The Carbon Neutral Pipedream: Transcript

The Carbon Neutral Pipedream: Transcript

Here’s the transcript for my interview with Mike Rocke, VP of Business Development at CoolPlanet BioFuels. Read my summary articles here:

The Carbon Neutral Pipedream   &  The Carbon Neutral Pipedream: Part II

Andrew Bellay:   Let’s start off with a couple of questions about the company as a whole and put aside the engineering for right now. When the company was formed, what was the vision?

Mike Rocke, VP Business Development, CoolPlanet BioFuels:   To reverse global warming. That’s the high level one. Ending imported oil for the U.S. – which also helps to keep our dollars here on shore so we don’t give our dollars to some bad guys. Then there’s my personal case. I’m a big proponent of U.S. innovation. I grew up when innovation was at a high point for the U.S. in the mid 80’s and 90’s, and I’d like to make sure we start to innovate again here as a country.

Andrew:   Awesome. Next can you give a brief history of the company and describe your role getting the company off the ground.

Mike:   I’ve known the founder Mike Cheiky – C-H-E-I-K-Y – for a long time and if you go to our website (www.coolplanetbiofuels.com) you can fill in a lot of the details. Mike is truly a brilliant inventor in multiple fields. It’s not just in Chemical Engineering. He’s a physicist by training. He ran a think tank for Hewlett Packard for a number of years. He invented air cathode batteries. The company he started before this one was called Transonic Combustion, which turns gasoline into a super critical state because it’s fuel injected in order to allow the engine to run at a very lean air-to-fuel ratio.

CoolPlanet BioFuels is his sixth startup. So he’s a serial entrepreneur. But he did other companies such as Zinc Matrix Power, which was a rechargeable silver-zinc battery. Silver-zinc batteries have been around a long time, primary because they are very high energy density. They power torpedoes and things like that. However, they aren’t rechargeable. Mike made Silver Zinc batteries rechargeable. The company is now called ZPower. So all of the companies that he’s started have either exited with large multiples or they are still in a growth stage.

Anyway, I met Mike almost eight years ago when I was with Intel Capital. Intel Capital invested in the Silver Zinc battery, Zinc Matrix Power back in 2002. Moving forward, I joined Transonic Combustion, which was the company before CoolPlanet BioFuels. I am an ex-Intel Capital VP. I’ve had some financial training and went to Stanford Business School. I got trained under Burgelman and some other incredibly bright professors on finance. So I’m a mechanical engineer by background and I’ve got some financial training. I’m a dangerous individual, because I’m an engineer with venture and financial training.

So I’ve been tracking Mike. I joined CoolPlanetBioFuels earlier this year after working at Transonic Combustion. I was there for 3 years as VP of business/development signing up car companies for these advanced fuel injectors. When I accomplished that, I started looking for a new challenge. When things start to get slow it’s time for me to change up my game and get challenged again. CoolPlanet was looking to start its B-round of financing. I talked to Mike and came on board, and literally it’s almost the same position as VP of business/development. I’m helping put this B-round together for the company. The first funding round was September of 2009. That funding was provided by North Bridge Ventures. They are our backers extraordinaire.

Andrew:   Can you say the size of that round?

Mike: I can’t really give you any figures, but you can find them on the web easily. [Editor Note: they quietly raised 3-5 million in Sept 2009 and appear to have raised another 3 million in August 2010.]

Andrew:   How many employees are you at right now?

Mike:   Right now we’ve got 17.

Andrew:   Is that mostly on the engineering side?

Mike:   Yes, mainly engineers. We’ve only got 3 people that are G&A. All the rest are engineers and techs. We’ve got a lot of very hardcore mechanical engineers with machine tools. We’ve got big 5-axis mills that are the biggest you can get without having to climb inside the tool to fixture it. So we make all the parts and pieces of the biofractionator in house. Nothing is shipped out. We have very fast turns on building equipment which is one of the reasons we are so fast and ahead of schedule. Then we’ve got catalytic scientists. Catalytics are very big in producing fuel, as you well know. Then we have Gas Chromatography experts. So when I tell you we are making gasoline, I’ll show you a gas chromatograph trace of a Shell 87 octane regular and a CoolPlanet negative 100 biofuel, and the gas chromatography traces are identical. Ours is better though. We have a higher octane.

