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Biofuels - Hope For Our Energy Future

June 20, 2013
Jim Lane, Editor, Biofuels Digest poised the thought -- In order to grant the worlds population in 2050 the same energy lifestyle we share today, we will need 5x as much as energy as we currently have today. Lane introduced the panelists of advanced biofuels producers, government officials, and biofuels customers for a moderated discussion to address the challenges and hope placed on biofuels to bridge the gap, allowing 9Billion people in 2050 to enjoy our existing energy lifestyle.

BIO’s 10th Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology Plenary Panel, Feeling the Heat of the Biofuels Boom, focused its discussion on challenges against the industry and how they see the future of biofuels developing.

Lane kicked off the discussion asking panelist Steve Hartig, General Manager of POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC, what the challenges are to finding aggregated biomass. Hartig explained that they are on the ground working with growers and convincing them that it makes sense to make the biomass available for biofuels production. While POET-DSM is starting conservatively, taking only 20 percent of the biomass, they are working to build trust and create a relationship. POET-DSM is certain that once the growers see the return they will be able to gather more biomass in the near future.

Carlos Eduardo Cavacanti, Head of Biofuels Development, Brazilian Economic Development Bank, discussed how Brazil is welcoming foreign investors and companies. Carlos proudly announced that among 25 companies investing in Brazil, 17 are from abroad with only 8 from Brazil,  however, all are bringing much needed innovation to the sector. As a development bank, their goal is to push innovation, which they achieve by offering the same financial obligations and conditions to foreign companies and investors. These competitive conditions create a welcoming market for innovation.

Geoffrey Tauvette, Director, Fuel and Environment, WestJet, focused on costs as a market barrier. In a world with existing fuel technology, any new option proposed must be financially competitive. Tauvette emphasized that new technology, such as drop-in fuels, circumvents the need to worry about upstream needs, lowering the costs and creating a place for them in the market. These new technologies lessen the challenge and the previously existing market barrier, creating a hope for the future.

Dr. Robert Graham, Chief Executive Officer, EnSyn Corporation, emphasized that market entry can also be eased by partnering. Partners provide the much-needed credibility, allowing for marketplace entry of new technologies. Graham highlighted that proven technology partners allow for process guarantee, which is needed for both project development and market acceptance.

The panel wrapped with discussing the challenges and optimism they see forming in the industry. Dan Cummings, Vice President, Commercial & External Affairs, INEOS BIO, explained that the biggest challenge is patience but Tier 3, new plants coming on line, and others building facilities provide  hope as he sees steel in the ground and the industry continuing to grow. Graham, also citing impatience, is hopeful that the industry will continue to grow as the next generation, the teenagers, expect this technology to be developed.

Bernardo Gradin, Chairman and CEO, GranBio, said that the biggest challenge GranBio faces is public policy in Brazil. However, despite policy roadblocks, many companies are at scale and plants continue to come on line, working around the existing policy challenges to move forward. Tauvette on the other hand has found that policies are helping his sector of the biofuels market. Policies now inclusive of jet fuels, allow for forward movement, spurring innovation.

While the panel discussed significant challenges facing the industry, the panel left the BIO’s 10th Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology with hope for the future. Hartig proudly stated that cellulosic ethanol is real and is here, and we are in the process together of creating a great success story.