Last week, the US Department of Energy announced the selection of 35 projects nationwide awarded a grant totaling $73 million for bioenergy research and development. Among the companies selected is an environmentally friendly start-up in the Salt Lake Valley called OxEon.
Bioenergy is a more eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels that utilizes biological materials as a renewable energy source, while fossil fuels require millions of years to form. Biofuels are made up of the same chemical compounds as fossil fuels called hydrocarbons, which are molecules made from hydrogen and carbon found in all combustible fuels including gasoline, propane, and butane.
The company OxEon proproses an efficient method of producing hydrocarbon fuel from biological wastes, specifically dairy waste from a yogurt plant in Idaho. They plan to use renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar energy, to power the production of these biofuels, which essentially converts waste and clean energy into fuel you can put in your gas tank.
“It provides you potentially with a way to store renewable power so it can be used as needed,” said Lyman Frost, the chief executive officer of OxEon Energy.
“You can’t use solar and wind energy necessarily in existing infrastructure where you need a hydrocarbon. Most cars don’t use electricity, they use hydrocarbons. If you want to make any of your plastics, the clothes you’re wearing, just about anything comes from hydrocarbons. So if we can make hydrocarbon from waste products that means we’re displacing petroleum coming from the ground and reducing overall carbon emissions,” said Frost
Frost said this energy production method will likely benefit Utahns.
“It’s a way to use dairy waste of one kind or another and we have a fair amount of dairy farmers in Utah," said Frost.
Frost eplained their instruments will break down the greenhouse gases released by decomposing waste into carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas, which are the building blocks of hydrocarbons. Their instruments will then put these blocks together into useable hydrocarbon fuels.