Energy futureChevron, Weyerhaeuser to develop fuels from non-food sources

Published 4 March 2008

Using food crops such as corn to produce fuel may not be such a good idea after all, as the contribution to pushing up the price of corn-based fuel would likely be greater than the contribution to reduce oil dependence or clean up the environment; two companies offer a way out

More and more analysts worry that using food crops for fuel (for example: corn to produce ethanol) would more of a negative impact on food availability and prices than a positive impact on energy independence and clean environment. Two large companies are doing something about this conundrum: Chevron Corporation and Weyerhaeuser Company have created an equal joint venture company focused on developing the next generation of renewable transportation fuels from non-food sources. The joint venture, Catchlight Energy, will research and develop technology for converting cellulose-based biomass into low-carbon biofuels. The formation of Catchlight Energy is the first milestone of a biofuels alliance announced by Chevron and Weyerhaeuser in April 2007 and is said to reflect the companies’ shared view that non-food biofuels will play an important role in diversifying energy supplies. Chevron’s Michael Burnside has been appointed chief executive officer of the new company. Weyerhaeuser’s W. Densmore Hunter will assume the role of chief technology officer. Chevron and Weyerhaeuser will contribute resources, including funding, background technology and employees, to Catchlight Energy. Catchlight’s initial focus will be on developing and demonstrating novel technologies for converting cellulose and lignin from a variety of sources into biofuels. Chevron and Weyerhaeuser already have separate research partnerships under way with universities, national laboratories and technology-based companies to advance the development of non-food biofuels.