Madison-based Virent Energy Systems and Shell Oil are involved in a five-year biofuel agreement to produce gasoline directly from plant sugars. Virent CEO and President Eric Apfelbach says their fuel's production leaves a smaller carbon "footprint" is smaller than creating ethanol. Also, the process uses a broad range of non-food grade sugars and carbohydrates. Apfelbach says the product does not need a special infrastructure; it can be used immediately in pipelines and car engines.
Currently at their Madison facility, Virent has 16 pilot plants pumping out a gallon a day of the fuel.
"Our challenge at this point is to see how fast we can scale up the technology," says Apfelbach.
The firm looks to develop larger "pre-commercial pilot plants" at roughly 10,000 liters in capacity; a goal the CEO admits will likely take a few years.