Since you’re familiar with the refining business, our Bio Fractionator is analogous to a cracking tower in a petroleum plant that fractions the long chain hydrocarbons into shorter chains, which allows us to make liquid fuels. So we do literally everything that the petroleum plants do except we’re doing it with biomass. Our current favorite feedstocks are ground up corn cobs and soft woodchips.

Andrew:   Okay, great. That’s a great background for the company. Can you highlight the most innovative parts of the company?

Mike:   We’re a third generation bio-fuel company. In the first generation everyone was [Editor’s Note: and still are] making moonshine. They made ethanol from corn mash with fermentation methods. Second generation people are trying to make ethanol from plants and parts of plants that aren’t the food stock because food stocks got a bad rap because they take food away from people. So they try to do it with leaves and stock. But it’s still a fermentation process. We are not a fermentation process.

We take non-food biomass and we can convert directly to the high end hydrocarbons: ethyl, benzene, toluene, xylene, trimethylbenzene – which is 150 octane. It’s the overall top of the line when you are looking for gasoline. So that is very innovative. Nobody else converts directly from biomass to gasoline. Everybody either uses a fermentation process, they use bugs and enzymes and things like this, but we do it thermo-chemically.

Andrew:   Awesome. Let’s start to walk through the process on a high level and then we can deep dive.

Mike:   Let me get you another innovation. The other one is equal – or even better – to the first. So we can make better drop-in gasoline from non-food biomass. That’s number one. Number two: we make equal parts of solid biochar and fuel, and therefore we make negative carbon gasoline. We take carbon out of the air. The plants actually take it out of the air, but we take it out of the mix. When you sequester an equal amount of that carbon, you become a carbon negative fuel, and hence the more fuel you consume or burn in your car, the cleaner the air gets. Those are the two big innovations: Gasoline directly from non-food biomass and carbon negative gasoline.

Andrew:   Okay, so let’s start to walk through the process on a high level and let’s just assume we’re using ground corn cob as the biomass.

Mike:   Okay. Corn is probably the biggest crop in the U.S. if not the world. Corn, corn starch, corn fructose, corn is used for everything right? Cow feed, cow meal, etc. But the cobs, the farmers have this equipment and they strip the corn kernels off of the cob and toss the cob back into the field.

Ground up corn cobs are being sold right now as pet bedding. That’s currently our supply for making gasoline. Go to the pet store and buy some ground up corn cobs. Moisture content is usually less than 15% which is good for us. And we make gasoline. But we can also do it off woodchips. We can buy wood pellets that people use in their wood stoves. I’ve got supplies of mithcanthus and switch grass. We can also make gasoline out of that. Anything that’s cellulose, either hemicelluloses, or woodchips, or lignocelluloses, we can make gasoline out of our reactors.

Andrew:   Okay, so I’m going to get a little bit more specific until you stop me and say I’m getting too specific. So you mentioned the moisture content of the corn cob. I assume since you mention that that you have an initial drying step?

Mike:   It depends on how it comes in. We’d like to see it come in at 15% or lower. Most of the material does come in at that level. Even if you leave it in a field for a while it will be under 15%. But you know like anything else we can put a dewatering module on. We can strip out, and even if we go to do algae in the future, we can dewater the algae and do that.

Andrew:   But 15% is usually good enough?

Mike:   Yes, that’s fine. Because water is a bi-product — corn ethanol takes a lot of water. I think it’s 4 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of corn based ethanol. We don’t use any water. We get water back out of the process. When we take in the biomass, we take out the gasoline, some biochar, water, and a little bit of syngas [short for synthesis gas].

