Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Betting on Biocrude

Biofuels that can be transported with existing pipelines could have an edge over ethanol.

  • November 2, 2007

A new startup called KiOR has a promising strategy for producing biofuels.

Ethanol, by far the most common biofuel today, has a number of drawbacks. It can’t be transported in pipelines designed for gasoline and diesel, and it contains far less energy than gasoline, resulting in significantly decreased mileage.

A number of companies seem to be taking note, investing in the development of fuels that contain more energy than ethanol and that can use existing pipelines, making them much easier to distribute in large quantities. BP is interested in another alcohol, butanol. (See “BP’s Bet on Butanol.”) Other companies are developing organisms that can convert sugars into synthetic hydrocarbons. (See “Building Better Biofuels” and “Making Gasoline from Bacteria.”)

Today’s announcement highlights the latest effort in this direction. KiOR, which is being funded by Khosla Ventures, will make biocrude that can be refined at existing oil refineries. The startup will focus on producing biofuels from cellulosic sources, which are attractive because they are cheap, can be used to produce much more fuel per acre than corn grain can, and have less impact on the environment.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.