By on February 1, 2014

Audis at an Oil Pump

Audi’s bio-fuel initiative is expanding into France through an investment by the automaker to Global Bioenergies, whose bio-isooctane could be the replacement for petroleum gasoline when the time comes to make the switch.

The bio-fuel is made from fermented sugar through genetic modification of E. coli bacteria to produce isobutane gas without poisoning the yeast utilized in the fermentation, an issue currently experienced in ethanol production. The longer-lasting process works with feedstocks like corn and sugarcane as well as straight sugar, and can also be adapted to use biomass such as high-glucose wood chips.

At the pump, bio-isooctane can go directly into a vehicle without modification to the engine and fuel-delivery system, or can be blended with petrogasoline in the same manner as E15 and E85. The biogasoline may also come with a lower price per gallon or litres, as the fuel can be produced much quicker and cheaper than ethanol and other bio-fuels.

For the moment, Global Bioenergies is building two working proof-of-concept production plants in Germany and France, whose total annual output is expected to be 100,000 litres. Audi’s investment will be used to help in the rollout of the new fuel as part of the automaker’s branded e-fuel strategy, with bio-isooctane completing the triad with Audi’s investments in ethanol and biodiesel for their complete lineup of vehicles.

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45 Comments on “Audi Invests In Synthetic Gasoline From Sugar...”


  • avatar

    While I’m happy they are investing in liquid synthetic fuels, I really think they should be derived from bacteria action upon waste. Humans/cities/countries have no shortage of waste and there are bacteria that could be turning it into DIESEL.

    Hopefully we can OUST the Sierra Club from our energy-politic because they are holding back our energy production. How many of you noticed that the Keystone XL pipeline will be built?
    800,000 barrels per day delivered to Texas refineries from Canada. Buy your stock now…

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      delivered to Texas refiners and exported around the world, that is. Right now, that Canadian crude lands in Midwest where it creates an oversupply, lowering the prices for American consumers.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        North Dakota has such a large supply of petro coming up and such a lack of pipeline to move it that much of it is burned on spot.

        Apparently environmentalist prefer to see fuel wasted than to see people have a cheap source of fuel.

        • 0 avatar

          I love you Hummer.

          “Apparently environmentalist prefer to see fuel wasted then see people have a cheap source of fuel.”

          It was lower than 10 degrees here in NYC for so many days that without OIL HEAT or GAS HEAT I’d have frozen to death. Environmentalists are only interested in their own pristine communities and will preach these lioes about global Warming right up until they get into their LEER JETS and fly to their next diatribe. They are a bunch of hypocritical MALTHUSIAN LUDDITES.

        • 0 avatar
          LectroByte

          Burned on the spot? Gotta call BS on that. Got a cite for it, Mr Hum-job?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Look up a nighttime light map, notice the big bright spot in North Dakota that doesn’t represent a major city.
            Not sure where sources are just something brought up by superiors at work. Had pictures and slides present, don’t know if you can find it online, probably can.

          • 0 avatar
            LectroByte

            Just as I figured, BS.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Umm… Ok?
            I really wasn’t doing a research paper on it, but my company was showing us this in a meeting because it affects everyone.
            I doubt their going to expend te energy to make something up for something so inconsequential as putting a few million gallons of petro into flames. It’s not for media consumption to spin it as a terrible thing, its for the employees.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Is it really? It honestly doesn’t seem like it as gas hovers around 3.50-3.70 a gallon in my AO maybe .75 to .90 cents cheaper than when it was at its peak some years ago.

        Then again I remember the last time we had a glut and oil as well as gas was considered a strategic reserve and couldn’t be traded as a commodity with the glut lowering the cost of fuel to slightly less than a dollar for regular.

        I wonder how many of our representatives bought up crude like crazy just before they repealed that rule along the same time they repealed the Glass-Steagall act.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Don’t forget to dismiss/deny/rationalize the environmental catastrophe in Alberta, and the fact that production of tar sands generates mass quantities of CO2 in and of itself.

      We know CO2 traps heat. We know CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is going up. How much is too much?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Do we? Do we really?

        Please go to Alberta before you believe everything your told.