Andrew:   So then after you’ve got the corn cob – what happens next? Does it get ground up? Does it get mixed with anything?

Mike:   It comes ground, we don’t have to regrind it. We’ve looked at that and played with regrinding.

When we take these plants out, we’re going to make these things self contained mini refineries. They are going to go out in the field where the corn cobs are and where the woodchips are. You don’t haul the stock, you haul one of our units – and these things are about the size of a cargo container. Around 8 X 50 feet. So you can haul them on a semi truck. Then you can daisy chain them together. Four is kind of the minimum, and it can go up to 10 or 20. But one of these containers has two fractionators in it. One of these cargo container size units with two biofractionators will make a million gallons/year of gasoline.

If you have 10, you are looking at 10 million gallons/year. It’s kind of a big Mr. Coffee. They are doing about 3.5 gallons a minute. 3.5 gallons a minute is well over a million gallons/year. It is not a huge uptime. There’s still a lot of time that’s available for downtime, changing things out, and stuff like that. Anyway, so the biofractionator, the plant mass comes into the biofractionator and this is where the thermo mechanical processing happens. We fractionate it just like they fractionate crude and break the long chain hydrocarbons and short chain compounds. Then we run this through catalytic processes and make gasoline. So there is a catalyst involved.

Andrew:  I want to deep dive into the biofractionator a little bit more. How are you taking a solid through a fractionator? Is it oxygen-rich or deprived?

Mike:   I can’t tell you that. That’s part of our tricks.

Andrew:   There we go, we’re starting to hit the edges here. Good.

Mike:   Are you familiar with fast paralysis?

Andrew:   Paralysis, yes. The fast part, no.

Mike:   So you know what a pyrolyzer does?

Andrew:   Yes.

Mike:   Tell me what a pyrolyzer does and I’ll tell you how close you are.

Andrew:   Combustion without oxygen.

Mike:   Okay, you have to remember, and this is what I try to tell people, that fossil fuels, crude out of the ground, it’s made up of plant mass. It’s been under pressure for a million years. Some diatoms and some creature type things from millions of years ago. But petroleum and crude, it’s just biomass right? It’s just been hanging around for a while. Same starting materials. So people ask, "How do you get gasoline out of biomass? How do you get hydrocarbon gasoline out of biomass?" We’re not doing anything different than the petroleum guys are doing except the fact that we’re doing it real time with non-food biomass.

Andrew:   Let me ask you this, how long are these biomass molecules?

Mike:   Well, we’re cracking long chains. We can go all the way out to diesel and to jet fuel, but we’re focused on gasoline right now. So as we crack these things and they go through the GC, they are ethyl, benzene, toluene, and xylene, and the different components. The fingerprint is huge. But the EBTX is what we’re mainly concerned with.

Andrew:   But what does your average biomass molecule look like coming in?

Mike:   Yeah, I can’t give you that. It’s a hydrocarbon compound depending on what the plan is. It’s just a standard hydrocarbon. What plant matter is. The carbon and hydrogen chain, it’s fairly long, and we get to crack it.

Andrew:   Okay, let’s move on to your catalytic process.

Mike:   Yeah, that’s another part of our IP. We take a garden variety catalyst and put some IP onto it so it does what we want it to do. I don’t want to go any further than that. We take a low grade catalyst and make it our own.

Andrew:   Okay great. Can I ask if you guys are consuming hydrogen gas during that process?

Mike:   No, you’re talking about hydrogenation like they do with the petroleum guys?

Andrew:  I’m asking if you guys are using hydrogen at all as a feed stock. [I asked this because H2 isn’t cheap and it’s  often used in processes like these.]

Mike:   No, we have plenty of that with the biomass. Gasoline is what? It’s 80% carbon and the rest is hydrogen? Or 85 – 15 something like that. It’s carbon and hydrogen in gasoline. Biomass is a hydrocarbon, and we are very innovative on how we put the pieces together. I’m right on the edge here. I can’t give you too much. You’ll get the piece if you’re a petroleum guy.

