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Madison Firm Making Gas From Plant Sugars

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MADISON, Wis. (WTAQ) - A company in Madison is making gasoline from plant sugars – and it’s one of several possibilities for alternative fuels being considered by Shell Oil. Virent Energy Systems announced Tuesday that’s it’s been making bio-gasoline since last November in a demonstration facility. And Shell will test that fuel and others later this year.

The Virent plant is the first of its kind, and Shell provided technical assistance and some of the funding for it. Shell vice president Luis Scoffone said his firm is in the very early stages of determining which fuel will be the best. They’ll be judged on their cost and competitive quality. Virent CEO Lee Edwards says his bio-fuel would cost about the same as today’s gasoline at the current crude oil prices. And he says the fuel has about a 30 percent higher energy content than ethanol, with the possibility of reducing tailpipe emissions by 50 percent from conventional gas.

Virent is now using beet sugars, and a number of non-food plant sugars could also be used. It’s expected that the bio-gas could be blended with either standard gasoline, or gas that’s already blended with ethanol.

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