Virent is in the business of replacing crude oil by applying clever chemistry to create the chemicals and fuels the world demands using a wide range of naturally-occurring, renewable resources. Our patented technology features catalytic chemistry to convert plant-based sugars into a full range of products identical to those made from petroleum, including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemicals for plastics and fibers. Our products are “drop-in” replacements that enable full utilization of existing logistics infrastructure without blending limitations.
The development of Virent’s BioForming® technology platform is supported through strategic investors including Cargill, Shell and Honda, as well as 115 employees based in Madison, Wisconsin. The company has received several grants from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Energy and Agriculture, and has been recognized with many honors, including the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer award and the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.
Now, Virent has taken another step in the gasoline certification process, successfully completing its first road fleet test organized and executed by Virent collaborator, Royal Dutch Shell. Virent’s biogasoline was found to cause “no harm” to vehicles in comparison to Shell’s baseline fuel.
Shell used five identical pairs of late-model European cars for the road trial. Five cars used a baseline Shell gasoline, and the other five cars used Shell gasoline blended with Virent’s biogasoline. Each car was driven 10,000 km (~6,000 miles) over the course of 2010, after which the engines were dismantled and inspected. All ten cars, regardless of the gasoline used, were found to be in the same condition.
“The Shell road trial results are encouraging and an important step forward in the commercialization of the BioForming process,” said Lee Edwards, CEO of Virent. “Our objective is to replace gasoline made from crude oil with gasoline made from plant sugars, and the fact that the Virent fueled cars performed the same shows we’re off to a good start.” The road trial is one of many steps in Virent’s journey towards fuel certification.
The Virent process uses continuous catalytic chemistry to convert plant sugars directly into a premium gasoline blendstock, with molecular composition identical to fuel made at a petroleum refinery. The sugars can be sourced from conventional biofuel feedstocks such as sugar beets, corn and sugar cane, or as proven recently, from cellulosic biomass like corn stover and pine residuals.
Virent’s fuels and chemicals are considered “drop-in,” meaning they can be blended seamlessly into other fuels at high percentages and without any changes to today’s fuel infrastructure. The company’s patented process creates industry-ready molecules that can utilize existing refineries, pipelines, tanks, trucks, stations and pumps, safely powering the engines of cars, trucks, motorcycles, watercraft and other gasoline powered small engines.