Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Joule's Jewels

The road to energy independence and carbon emission reduction is littered with stalled vehicles.  Closed doors, shuttered production plants and even bankruptcies have brought even the most promising renewable fuel schemes to a halt.  A red flag may about to be thrown down for Joule Unlimited, a developer of renewable fuel from carbon dioxide (CO2). 

Our concern arises from the most subtle of suggestions  -  the lack of any substantial news from the company for over a year.  Mind you there have been several press releases from the company, but only to announce the replacement of senior leadership.  Bill Smith resigned his position as CEO in August 2013, and eventually left the board of directors. By the first week in February 2014, the COO Paul Snaith had pressed into service to replace Smith.  A week later a new chief technology officer was appointed. 

Since then Joule has been suspiciously quiet.  Is it really taking that long for these new officers to get oriented?  Someone is pitter pattering about at Joule.  On April 15th “Admin” posted an article about photobioreactor design on Joule’s blog.    

Joule’s own photobioreactor, the SolarConverter system, is the company’s crown jewel.  The system uses solar energy to convert non-potable water to liquid fuels such as ethanol and other hydrocarbon fuels.  An array of solar modules are spread across 1,000 acreas contain proprietary catalysts, micronutrients, and non-potable water from some industrial emitter.  Carbon dioxide is used to keep the catalysts stirred up and exposed to sunlight to drive photosynthesis.  The proprietary catalysts consume the CO2 and secrete fuel molecules into the liquid.  Filters separate the fuel molecules from the waste water.

The fuels have been branded Sunflow, but have yet to be produced in commercial quantities.  A demonstration plant was set up in Hobbs, New Mexico several years ago, but the public has heard little about what happens in Hobbs.  Indeed, the last time Joule provided any news to the public about its progress with its liquid fuels from photosynthesis was over three years ago.  At that time Joule’s engineers claimed the capacity to produce 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre of its photobioreactors.

The public may be in the dark about Joule’s Sunflow fuels, but no doubt the company has reported on its progress to the investors who invested more than $160 million in Joule’s development work.  I would like to know if Joule has managed to find some industrial concern with a flow of CO2 emissions they would like to shed.  It would be even more encouraging for Joule to land an off-take agreement for its fuel.  Until then it more a matter of that red flag slow falling to the ground to signal the demise of yet another traveler on the road of renewable fuels.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein. Joule Unlimited is included in Crystal Equity Research list of Biofuel producers in our Beach Boys Index.


No comments: