Sundrop attracts new investment, plans green gasoline demo plant

By Erin Voegele | July 19, 2011

Drop-in biofuels company Sundrop Fuels Inc. and Chesapeake NG Ventures Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corp., have announced the closing of a transaction in which CNGV will invest $155 million in Sundrop Fuels and its projects, and also supply natural gas to the company’s proposed demonstration-scale facility. Oak Investment Partners, a current investor in Sundrop Fuels, has also committed to invest an additional $20 million pro rata with CNGV.

The combined $175 million in investment funds will enable Sundrop Fuels to expand its operations and begin construction of a commercial demonstration facility, which will produce cellulosic gasoline. According to Sundrop Fuels Spokesman Steven Silvers, construction on the 40 MMgy commercial demonstration plant will begin next year, with the plant reaching full production by 2014.

Sundrop Fuels’ proprietary technology involves the use of an ultrahigh-temperature heat transfer process to gasify virtually any cellulosic feedstock into synthesis gas. The gas is further converted into renewable gasoline and other drop-in fuels. The company notes that the core of its intellectual property is its RP reactor, a highly-efficient radiant particle technology that is more than 20 times faster than conventional convection gasification methods.

The company further said that it is able to maximize the production of synthesis gas by integrating natural gas with biomass feedstock to facilitate the most efficient utilization of hydrogen from both the biomass and the natural gas. This results in higher yields than other biomass gasification processes.

Silvers explains that gasoline we burn in engines today require a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen to carbon. “Cellulosic biomass has a 1:1 ratio; one part carbon, one part hydrogen,” he said. “The problem with other gasification and biomass-to-fuel processes is…the way they balance out the need for more hydrogen and less carbon is they throw away part of the carbon. They burn it off, or they get rid of it in some other manner. That is waste.”

 Due to its unique RP reactor technology, the high temperatures it generates—up to 1,300 degrees Celsius—and Sundrop Fuels’ ability to precisely manage the flow of that heat, Silvers said the biomass entering the system is gasified nearly instantly. “While we are doing that, we add natural gas to the process to basically rip away some of the hydrogen from the natural gas and combine it will the gas that is being produced when we gasify the biomass,” Silvers explained. The result is a synthesis gas that is contains a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen and carbon, which can be converted into renewable gasoline using established commercial processes.

“Sundrop Fuels’ disruptive ‘green gasoline’ technology based on nonfood cellulosic biomass and natural gas feedstocks promises to ensure America’s liquid fuels energy security while dramatically reducing the industry’s carbon footprint at the lowest possible cost per gallon,” said Bandel Carano, managing partner of Oak Investment Partners. “The Sundrop Fuels and Chesapeake partnership is a compelling model for how an innovative, venture-backed clean energy company can scale to meet America’s domestic liquid fuels demand with the visionary leadership and strategic commitment of a leading U.S. energy company.”