Andrew:   Okay, let’s see. Just to for the audience’s sake, normally in the refining process there’s a lot of scrubbing that has to go on to take out your SOX and NOX, and there’s a lot of desulfurization that happens before then. You guys don’t have to do any of that because the fuel is so clean coming in right?

Mike:   Yeah, if you’re using sweet crude do you have to take sulfur out?

Andrew:   Nope.

Mike:   Then there you go.

Andrew:   Okay, fair analogy.

Mike:   What goes in you have to deal with. If you’re using sour crude you have to pull all the sulfur out. It’s a pain in the ass. But biomass is pretty good stuff.

Andrew:   Okay, great. I’ve got two more questions on the company and then maybe we can jump into other things like scaling. Financially what are your projections? What is your economic model? Are you going to sell these units to farmers? Are you going to lease them? How do you see the business side working?

Mike:   It’s a dual mode right? We first have to build the bio refining equipment. So we are a bio refining equipment manufacturer. Then we will get into some refining and do some co-refining where it makes sense. Here in the U.S. we will help get people up and running and have some premiere sites we can work with. But mainly this is a locally distributed model. We will sell these – they are low cap-ex units to build and to buy. They will pay back in six months or less when you’re running one as a corn farmer. Economic sense for labor and crews to run this thing, it probably makes sense to have at least four of them together. It’s probably better to have 10. Then you can go up to 20. We don’t know what the limit is and how big each one can get.

Each one of these things can produce a million gallons/year. You can do multiple of them together to take efficiencies and scale. But if 4000 gallons/day for one thing, that’s one gasoline tanker truck a day. When you’re running these things, one of our bio refineries is the equivalent of a small gas station at a million gallons/year. The model is, a farmer will be making fuel for himself and then selling the rest of it and putting it back into the pipeline. Since it’s gasoline, it’s a drop-in hydrocarbon. The infrastructure — ethanol and these other guys have water pickup and corrosion issues. They can only blend at 10%-15% then there’s still water pickup issues. But we don’t have any water. We are a true hydrocarbon.

So it can go from the tanker truck, to the rail head, to the refinery to get blended, and there’s no issue. The only issue is we have to put in anti static and stabilizers that the refineries put in for longevity. You can buy that. We put some in because gasoline has to last six months in storage without any change in weight or color. We are running tests on that now, we’re midway. We’ve got fuel that has been going on for months that doesn’t change color or change gravity.

Andrew:   You brought up a good point here too. As the farmers sell this product there would have to be some sort of certification process before the refinery will accept it. Would that be done by the refinery on-site once it gets to the refinery gate, or would that happen at the farm?

Mike:   That’s a good point. Are these guys going to be happy with a GC trace? This thing will all be under GC control. It’s all automated. The feed stock comes in, the process works at a temperature and pressure, and the GC is always sampling out the other end, and I feel like the refinery guys would be happy with that.

Andrew:   I don’t know. So you’ll have a continuous GC reading as it goes into the tank? I don’t know if that’s enough. You might be able to calculate everything you need from that, you might not be able to. Because there’s 30 or 40 specs that you have to hit. Although, I don’t know, at this scale the specifications might be less important. I don’t really know to be honest.

Mike:   I’m sure the refinery guys will take it if it looks and smells like a hydrocarbon to a GC. We run this stuff in cars, and in our own cars. Not on public roads, but on a test track. They can’t tell the difference.

Andrew:   Shifting gears – can you talk about the unit economics a little bit? So say you own four of these units. You mention there’s a six month payback, which is amazing if that’s true. How much does one of these run? Do you know yet? Are you able to say?

Mike:   We haven’t really priced this thing.

Andrew:   I guess you could back it out if you know the price of gasoline in six months.

