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A small step for plant waste-based fuels

Posting in Energy

KiOR, the advanced biofuels company that makes fuel from pine wood chips, has made its first commercial shipment of cellulosic diesel.

KiOR also reported its first revenues in the fourth quarter of 2012 since its inception in 2007. The $87,000 in revenue came from the sale of blended cellulosic ethanol and fossil diesel. The company still posted a net loss of $29.7 million, or 28 cents a share, for the fourth quarter, due in part to the plant's startup costs.

Fred Cannon, president and CEO of KiOR, said in a conference call with analysts he expects the plant to eventually produce 3 million to 5 million gallons of cellulosic diesel a year.

The company's journey from concept to actual commercial-scale production has been a long one. As Gigaom notes, numerous web startups could launch, scale and exit in the time it has taken Kior (and other companies like it) to scale up production.

The advanced biofuels industry has struggled to scale up commercially and dozens of companies have folded in the process. Cellulosic ethanol production was supposed to hit 500 million gallons in 2012. Instead, only 20,069 gallons of cellulosic ethanol were produced last year. Western Biomass Energy, the company that made the first batch of cellulosic ethanol from a demonstration facility in Wyoming, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February.

BP cancelled plans in October 2012 to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Florida, deciding instead to focus its U.S. strategy on research and development as well as licensing its technology.

Photo: Flickr user jurvetson

— By on March 19, 2013, 10:04 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure