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Stephanie Cohen

New Atlantis blogger Stephanie Cohen is a journalist who covers energy and environmental issues for a wide range of print and online publications. She can be reached at scohen@thenewatlantis.com.


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Start-up plans to use CO2 emissions to produce biofuel 

A marriage made in alternative-energy heaven?

The DTN Ethanol blog has a post about Sequesco, a start-up company that is “using synthetic biology to produce advanced biofuels.” The company’s plan is to take carbon dioxide from coal plants and biorefineries and feed it into the firm’s bioreactors, where “large colonies of bacteria would use the greenhouse gas and a nutrient broth to produce ethanol, biodiesel and other valuable byproducts.” Interesting stuff:

Sequesco joins a list of startup companies using synthetic biology to produce advanced biofuels, the Industry Standard said. “But unlike competitors SunEthanol and Amyris, which are engineering microbes to make cellulosic ethanol from various plant biomass sources, it uses waste carbon dioxide as its primary feedstock. The idea is to pump CO2 from large emitters like coal plants or biorefineries into the firm’s bioreactors, in which large colonies of bacteria would use the greenhouse gas and a nutrient broth to produce ethanol, biodiesel and other valuable byproducts. The protein-rich byproduct could be sold as animal feed or fertilizer, while the lipid-rich byproduct could be converted into bioplastics,” the Industry Standard said. “This is similar to what GreenFuel Technologies, a Cambridge, Mass.-based algal biodiesel maker, has been doing. It pipes in CO2 from power plants or industrial processes through large ponds filled with algae to make them grow and then harvests them. Sequesco’s business model can best be described as a hybrid between what GreenFuel and Amyris are doing. Sequesco’s bacteria grow 10 times faster than most algae raised for biodiesel, and because they are non-photosynthetic, they can be grown 24 hours a day, rain or shine. Area isn’t a constraint for the bugs (only volume is), so they can be cultured in conventional, low-cost bioreactors. Since space isn’t an issue, there’s great potential for scalability and the bioreactors can be installed almost anywhere.”

For the basics of synthetic biology, check out this New Atlantis article: “The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology.”

posted by Stephanie Cohen | 11:46 am
File As: Biofuels, Business of Energy, Alternative Energy