Google Successfully Tests Breakthrough Biofuel

Written by on October 30, 2012 in Tech - No comments

google_campus_2Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been successfully testing a breakthrough biofuel at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The biofuel, made by California-based Cool Planet Energy Systems, is produced using a “carbon negative” process that actually removes carbon from the atmosphere during the course of production.

“Innovations in alternative fuels will be key in addressing growing climate change concerns,” said Brendon Harrington, Google’s Transportation Operations Manager. “We are thrilled to be a part of Cool Planet’s field testing and believe that this product has the potential to make a significant impact on our future energy needs.”

Google’s test car, known as GRide, drove 2,400 miles around Google’s campus using a blend of  Cool Planet carbon negative biofuel and regular gasoline. The test car blend met California’s 2020 Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which mandates a 10% reduction in carbon intensity versus today’s gasoline by 2020.

Cool Planet is performing further field tests and does not yet know when the biofuel will be available to consumers. The company will likely achieve first fuel in its developing facility in Southern Californian in mid-December.

When it goes to market, Cool Planet will offer a high-octane gasoline that is fully compatible with today’s automobiles as well as conventional fuel distribution systems. Cool Planet projects that it will produce a billion gallons by 2015 and “significantly higher volumes” by 2018.

Cool Planet can currently produce the fuel at just $1.50 per gallon, without relying on government subsidies, lending it the potential to compete commercially with gasoline and food-based biofuels.

“Unlike many other biofuel companies, Cool Planet’s carbon negative gasoline is price competitive because of the ingenuity behind our innovation,” said Cool Planet’s CEO Howard Janzen. “By mass producing mobile, pre-fabricated micro-refineries that are easily transportable to the biomass source, we significantly reduce costs of feedstock transportation, which maximizes our overall capital efficiency.”

Janzen noted that each “micro-refinery” can produce 10 million gallons of fuel per year, allowing the company to “compete with oil at $50 a barrel without any government mandates or subsidies.”

Cool Planet’s production process is considered “carbon negative” because it produces a byproduct called biochar that can be used as a soil enhancer, increasing land fertility while isolating the carbon captured from the atmosphere. The production process results in up to a 150% carbon footprint reduction.

The biofuel is produced from non-food biomass such as wood chips, agricultural waste like corn stover, and energy crops like giant miscanthus and switch grass. Food-based fuels such as ethanol have been criticized for failing to reduce dependence on fossil fuels while driving up prices for staple foods like corn.

Launched in 2008, Cool Planet has received venture backing from a number of major firms, including BP (NYSE:BP), Constellation Energy (NYSE:CEG), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Google Ventures, and NRG (NYSE:NRG).

In May, the company announced the hire of Michael Bukowski as VP of Fuel Production. Bukowski spent 14 years at Sunoco (NYSE:SUN), rising through the ranks to become Vice President of the Chemical and Manufacturing Division.

Image credit: Fotinakis (Flickr)

Harry Stevens

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens

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