A California high-technology start-up is pitching for investors on the premise that its proprietary gas-to-liquid bioreactor process can transform waste carbon from forestry, farming, food production and even industrial flue gases into drop-in oils such as jet fuel at a fraction of the cost of other biomass technologies or energy-intensive technologies like Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.
The secret ingredient in Kiverdi's "carbon engineering" technology are proprietary "high-yield" microbes that it claims outperform chemical catalysts in both cost and output selectivity. Founder Lisa Dyson, presenting the concept at the third annual Launch waste recycling technologies investors conference, hosted last month by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said Kiverdi's first venture would be into the $24 billion market for surfactant chemicals that are typically sourced from palm oil or petroleum for end uses ranging from personal care products to lubricants.
But she told Flightglobal that Kiverdi has already turned waste into Jet A - a blend of some 200 molecules. In aviation, she said, the ideal partner would be an end-user such as an airline wanting to protect itself from oil price volatility.
Dyson also claims the Kiverdi process is more economical than biological processes that rely on feedstocks like sugar and is economical on small scales.
She points to the 130 million tons of landfill, 170 million tons of agricultural waste and 60 million tons of forest waste generated yearly in the USA alone as untapped input streams that could feed bioreactor processes like Kiverdi's. Converting waste carbon from such sources into marketable chemicals or fuel would improve what Dyson calls an "unsustainable" waste management regime and also help protect customers from commodity price volatility.