M-SimonBiotechnology firm Joule Unlimited may have come up with a game changer in the quest for economically viable biofuels.

"Joule is applying advanced genome engineering to develop a library of proprietary organisms, each one optimized for productivity according to the desired end product. Because the organisms are engineered to directly synthesize and secrete fuels, we will avoid costly steps such as large-scale biomass production and collection or other downstream refinement. Our technology has already been proven with the direct conversion of CO2 to liquid hydrocarbons and ethanol, avoiding the economic and environmental burden of multi-step, petroleum- or biomass-dependent methods."

The Globe and Mail (Canada) gives some of the details.

Joule Unlimited received a patent for “a proprietary organism” – a genetically engineered cyanobacterium that produces liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, “fossil fuels on demand.”

Biofuels Digest looks at the current patent situation for Joule.

“This patent award represents a critical milestone for our IP strategy and validates the truly revolutionary nature of our process, which has the potential to yield infrastructure-compatible replacements for fossil fuels at meaningful scale and highly-competitive costs, even before subsidies,” said Bill Sims, President and CEO, Joule.

“Our vision since inception has been to overcome the limitations of biomass-based technologies, from feedstock costs and logistics to inefficient, energy-intensive processing. The result is the world’s first platform for converting sunlight and waste CO2 directly into diesel, requiring no costly intermediates, no use of agricultural land or fresh water, and no downstream processing.”

A big WOW if that is true. Some initial judgments can be made by looking at the patents. I have just scanned them but from what I have seen they have a system and not just an engineered organism. They are building a pilot production plant at Leander, Texas.

A commenter to this article on Joule has visions of what the future might look like if this technology works as advertised:

...big floating petri dishes out on the ocean near the equator and far from land. Today's deep sea oil rig is tomorrow's equatorial E. Coli farm, surrounded by thousands of acres of (what looks like from an airplane) a whole bunch of lily pads. Oil tankers will then bring it to shore.

The commenter (Brock) got one thing wrong - for now, cyanobacteria is the preferred organism.

Green Living has a good and longish (for the Internet) article on the state of research and venture capital interest in this type of technology.

If you need help piloting your plant, you can contact M. Simon by getting his e-mail from the sidebar at IEC Fusion Technology.