Mike:   Yeah, but if it’s going to make a million gallons/year, at say $3/gallon, that’s $3,000,000.  $1,500,000 would pay it back in 6 months. It will probably be less than $1,500,00 though. We’re targeting costs at well under $1/gallon. We think we can do it for $0.60 to $0.70/gallon. But everyone else that we look at in the bio fuels industry is looking at hitting a $2/gallon. We think we’re going to cut that in half.

Andrew:   Of course, a lot of their costs are in the corn, the huge number of tanks you need to fermentation and of course the distillation process to pull the water out. I’ve actually designed a butanol plant that ran on corn. I’ll tell you, the economics were horrible. Yet they continue to do this with ethanol which isn’t terribly different than butanol. I think what you guys have here is really novel, and a totally different approach.

Mike:   Absolutely. I’m thinking we will convert a lot of the corn ethanol guys to our process. We see them as customers.

Andrew:   So one last question about the company, then I’ll nitpick away at some engineering questions I thought of before hand. What’s your big, or toughest, decision that’s on the table right now. What are the big challenges facing you guys at this moment?

Mike:   How to control how fast and how big we get, and not to lose anything in the process. We’re trying to ramp this thing. The B-round funding, which we’re closing in the next few months [Editor Note: this is already rumored to be closed for ~$3mm], will be used to get our current equipment up to over 50,000 gallons/year. Then we’ll build our first mini refinery that will do the 1 million gallons/year on site. We have to build it. We have a new facility we’re going into with an outdoor area where we can build up the bio refinery. Everybody questions scaling and scalability, but we tell them we have the equipment and the fractionator built at scale now. We just run it a lot slower than it will run when we’ve got tons of biomass coming in everyday. We can’t handle tons of biomass in our lab, nor can we handle hundreds of gallons of gasoline being made. We are kind of transitioning now. The equipment is at scale size already, we’re just running it slower. The bottling play metaphor, we’re bottling Coca Cola, but it’s only one bottle a day vs. a thousand, or three thousand bottles a day.

Andrew:   So you guys are past the laboratory scale and you are at a full test plant. The next year or so holds making your first modulized unit and moving it to a new facility?

Mike:   Yeah, and we will be selling fuel initially to customers, refiners, and to people to check this out, getting it certified and seeing what they think. There’s a lot in the refining business where they take the high end stuff off and sell it to the plastics guys for $6/gallon. It’s not all gasoline.

I’m sure there’s more cost that we can pull out by not making 110 octane. We’re making 110 octane right now. I don’t know if anyone even needs that. What’s premium though? 91? 93?

Andrew:   It depends on where you are in the country. 91 or 92.

Mike:   The trimethylbenzene is 150 octane. So it’s pretty interesting. When we do get the petro boys involved I think they are going to get pretty excited on this.

Andrew:   I totally agree with you and I’ll tell you why I think that. The laws are changing rapidly — well, 10 years is a fairly rapid cycle in this industry. If you have to put new steel on the ground that can cost tens of millions of dollars to meet new laws, it might not pay off when laws change, and octane goes up, and sulfur levels go down, or whatever. So if you guys can offer a way to extend the lifetime of steel that’s already on the ground at refineries, I think you have a tremendous value proposition. Of course it has to be at scale though. They’re interested in more than 1000 gallons/day.

Mike:   Yeah, but if we scale these things up and at the end of four years we have 100 of these mini refineries operating around the country — and we’ll tailor them for the feed stock. There’s all these dead trees that are up in the Pacific Northwest and up into Colorado. There’s 16 million acres of dead trees from pine beetle. It isn’t getting cold enough to kill the pine beetle, so they just keep multiplying and eating the trees. But with a carbon release and the CO2, if you let the trees go, or burn them up as wood, we can chip those trees and make gasoline out of them. So we’ll tailor the process to wood chips to the northwest. We’ll tailor it for corn Stover and corn cobs for the Midwest. Switch Grass and mithcanthus giant reed for down south. We will put hundreds and then thousands of these things out making fuel at different locations tailored to the different processes using non food biomass as a source.

