Tech Transfer: ChBE Fuels Economy with 10 Startups

October 31, 2012

Ten active companies have been created since 1997 based on technologies invented wholly or in part by CU chemical and biological engineering students and their faculty supervisors. Chemical and biological engineering spinoff companies from CU-Boulder have raised nearly $410 million in follow-on funding, including grants, venture capital financing, U.S. Small Business Administration funding, and acquisitions, according to CU's Technology Transfer Office.

One of the greatest success stories has been Copernican Energy, an ultra-clean, bio-based fuels company using a high-temperature radiant particle reactor to turn cellulosic material into green gasoline, which was purchased by Sundrop Fuels in 2008. The company was co-founded in 2006 by Professor Al Weimer, CU student Chris Perkins who earned his doctorate the same year, and distinguished engineering alumnus Mike Masterson (MS ChemEngr '77). Sundrop Fuels plans to break ground on a $450 million plant near Alexandria, Louisiana, in December of this year. This facility is expected to produce about 3,500 barrels of renewable gasoline per day. The plant will convert sustainable forest residues and thinnings with natural gas into bio-based "green gasoline" using a production path that integrates gasification, gas purification, methanol synthesis, and a methanol-to-gasoline process. The planned result will be ready-to-use, inexpensive car fuel. The company plans to follow up the facility with larger scale plants to produce a combined production capacity of more than one billion gallons by 2020.

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