Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Texas Company Says It’s Found a Way to Turn Wood Into Gasoline

Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images

A Texas company says they've figured out a commercially-viable way to turn pine tree wood chips into gasoline.

Got any dead wood lying around your yard? If a new Texas company’s claims turn out to be accurate, that pile could theoretically fuel your car soon.

In the New York Times, Matthew Wald reports on Pasadena, Texas-based biofuel company KiOR. They say they’ve come up with a process to affordably, cleanly process wood chips into crude oil. At their plant in Mississipi, the company says they can take that crude and refine it into gasoline and diesel, according to the Times. They say they’ll be selling it commercially within the month. “That would be a first for the cellulosic biofuel sector,” the Times writes.

On their website, KiOR says their goal is to use non-food source for their fuel, “such as wood and agricultural waste, while avoiding feedstocks such as corn or soy which are also used for food or are grown on land typically used for food production.” The company says they’ll only use trees that have been “grown and sustainably harvested for commercial use in its facilities.”

The project has already figured out the most difficult steps. Here’s how KiOR did it, and what it could mean for the nascent biofuels sector:

“They said they had already accomplished the hard part, developing a proprietary technology that involves rearranging the molecules of biomass into an oil in a matter of moments. In nature, it takes millions of years.

If the oil from low-value wood chips is refined into products like gasoline and diesel, which are expensive and heavily supported by government policy, that would be a major milestone in the history of renewable energy. This kind of renewable energy, generally known as cellulosic biofuel because it comes from woody, nonedible sources, has lagged behind areas like solar cells and wind turbines.”

The company says the plant has the goal of producing 13 million gallons of fuel a year. What’s more, those fuels generate renewable credits that can be sold to traditional refineries to meet their renewable fuel requirements, the Times writes.

You can read the full story over at the Times.


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