Sacramento-based Greyrock Energy wins technology innovation award | TheUnion.com

Sacramento-based Greyrock Energy wins technology innovation award

Emily Lavin
Staff Writer

A Sacramento-based company that aims to convert natural gas into diesel fuel was recently recognized for its innovative technology at the 2015 R&D 100 awards.

Greyrock Energy was one of 100 companies honored at the awards, which were held Nov. 13 in Las Vegas to celebrate the year's top technology products.

Using its distributed gas-to-liquids technology, the company has developed smaller-scale refineries that are able to turn gas, biomass residue and municipal waste into diesel fuel in a cheaper and more eco-friendly way than the traditional method, which was developed in Germany in 1925 and is used in many large-scale energy and chemical companies.

"The objective is to develop plants that could be placed all around the world in communities and have a low-profile, and be very environmentally-friendly," said Dennis Schuetzle, Greyrock's chief technology officer and a Nevada County resident.

Schuetzle founded Greyrock in 2006. He has more than 40 years of experience in scientific and engineering research, including a nearly 10-year stint as the vice president of international research and technology for the Ford Motor Company in Michigan.

Some of his projects during that time included research and development around clean energy, converting renewable resources to fuel and catalyst chemistry and engineering — concepts he wanted to pursue after moving back to his native California and settling in Nevada County.

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He's always been concerned with climate change, and felt that finding a cheaper, environmentally conscious way to convert gas into fuel would have an effect on some of the environmental challenges faced around the globe.

"If you want to make a big impact on the world, you take this waste, which we generate a lot of, and make something useful out of it," Schuetzle said.

The company built its first commercial demonstration plant in Ohio, and also have a plant in Texas. There are several more in the works in California, Wyoming, and Canada, and there has been international interest, Schuetzle said.

The Texas plant cost about $30 million to construct, and larger plants can cost around $160 million — pricey, but less expensive than large-scale refineries, Schuetzle said.

He said Greyrock will oversee the construction of the plant at each location, to ensure the first plants are successful.

"You really have to be heavily involved with the technology as it gets off the ground," Schuetzle said.

He said it was an honor for the company to receive recognition at the R&D 100, which are also known as the "Oscars of Innovation." Schuetzle hopes the award will draw additional outside attention to Greyrock, and get "these big companies interested in putting money into this technology."

"The end goal is getting the plants operating and having them work well and be economically viable," Schuetzle said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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