Andrew:   Yeah, there’s a fantastic opportunity with the pine beetle. I spend a few weeks a year in Colorado and there are huge parts of the forests that are gone. It’s really sad, but it would be great to monetize that situation since there’s nothing else you can do.

Mike:   It’s ugly. I’ve been watching James Cameron’s Avatar, have you seen it?

Andrew:   No I haven’t actually.

Mike:   You should see it. He’s going to be in Colorado for the American Council on Renewable Energy. He’s going to be in Aspen this month from the 19th – 22nd talking about that. He’s really getting involved with Richard Branson’s Carbon War room. Ted Turner is going to be there. There’s going to be a lot of people. Cameron is going to talk about Avatar. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s really great. It’s got a lot of forest and preservation, and it makes some political statements. It’s got a lot of corollaries. It’s an awesome movie. I’ve watched it about six times so far. It really gets me fired up for what we’re doing here for this earth.

Andrew:   Well that’s awesome. Let’s deep dive on some questions and then I’ll let you go. We’re kind of over time all ready. So, let’s talk about scaling. I think this is a challenge for you guys.

Mike:   You get the negative carbon. That’s a big point a lot of people miss.

Andrew:   Let’s talk about that briefly too. I get that you’re making, about half of the product by weight or by volume is biochar that the farmer can then put right back in the ground, right?

Mike:   Yes. There’s a big biochar initiative. It’s also called “Terra Preta.” It came out of South America. In the Amazon they found this crop land that was very good at producing crops. They figured it out. Down in this soil was biochar that has nutrients, and worms, and compounds that lasts for hundreds of years. It doesn’t go back up into the air, so it’s a great sequestration method. We’re actually growing crops on site with our own biochar today. Initially we were just going to sequester and bury the carbon that we make as hard coal. You know, replenish an open pit mine or something like that as a sequestration. But now we think it’s much better with this biochar initiative where you make a soil amendment, a soil enhancement, with the char. Then the farmers can put it back in so it re-sustains the soil. So the sustainability of the farmers growing corn for example, and takes nutrients out, makes the fuel, makes the biochar,  and makes a soil enhancement, and puts it back in the ground. It sequesters the carbon, and helps the farmer.

Andrew:   Is there a limit to how much biochar you can put on a field since it doesn’t really dissipate over time?

Mike:   No, there’s a professor from Cornell, and I was in DC a few weeks back, the professor’s name is Johannes Lehmann. He’s kind of the godfather of biochar. He’s working the Amazon, and he’s growing crops where he’s mixed in so many tons/hector of biochar. I asked him that specific question because I was at the Senate briefing. He was briefing both houses of Congress on biochar. Biochar is also in the Carry American Power Act bill that’s stuck in Congress right now. Biochar is in there as a sequestration methodology. He said he put so much biochar and tilled it in, he said when they laid the biochar in the soil it was up to his knees. They plowed it in and it still creates crops. So I don’t think there is a limit to this stuff. There are proposals, that thing I sent you talks about how much biochar could actually reverse CO2 rise. We’ve got different numbers on that. Basically you could reverse the CO2 by 100 PPM globally as quick as 15 years. But by putting an inch of this stuff down across the area where you’re growing crops. It doesn’t do anything with crops but help them grow faster and grow better.

Andrew:   I think the carbon negative parts makes a lot of sense to me.

Mike:   It does, and a lot of people miss that. For every gallon of gasoline that we make, we’re making 5.5 pounds of solid biochar that then becomes a soil amendment. You know, if you burn the gasoline you get 20 pounds of CO2.   And out of that 20 pounds of CO2 there’s around 5.5 pounds of carbon. So every gallon of gasoline that we make, we take out an equivalent amount of carbon and put it back into the ground to be sequestered. That’s why we’re n100. N100 means 100% carbon negative. So when we put this back in the ground, the more fuel you use, the cleaner the air gets. So I want people to drive a hummer. I want them to drive a ‘vette and use fuel. Because the more fuel you use, the cleaner the air gets. It’s a very contrarian solution.

