A new refinery outside Pittsburgh uses a different approach to convert biomass to ethanol. Instead of using bacteria to break down biomass/cellulosic material that is then fermented and distilled to give ethanol, the biomass is incompletely oxidized to hydrogen gas and CO, which are then fed to ‘proprietary microorganisms’ that produce the ethanol as a waste product.
“Coskata says its ability to use a wide variety of feedstock to produce ethanol sets it apart from competitors locked into feedstock such as corn or sugar cane. The company, which is backed by General Motors, is focused on using waste materials instead of food crops, thereby side-stepping the whole food-for-fuel debate.”
The company also suggests that their primary goal is to license the technology rather than put it into large scale production themselves.