesel fuel from soybeans and other renewable feedstocks.