        If its cheaper than gas from the oil sands, without any negatives, then so be it. But if I can get fuel cheaper from Canada or North Dakota, forget about it.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Bio-isooctane/green gasoline and solid oxide fuel cells operating on conventional or green fuels will be the future for electric vehicles. I think the technical and infrastructure barriers are much lower for this technology. You could fuel it from the output of your septic system, or fuel it at any gas station on the road.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6058/935.short

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’n waiting for all of the posts complaining about using food for fuel. Mention one thing about ethanol and all you see are posts about how ethanol is evil. This is the same concept.

    Besides, why are they bothering with this? We can distill butanol as a drop in replacement for gasoline (it’s been done for years), alongside the ethanol that we can utilize also.

    • 0 avatar

      Ethanol unnecessarily damages the fuel lines of old cars that can’t handle it.

      The worst thing about ethanol is it also attracts water into the engine causing further damage.

      There is also the wasted land that could’ve simply been used for growing food.

      Why hasn’t anyone come up with a way to make fuel out of weeds???

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Switch grass would be that Big, the stuff grows like crazy in a variety of environments and provides a good yield making it a good crop for ethanol.

        There is enough fallow farmland in the US that switch grass used in the production of ethanol could more than replace what is generated from food stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      If the market, rather than the government, was allowed to decide the winners and losers, there would be a much nicer debate about the whole thing.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        ‘The free market” ??? You mean big global mafias-er-corporations and people the likes if the Koch brothers?

        That “free” market?

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Yep the infamous Koch brothers, are behind the scheme to have everyone destroy their fuel lines.

          Too bad The Koch brothers are practically the only people in the list of the worlds richest that aren’t extreme left.

          Being rich and conservative is “bad”, being rich and toppling economies is however alright if its all for liberalism.

          Their donations pale in comparison to George Soros. But your trusty media tells you to believe them for they would never mislead you, not that all major news networks aren’t owned by the left…

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Isn’t this the same boondoggle as ethanol from corn? I mean corn makes sugar, that gets fermented to ethanol. Now using the same sugar to make synthetic gasoline would still require us to grow corn (with all the water, pesticide and energy use). Or soem other plants… but in the end we still use a lot of energy growing that sugar-plant.

    So where does the sugar come from ? from the same unicorn that makes hydrogen?

    Before any new fuel gets researched, do an nergy balance. becasue with corn ethanol we need to put in more energy (coal, natural gas) than we get out. Do we want to repeat that?

    • 0 avatar
      YellowDuck

      “Before any new fuel gets researched, do an nergy balance. becasue with corn ethanol we need to put in more energy (coal, natural gas) than we get out. Do we want to repeat that?”

      Well, that’s ironic. You promote the idea of figuring out the energy balance for any new biofuel, then cite completely incorrect information about the energy balance of ethanol. The studies have been done, and the only ones that found a negative energy balance for corn ethanol were based on 1970s production practices and have been completely discredited. Best estimates for energy balance of grain ethanol as currently produced in the US is about +40%. See the work of Michael Wang, Argonne National Labs.

      More importantly, the energy being used is mostly coal and natural gas (as you rightly point out). Those things are in abundant domestic supply, whereas the fuel being produced (a replacement for liquid petroleum) is not so abundant domestically. The “liquid petroleum replacement value” of EtOH is about 8:1 with current systems.

      I am not a huge proponent of grain ethanol, but if you are going to argue against it at least get the facts right. Otherwise, you just look biased.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        Show your study.
        Why not just use CNG then without going through sugar.
        All the studies I’ve seen show you either just gain a tniy bit, or lose some (depending on who paid for the study). Oh yeah, because then the farm states couldn’t get subsidies. Despite having 10 capita only, they still get 2 seanators. That is the real reason for all that “green” fuel.
        And dirty coal really is better than gasoline?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The studies that show ethanol to be energy-negative conveniently ignore the fact that ethanol also produces edible byproducts.

          Corn ethanol is not particularly efficient and it has its drawbacks, but it’s hard to make a good argument when you don’t understand the basics.

          In any case, the Europeans have neither oil nor gas. They are highly dependent upon the Russians for their gas supplies. Forgive me for thinking that having ones energy future being determined by the Russians and Middle Eastern dictatorships isn’t a particularly smart idea.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Actually, there are natural gas fields all over Europe. There’s also North Sea oil, and Romanian oil. What Europe has a lot of is coal, and the technology to extract energy in gaseous and liquid form from coal is well developed.

