Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Gas It Up

A Danish company, Haldor TOPSOE (private) is a self-styled “catalyst” company, dedicated - so the corporate website says - to providing value to their clients through fundamental science. Even though the company has been around since the mid-1940s, most U.S. investors know little of Haldor TOPSOE other than as a possible supplier to the oil and gas market. That is until December 2009, when the U.S. Department of Energy agreed to hand over $25 million in financial support for one of Haldor’s projects to use a multi-step gasification process to turn wood chips into “green gas.” Haldor is putting up $9.7 million for the pilot plant planned for Des Plaines, Iowa. Haldor says it intends to process as much as 21 tons of wood chip material per year.

This sounds like a great project - one that could be one more paving stone on the way to energy independence.

The thing is, Haldor’s corporate web site claims the company already has considerable expertise in gasification technologies. Indeed, the company has existing clients who are already using Haldor technologies. Why does the U.S. taxpayer need to provide $25 million to support a pilot project using technology that Haldor has probably already commercialized?

Is there something new and unique about Iowa wood chips that makes additional development work necessary? We believe there is considerable “process knowledge” required beyond the bare science of fermentation, combustion and all the other chemical processes used in the various renewable fuel production alternatives. Then there is, of course, the pilot plant construction. It appears Haldor is getting considerable support to set up shop in Iowa. Haldor already has a major facility in Houston, Texas, where it produces catalysts around the clock.

No comments: