In Massachusetts, news arrives from Joule that the company’s CO2-recycled ethanol meets US and European fuel specifications. No one is dying of surprise that they would do so, but getting Joule fuels registered for commercial sale is an important step towards commercialization of the technology, and Audi, Joule’s strategic partner in the automotive space, initiated the tests with respected lab SGS, which confirmed that Joule’s ethanol meets American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol and German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol.
For Joule, its now onto the fuel registration process. For us, we’ll take a look at the relationship with Audi and where and when Joule fuels might be coming to a station near you.
Joule and Audi
Joule and Audi formed a partnership in 2011 to accelerate the development and commercialization of CO2-neutral fuels. These efforts include fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule’s production facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, where demonstration-scale production of ethanol is underway. Audi is also supporting Joule’s hydrocarbon product, which was previously tested and shown to meet ASTM specifications in diesel blends of up to 50%. This product will follow ethanol to market.
The Audi Group, as you may know, delivered over 1,741,000 vehicles to customers globally in 2014, and broke all-time company sales records for the 5th straight year in the U.S. Through 2019, Audi AG plans to invest about 24 billion euros, and 70 percent of the investment will flow into the development of new models and technologies.
The Joule’s ethanol market
Joule’s CO2-derived ethanol will address a global biofuels market of approximately 1.9 million barrels consumed per day.Unlike processes requiring the fermentation of sugars from corn, cellulose or other biomass materials, Joule uses engineered catalysts to recycle industrial CO2 emissions directly into ethanol, avoiding the use of crops, arable land and fresh water. At full-scale commercialization, Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre annually.
Using the carbon reduction opportunity to drive adoption and distribution
In the overall US market, Joule will qualify as an advanced biofuels (50% or more CO2 reduction compared to baseline 2005 gasoline) — but will not qualify as a cellulosic fuel, since Joule bypasses the use of cellulose and instead uses the same raw materials that plants use to make cellulose in the first place.
Among the useful reforms of the Renewable Fuel Standard that might come along would be a special segment for technologies that bypass cellulose, such as Joule and Algenol. One hopes that they would be rewarded for higher carbon savings and engineering a one-step pathway from capturing CO2 to makiing a fuel — but whether the EPA finds an exception for these fuels as nimbly as they found that a reluctance among obligated parties to distribute renewable fuels was the same as a production shortage of the fuels — that remains to be seen.
Which brings us to California — after the “rest of the US” and China, it’s the third-largest transportation fuels market in the world, and there we have the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which does offer exotic incentives to exotic technologies that deliver exotic carbon savings.
“Carbon reduction? Yes, we are obviously on top of that opportunity,” Joule EVP Tom Jensen told The Digest. “We believe that our lifecycle emissions analysis is better than any other LCA, and we are substantiating that – as part of other commercialization efforts. Our ambition is to demonstrate a carbon reduction as close to 100% as possible. In our base case, we are using renewable power and making sure all waste streams are recycled. Not something we may see in the first plant, but it will be there when we moved to optimized locations and facilities.
“California is a focus and the appeal of the California market is one of many considerations. With a very beneficial carbon footprint and a quite substantial and dynamic development in various carbon marlets, we will try to tap into those incentives
“But we will not physically establish distributuion,” Jensen said. “Part of our round of partnership discussions, and even negotiations, is to build an entire Joiule ecosystem, based around global partners who can complment the technology with their own strenghts. That includes raw material sourcing, development of large scale facilities, and it includes distribution. The stakeholders we are negotiating with are substantial names, and of course they will look carefully at all the opportunities that carbon reduction affords them to achieve a substantial distribution, and we will work closely with them so that we have optimized opportunites from cradle to grave. “
Reaction from the Joule and Audi stakeholders
“We are pleased to achieve another critical step towards our planned near-term delivery of fuel-grade ethanol from recycled CO2,” said Serge Tchuruk, President and CEO of Joule. “Using waste CO2 as a feedstock, our technology has the two-fold advantage of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and producing cost-competitive, drop-in fuels. This means we have a unique opportunity to offer a solution to CO2 emitters and to fuel users, directly supporting a low carbon economy.”
“Audi and Joule share a commitment to making carbon-neutral mobility a reality,” said Reiner Mangold, Head of sustainable product development, Audi AG. “The successful testing of ethanol produced from CO2 is another encouraging indication of this technology’s progress. We are proud to work with Joule to ultimately sustain global transportation without emitting more CO2 than is consumed.”