Cobalt Technologies has signed an agreement with Fluor Corporation for engineering consulting services as Cobalt gears up to commercialize its cellulosic biobutanol production technology. Additionally, Fluor will offer a broad range of EPCM (engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance) services for Cobalt’s demonstration and commercial-scale butanol production plants.

We have examined many different biofuels technologies, and are choosing to work with those companies that we believe have the greatest potential to be commercialized economically and to make a major impact on achievement of the nation’s alternative fuels goals. We believe Cobalt’s technology has great potential and are looking forward to helping them scale up rapidly.

—John Hopkins, group executive of business development at Fluor

Cobalt’s technology converts cellulosic biomass, such as forest waste and mill residues, into n-butanol through a process of biomass emulsification, conditioning and continuous fermentation. n-Butanol is a versatile platform chemical that can be exploited via two well-known pathways: oxidation for butyraldehyde derivatives and dehydration for 1-Butene derivatives.

The dehydration pathway can be used in:

  • alkylation of n-butanol to gasoline
  • oligimerization to jet fuel and diesel
  • oxidation to butadiene
  • isomerization to isobutylene
  • cracking to propylene and ethylene

Cobalt’s continuous butanol production system is based on advancements in microbial strain selection, bioreactor design and process engineering, resulting in a highly productive, capital-efficient, low-cost solution. This engineering foundation ensures the production process is able to scale up quickly while maintaining capital efficiency, Cobalt says. Cobalt’s technology reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% versus the production of gasoline.

The company recently demonstrated the conversion of beetle-killed lodgepole pine into a low-carbon, sustainable biofuel and chemical, which is currently being tested in engines by Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. (Earlier post.)