Pure Energy Plans New Fuel Based on Chemicals and NGLs
by John Hoffman
BIOTECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT firm Pure Energy Corporation
(PEC) is planning to manufacture a non-petroleum gasoline
substitute, called P-series, following the US Patent and
Trademark Office's decision last fall to give Princeton
University a patent for the blend of ethanol, natural gas
liquids and methyltetrahydrofuran.
The blend was developed by Stephen Paul, a physicist
at Princeton, who expects it to be cost-competitive with
gasoline and meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act
Amendments of 1990 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
PEC is planning to commercialize P-series and is producing
it at pilot plants in Alabama and California, which are run
in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Arkenol,
a bio-refining company.
Merrick G. Andlinger, president and CEO of New York-based
PEC, says P-series will cost roughly as much as gasoline
and can be distributed through the petroleum industry's
current infrastructure. "It requires none of the infrastructure
changes needed for alternative fuels currently on the market,"
Mr. Andlinger adds that P-series reduces greenhouse gas
emissions by as much as 65 percent relative to traditional
gasoline, and it lowers carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon
emissions by at least 25 percent.
"P-series requires no refining and contains essentially no
undesirable olefins, sulfur or aromatics, such as benzene,"
he says. "There were fewer than 100,000 flexible fuel
vehicles on the market in 1997, but the industry estimates
there will be more than 1 million within two or three years
and approximately 3 million by 2005. This is the market
PEC has bought its methyltetrahydrofuran from Great Lakes
Chemical Corporation, the only US manufacturer, but PEC
is planning to use biotechnology to produce its own MTHF.
PEC would then sell MTHF and its derivatives, as well as
P-series and other fuels. Great Lakes says it plans to
leave the market.
Mr. Andlinger expects PEC to build fuel plants all
over the world. "This technology offers a solution to
the buildup of municipal solid waste, as well as the
dependence on foreign oil and the threat from greenhouse
gases," he says.
Analysts do not expect P-series to replace gasoline, but
they think its sales could grow rapidly in the next
decade. "The gasoline and motor vehicle fuels market is
huge," a representative of a major engineering company says.
"PEC could capture just 2 or 3 percent and make a lot of
"This type of fuel could be the break-through that the
ethanol industry has been looking for. It uses less
ethanol than E-85 blends, but if it's closer to gasoline
in performance, it could have a much larger market."