Biofuel Co-Production: Will it Scale Quickly?

We’ve heard many promises about large-scale facilities for cellulosic ethanol and diesel, but so far we haven’t seen many promising results. This week, Honeywell and Rentech said they’ll be working together to build a co-production facility that will produce high amounts of fuel and electricity by 2012.

Last year, the company signed a major agreement with eight airline companies at the Los Angeles airport to provide them with 1.5 million gallons of diesel produced from waste biomass.

The company produces hydrocarbon fuels by gasifying biomass and utilizing the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert the syngas into liquid fuels. Honeywell will be using a proprietary “Unionfining” technology to turn the hydrocarbon liquids into diesel, jet fuel and chemicals.

The gas can be used to run a turbine or produce fuels. Rentech says its new facility in California will produce around 640 barrels a day and also have the capacity to generate 35 MW of electricity. That’s a big jump from its current pilot facility that is producing only 10 barrels a day.

Will Rentech break the trend and scale up in the timeframe it claims?

In a biofuels fuel industry plagued by overly-ambitious goals and cost-overruns, a company that can scale up by 630 million barrels a day in two years will be a surprising accomplishment.

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I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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