            What Europe doesn’t have a lot of is arable land to use growing corn or sugar cane. Any process they’re developing must involve importing the raw material from elsewhere, maybe Russia, Brazil, Belarus, or Ukraine.

            If they don’t want to dig up their own coal supplies and have to import the raw sugar-based materials, why not develop their energy from low sulfur American coal? Maybe the US is too unstable to be a reliable supplier?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “EU-27 dependency on energy imports increased from less than 40 % of gross energy consumption in the 1980s to reach 54.1 % by 2010…The highest energy dependency rates in 2010 were recorded for crude oil (85.2 %) and for natural gas (62.4 %).”

            http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Energy_production_and_imports

            Data trumps wishful thinking, day in and day out.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            PCH101, irrelevant data (and links) are worthless. I didn’t write that Europe had all the natural gas and oil they needed/consumed, I was responding to YOUR assertion that “In any case, the Europeans have neither oil nor gas.”

            That’s YOUR quote and I challenged it. You’re wrong, they have a lot of energy resources, just not enough to be energy independent without going back to heavy coal use.

            Try to own up to your own statements, or clarify them if they caused misunderstanding, without getting testy with others.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The Europeans are obviously dependent upon imports. They couldn’t survive without them.

            It seems that conservatives believe that there is some sort of conspiracy to disrupt our energy supplies. The reality is that advanced countries tend not to have enough of it, and they need to import it.

            North Sea oil is not going to save Europe, not by a longshot. It’s incredibly naive to believe that Europe has any chance at all of ceasing its dependency on imported oil and gas without a drastic technological change.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Pch101
            As usual you are incorrect in your assumptions and biased opinions based on factless data. I could explain where your data is from. But I will be polite today to you.

            You see Pch101, the US is also dependent on the importation of resources. Most every country has some form of reliance on an import. Some are luckier than other, like Australia.

            http://www.thenational.ae/european-shale-oil-boom-wont-affect-global-energy-markets

        • 0 avatar
          YellowDuck

          Here’s one study (of many).

          http://www.usda.gov/oce/reports/energy/2008Ethanol_June_final.pdf

          Note that the energy balance is about 1.4 *before* you apply a coproduct energy credit. That is, you don’t produce just ethanol from corn, you also produce animal feed as dried distiller’s grains. Depending on how much of the input energy you apply to the co-product (that is a philosophical decision to some extent) you can get an energy balance of upwards of 2:1.

          As for “just using the CNG”…well, that’s not a bad option for sure, but its energy balance is less than 1 (since to extract, process and deliver the CNG you use significant energy), so it doesn’t compare favorably to fuel ethanol simply on a fossil fuel energy balance basis. The difference of course is the “free” solar energy from photosynthesis in the corn production.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            I read through the study… but you realize it is from USDA, the same guys that profit from and spread the subsidies and are basically run by the industrial farming lobby? Excuse me if I’m skeptical…and the study is based on data provided by NAMA, the National Agribusiness Marketing Association. The fox guarding the hens?

            Do you have an independent study that actually takes all energy and environemntal impact into account? Preferrably that doesn’t only rely on survey data.

            As far as the extraction cost of CNG goes, you are correct, fracking etc. also cost energy. but that is the same if you use the NG in an ICE, or to feed one of thsoe bio-reactors to make ethanol. and fertilizer for corn is also made with Natural gas.

            The study didn’t include the tremendeous amounts of energy required for pumping water (if you don’t know, there is a water crisis) or the fuel for the tractors etc., which is tremendeous.

            In Europe, where biodiesel is used, the energy balance is a bit better since the oil plants fare a bit better than corn.

            and if making energy from corn is so good, why does it need subsidies? If a “viable” business plan starts with “require subsidies, it is not viable.

          • 0 avatar
            YellowDuck

            I am impressed that you read the study!
            Like I said, it is one of many.

            If you look at it more carefully you will see that the energy for fueling tractors and producing N fertilizers is indeed included. Less obviously in that particular report, the energy for pumping water is also included, but that is less important than you might think because only a small fraction of corn grown in the US is irrigated. Indeed, the farming part is not the real key at all, because over 2/3 of the energy consumption in producing EtOH occurs at the processing plant.

