February 10th, 2008

GM Forms Ethanol Partnership

General Motors (GM) recently announced that it is partnering with Coskata Inc., an ethanol production startup company. Coskata produces cellulosic ethanol from agricultural leftovers and municipal and industrial waste using its biology-based technology. The company’s three-step system includes gasification of feedstock, use of a bioreactor, and an ethanol recovery process.

“We think that the Coskata process brings the first practical cellulosic opportunity to the market,” said GM’s Mark Maher, executive director of powertrain integration.

Although the ethanol would not be available in retail gas stations until 2010, Coskata claims that it can make more than 100 gallons of ethanol per ton of dry material, that its process uses a third to a quarter of the amount of fresh water needed in other processes, and that use of its ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 84 percent compared to regular gasoline. Coskata President and CEO Bill Roe said full production will allow ethanol to be made for less than $1 per gallon.

“GM is enabling Coskata to produce the next generation of biofuels without using a food source, making it economically viable and commercially available,” Roe said. “Alternative transportation fuels are coming faster than people think ? and will be available at a lower cost than people have imagined.”


Coskata, which was founded in 2006, is based in Warrenville, Illinois. Credit: Coskata

GM has a special interest in ethanol as it has pledged to double its annual flex fuel vehicle production to 800,000 by 2010, and to make half of its annual production E85 capable by 2012.

“We are very excited about what this breakthrough will mean to the viability of biofuels and, more importantly, to our ability to reduce dependence on petroleum,” GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said.

According to its Web site, Coskata’s goal is “to play a major role in creating economic fuels from renewable resources, thus minimizing the dependency of countries around the world on petroleum derived fuels.” The company hopes to have a 40,000-gallon demonstration facility operational by the end of 2008, and will later build a 100-million gallon commercial plant.

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