A Canadian service station today became the first in the world to sell gasoline blended with biofuel made from wheat straw.
For the next month, drivers who pull up to the Royal Dutch Shell PLC station in Ottawa can fill their tanks with a blend of 90 percent petroleum and 10 percent cellulosic ethanol. The biofuel -- which can also be made from sugarcane bagasse, switchgrass and other plants -- has 90 percent less lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline, according to the Anglo-Dutch oil major (NYSE: RDS).
The cellulosic ethanol was brewed at an Ottawa demonstration plant owned and operated by Iogen Corp., with which Shell has a 50-50 joint venture to develop the biofuel (E&ENews PM, July 15, 2008). Privately held Iogen, which has been operating the 5,000-liter-a-day demonstration plant since 2004, is assessing the economic feasibility and environmental impacts of a commercial-scale facility -- a 70-million-liter-a-year plant near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Company spokeswoman Mandy Chepeka declined to put a price tag on the plant but said the company will make a final investment decision within the next eight to 12 months. Construction of the plant would take about two years.
Shell and Iogen are no longer pursuing U.S. Department of Energy funding for a second commercial-scale plant, in Idaho Falls, Idaho, but have not ruled out building the facility as part of a broader commercial fuel rollout, noted David Williams, a Shell spokesman in London.
"The vision is large-scale production and significant commercial availability," Williams said. "However, cost-competitive advanced biofuels in substantial quantities we estimate are five to 10 years away."
Williams declined to say how much Shell is investing in the Iogen joint venture but noted that the London-based company has invested $1.7 billion in all of its alternative energy businesses -- biofuels, wind, solar, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage -- during the past five years.