            Is it a complete accounting of all costs, including “environmental costs”? Absolutely not. I thought we were debating energy balance.

            Yes it is conducted by USDA scientists, but on the other and the underlying studies are all peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals. Just stating that you don’t trust the source is not a very good argument, but you are right to be skeptical. We all should be.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            Even if we assume a factor of 1.4 is true, this seems a lot of effort for so little. And what about energy to produce and maintain the farm and plant eqipment? So we get closr to 1.0.

            And we cant really ignore other environmental factor, do you really want to destroy every animals habitat and use up all water? That water energy becomes huge as the water table drops. I realize oil, coal and NG mining also have huge impact..so I guess we need energy conservation no matter what.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “you are right to be skeptical. We all should be.”

            Skepticism should be supported by something with a bit of weight, such as, well, facts.

            In this case, we have people of a particular political persuasion who use “skepticism” as an excuse to be lazy and sloppy. No need to do research when being an opinionated skeptic who is oblivious to facts will suffice.

            Any study that ignores the food byproducts is inherently flawed. That’s merely a factual statement — food is energy, and food is a byproduct of ethanol production.

            Likewise, if we’re going to assess the full chain of the cost of energy production, then one should also consider all of the resources that are required to get oil out of the ground, transported and refined. It’s not as if gasoline just magically appears at the local gas station — a lot of resources were committed to getting it there.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            PCH101: I can be skeptic based on assumptions and fears… what you mean is that facts are needed to disprove something. I’m not trying to diprove that sugar fuel experiment, I just ask questions and want to see actual scientific proof, not something based on surveys of people who benefit from the subsidies.

            I think my skepticism is based on reasonable knowledge. All I ask for that matter thoroughly
            researched before we waste more money (and destroy the environment even more).

            Subsidies may be necessary for startp technologies, but if over decades Billons of $ are needed, it is a boondoggle. If ethanol would make sense, it didn’t need subsidies. I realize oil industry gets subsodies too, and disagree with those as well.

            Same way I’m skeptical off hydrogen (unless you find a natural source of such).

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you don’t know that ethanol production creates food byproducts that add to its energy balance, then you really don’t know much about it at all.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            You know, I’m probably more on your side than youthink. But your brushing off ever skepticism is really off-putting. Good luck convincing someone who is in the opposite group.

            You can blame Republicans for denying science all day long, but you yourselves do a lot of science denial when it suits your argument.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            When “skepticism” is just a code word for being opinionated without bothering to do research, then it deserves to be trashed.

            If you don’t know something about a given topic, then start by learning about it. Do the heavy lifting, read about it, analyze it and otherwise avoid forming an opinion until you know enough that your opinion is worthwhile. Rushing to judgment is just lazy and reactionary.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            The reality of US ethanol is this;

            1. Sugarcane will produce far more ethanol per acre than corn.

            2. Sugarcane cost half as much to produce a gallon of ethanol.

            3. The US has a 54% tariff on Brazilian ethanol.

            4. Why doesn’t the US export food to Brazil and import it’s ethanol for half the price.

            It appears the US is wasting taxpayers money by subsidising another industry needlessly.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Unless you live in Cuba, sugar is not over abundant…it requires resources to grow it (at local market prices) and like other commodities, fluctuates in price on the world market. Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. I think the research $$ should be spent on natural gas conversion to liquid fuels or coal conversion to liquid fuel. No competition with land use, or diversion of edible crops. The main problem with natural gas is that fracking requires LOTS of water which will be the new shortage commodity of the 21st century. My $.02.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      No competition with land use…

      Have you seen strip mining and mountaintopremoval? And fracking also uses much land for the well, poisons the water, you need huge sand mining etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Oil sands in Alberta naturally bubble up with tar, its been in journals from explorers and stories from Indians using it to patch boats. Crops also don’t grow very well in Alberta versus brazil, therefore I think he has at very least something to consider.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    If this company can find a way to achieve against so many odds, require zero government funding, a fuel source equatable to the current petro used, without the harm and massive problems created by ethanol, all for a cheaper cost for the consumer…..

    Then go for it and become billionaires.

  • avatar
    bnolt

    This is written with a definite POV, but it’s pretty thorough:
    http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/digital/pdf/spring_13/Kiefer_Long_Version.pdf


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