The Next Phase

Virent selected to advance in the NABC program
By Erin Voegele | September 20, 2011

The National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, led by the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has selected Virent Energy Systems Inc. to advance to stage two of its cellulosic biomass feedstock-to-biofuels program.

Working with 17 partners representing industry, academia and national laboratories, the NABC is working to investigate the effectiveness of a variety of process strategies that have the potential to convert corn stover or wood chips into drop-in biofuels.

Virent successfully created renewable gasoline from both feedstocks during stage one of the project, and has been selected to move forward. According to Andrew Held, Virent’s director of feedstock development, the second phase of the program kicked off in September, and is expected to last 24 months.

“What is happening, is the [process] strategies that have been advanced to stage two are initiating the project scope, with the intent that at the end of phase two the NABC can make a recommendation to the DOE regarding technologies that are ready to be advanced to a pilot-ready or a process demonstration unit scale,” Held says.

Held also notes the participation in the NABC has been beneficial to his company as a mechanism to create constructive collaborations, and for generating a meaningful supply of deconstructed biomass materials that Virent can use to demonstrate and optimize its conversion processes. Although the NABC project focuses exclusively on renewable gasoline, Virent is working to develop process technology that can produce a range of fuels and chemicals. “Virent has the viewpoint that to make us economical at scale, and to make a meaningful contribution to the marketplace, biorefineries need to be capable of taking in more than one feedstock and producing more than one product,” he says. 

—Erin Voegele