As promised, we got a chance to sit down with Wes Bolsen, the CMO and vice president at Coskata, during last week's Platts Cellulosic Ethanol Conference in Chicago. We wanted a little more information on the $1/gallon number for the Coskata process "cellulosic" ethanol (yes, Bolsen pointed out that it's really carbon ethanol, but he's OK with people using the cellulosic term, even though he prefers to call it "next generation" ethanol). About half of the cost is set aside for feedstocks, the rest is for things like utilities, maintenance, water, and nutrients. The Coskata process does not require buying enzymes, there's no pre-treateament, and there's no high-pressure chamber. Eliminating these items simplifies the process and, therefore, reduces the running cost to less than $1/gallon. I'm not sure if the fee for the microorganisms is included in this estimate or is part of the plant building fee (which is not part of the $1/gallon).
Because the Coskata process does not require sugars/cellulose, it can use input sources like trashed plastic bottles, tires, landfill gas, and steel mill gasses. Bolsen said that some estimates say 40 or 50 billion gallons of fuel could be created each year from these sources. Oh, and if you think ethanol will die out when we move away from liquid fuels, check out Bolsen's idea to use ethanol to produce hydrogen for fuel cellls. Want to hear more? Go ahead and listen in (13 min):
Our travel and lodging for this event was provided by GM.