Andrew:   Absolutely. So, back to scaling. I’ve run some quick numbers. If you had 100,000 of these units running around the world – and to date you kind of have one – if you had 100,000 of these running making 100,000 million gallons of gasoline/year, you’d be making somewhere between 0.5% and 1% of the US gasoline demand. That’s sort of is a grim view of the dent you guys can make. What do you think about the long term ability to scale this process? [Editor note: This calculation had a large error in it. The USA consumes ~ 9 million barrels/day of gasoline, that’s 137,970 million gallons/year. 100,000 million gallons/year would be  72% of the US consumption, not the percent cited above. If there were 1,000 units – a goal that might be achievable in the next several years – then CoolPlanet could offset 0.72% of the nation’s consumption, a non-trivial amount.]

Mike:   I don’t think there’s any limit to how you can scale it right? We’re using biomass, and biomass has been converting energy from sunlight. In trees it’s been doing it for years. Fast growing crops, like corn — we want to use fast growing crops so you can use fuel crops. Some of these things will grow 25 tons an acre. So 25 tons an acre, we were quoting 1,000 gallons/acre and 10 tons/acre of biomass. But sometimes you get some of these crops that are 20 or 25 tons an acre, and we start making 2,000 or 2,500 gallons/acre. So we can offset things differently with fuel crops. The economics are so great we think we can end imported oil in the US.

Some of these other places around the country, especially the developing countries that say, "We’re going to burn gasoline, don’t tell me we can’t use gasoline." Why don’t we have them make negative carbon gasoline and crops like this. There’s room enough for everybody. The fuel market is a $2 trillion market annually. For people that say, "What about competition?" Bring it on. There’s plenty of space here to sell this stuff.

Then there’s a blending aspect. There are 10x things that we start blending and cutting the carbon down with the refineries. That gives us a 10x bigger footprint than we originally had. I don’t think there’s any limit.

Andrew:    What about the biomass supply? Is there enough biomass to really make a dent?

Mike:   Yes, there is. Here’s my simplified model for looking at the energy use in the world. How many quads are we using right now?

Andrew:   100 quads in the US.

Mike:   So we think with the world growth, where we go up to 9 billion people by 2040, we’re figuring that we’re going to be using well over 600 quads of energy. Our vision here is to have a third of that come from fossil fuels, which will continue to double our carbon in the atmosphere, another third to be supplied by carbon neutral fuels such as solar, wind, and nuclear. And then a third to be supplied by carbon negative fuel such as the ones we produce. You know, when combining these neutral carbon sources with the long term carbon sequestration, permanently removing carbon from the atmosphere. We think we can do that. We can’t supply everyone’s energy. But we think we can supply a third of the energy that’s needed in 2040, and it would probably require about 2% land area to grow these crops on. You know, we run numbers for some countries, and there’s abandoned crop land everywhere that would handle the stuff. Just rain watered crop land that we could convert and make bio fuels out of. The numbers are actually pretty good when you run them out.

Andrew:   Great. It sounds like since you have your processes so customizable that’s an advantage as well because you can use woodchips, corn, etc.

Mike:   Yes. And we’re getting such yield out of these things; we’re getting great yield. The more cuts you make in fractionation, the more expensive the process gets because you’re only getting a percentage from each cut. We get a pretty good percentage out of just the first cut. We think that we are very cost viable even off of the first cut. Of course, we do multiple cuts in the process to the point where it makes financial sense.

A very special thanks to Mike at CoolPlanet BioFuels for this time and this amazing look inside one of the most innovative companies I’ve had the chance to peer into.

[Originally published By Andrew Bellay on aonetwork.com]