Enzymes called key to low-sulfur gasoline
The oil industry estimates that meeting the new sulfur targets using existing technology will require more than $6 billion in U.S. refinery investment
May 7, 1999
Web posted at: 4:15 PM EDT
A biotechnology firm that is developing a process to remove sulfur from gasoline with enzymes believes that its process will help refiners meet newly proposed federal standards for sulfur levels in gasoline.
The proposed standards call for 30 parts per million sulfur in gasoline, down from the current average of 340 parts per million. The standards would allow automobiles to run 80 percent cleaner.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this reduction in gasoline sulfur would be equivalent to removing 166 million cars from the road and would take 3 million tons of pollution out of the air. The plan would be phased in between 2004 and 2006 and about two dozen smaller refiners would be granted an additional two years to meet the standard.
Refiners argue that the cost may be too high to meet the new sulfur standards. The oil industry estimates that meeting the new sulfur targets using existing technology will require more than $6 billion in U.S. refinery investment and add as much as 6 to 10 cents to a gallon of gasoline.
Energy BioSystems believes it has a feasible solution with potential benefits to both industry and the environment. The company is developing its biocatalytic technology to remove sulfur gasoline at a target cost of 1 to 2 cents a gallon of gasoline, with a requirement for capital investment that could be up to 50 percent less than would be required to implement existing technology.
In addition to the cost advantages, biodesulfurization technology offers the advantage of operating under milder conditions, while consuming less energy and emitting fewer greenhouse gases than existing technologies.
The company is working on a $3 million dollar program to complete the development of its gasoline biodesulfurization technology. This program is funded 80 percent by the U.S. Department of Energy, and oversight is provided by a committee of the Coordinating Research Council, with members representing both the auto and oil industries.
"The development of our proprietary technology clearly has been recognized as a win-win for both government and industry," said Dr. Peter P. Policastro, chief operating officer. "Biodesulfurization has the potential to produce the desired low-sulfur fuels at substantially lower cost and with much less impact on the environment compared to traditional technologies."
The EPA has also indicated that it will "put forward shortly" a proposal for cleaner diesel fuel. Similar sulfur standards for diesel fuel will be much more difficult to reach using conventional technology, while biodesulfurization offers the same advantages for diesel fuel as for gasoline.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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