January 11, 08
New Process for Making Synthetic Bio-Gasoline

Diversified Energy Corp says it is three to four years away from commercializing technology to make fuel from crops, algae and animal fats that will be very similar to traditional gasoline.

"The hurdles we have to pass now are no longer scientific," said Phillip Brown, president and chief executive officer of Diversified Energy Corp. "Now, it's a matter of engineering and scaling up the technology to make it commercially viable."

Diversified is using a technology licensed by North Carolina State University, called Centia, to produce the bio-gasoline fuels.

Fuels it produces could be used in engines, stored and distributed in an identical manner to fossil fuels today, the company said in a statement.

Thus far, all the results have been promising, Brown said. On Tuesday, the company said laboratory testing had produced a bio-gasoline fuel very similar to traditional unleaded gasoline. Further testing, development and optimization work is planned.

"It's a completely different approach than where the country is going right now with ethanol and alcohol fuels," Brown said. "Every car that can use unleaded gas can use 100 percent concentrations of these fuels."

Ethanol is commonly made from corn in the United States and has come under fire for raising food prices and not being the most energy-efficient alternative fuel.

Ethanol does not have the same energy content as gasoline, and more ethanol than gasoline would be needed to get the equivalent mileage, Brown said. Further, he said ethanol cannot be distributed using existing infrastructure whereas biofuels produced using the Centia technology could be.

"It just doesn't translate into a one-to-one replacement for gasoline," he said.

However, ethanol is blended into more than half the gasoline sold in America now, said Matt Hartwig, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington, D.C., a trade association for the country's ethanol industry.

Where ethanol-blended gasoline is sold, including Phoenix, Hartwig said it has 10 percent ethanol in it.

"We believe there is room to expand safely and responsibly beyond 10 percent," he said.

North Carolina State created Centia in 2006. After getting the license in the spring, the company initially focused on using the technology to produce aviation fuels, but Brown said the company has since switched its focus to production of a substitute for gasoline. This will allow the company to respond to the largest part of the market for fuels - gasoline - and commercialize its technology faster.

"We've done our homework on how difficult it is to get a new fuel qualified for the aviation community," Brown said. "