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Company looks to convert feedstocks into renewable chemicals, fuels
May 20, 2012 (Danville Register & Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Copyright (C) 2012, Danville Register & Bee, Va.

One firm is developing a way to make biomass or biogas into an intermediate gas that can then be used in a variety of products like fuels, plastics or specialty chemicals.

"We're basically about converting a variety of forms of feedstocks into renewable chemicals and fuels," Eric Cumming, vice president of corporate development for Maverick Biofuels, told attendees of the Network meeting at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research on May 1.

Olefin in particular can be used in a variety of high value products, which allows for more flexibility, he said. The 3-year-old Chapel Hill, N.C.-based company has completed olefin production in the lab.

Now, Maverick Biofuels in a joint venture in Florida is building a pilot plant with a gasification process to produce olefin on a larger scale.

The beauty of Maverick's technology is that it allows for modular, scalable plants that can grow with demand, Cumming said. Additionally, the easy transport of olefin, versus natural gas that is harder to compress, makes it more efficient to place facilities in rural areas where there are a variety of feedstocks, including biomass and agricultural waste.

The versatility of olefin as a middle product means feedstock farmers have more options than just a single end-product like electricity.

Michael Duncan, a member-manager of Donnachaidh Associates in Pittsylvania County, said Maverick's model makes sense as it opens up more opportunities.

Duncan is slowly moving forward with Donnachaidh and would like to partner with Maverick. Donnachaidh Associates would like to use biosolids from wastewater treatment plants to grow hybrid poplar trees at a rapid rate but still in a sustainable process. Essentially, the company would be a biomass supplier.

"I just see critical mass in our community around biotechnology and biofuels," Duncan said. "It's just reached that point where things are starting to happen."

Bozick reports for the Danville Register & Bee.

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