California has almost 30 advanced bio-fuel companies and refineries, beating out all other states — but 27 of states are on California's heels, including Illinois, Colorado, Texas and Iowa, with a total of more than 80 advanced bio-fuel companies across the U.S.

SynGest Inc, in San Francisco, has announced plans to create a commercial facility to convert crop waste, such as corn stalks and cobs, into anhydrous ammonia. That can be used as an advanced bio-fuel and nitrogen fertilizer. Is this real, or just more dreaming from a long-struggling industry?

Anhydrous ammonia valve system.; Credit: Courtesy of Todd Elhers

Anhydrous ammonia valve system.; Credit: Courtesy of Todd Elhers

SynGest has developed a “pressurized oxygen-blown biomass gasifier” — simply put, a system that converts biomass into a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

Don Frazer, Co-Founder of SynGest Inc. tells L.A. Weekly: “Over 60 percent of anhydrous ammonia is imported. Our process will make it locally developed and production would be managed inside the United States. This will help with reducing the import of anhydrous ammonia by keeping production inside the U.S. and help reduce other national security issues caused by other fuel sources.”

California's “Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program” is credited by some as having helped convince new companies to open operations in California. Companies like SynGest believe there's a big potential market for earth-friendly fuel.

The SynGest slogan is: “You can have your fuel and eat it too.”

According to Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), U.S. and Canadian bio-fuel production increased from 427 million gallons in 2011 to more than 685 million gallons in 2012. Some have estimated that the capacity will jump to 2.6 billion gallons by 2015.

Jeff Benzak, of Environmental Entrepreneurs, tells L.A. Weekly, “E2 is a non partisan membership organization of business leaders, who promote policies that help shape state and national policy that's good for the economy and the environment.”

E2 has recently launched the website, The website says the bio-fuel market could be worth more than $60 billion within ten years, creating more than 18,000 jobs by 26 bio-refineries slated to open before 2015.

Anhydrous Ammonia tanks; Credit: Courtesy of Thirteen of Clubs

Anhydrous Ammonia tanks; Credit: Courtesy of Thirteen of Clubs

The hope is that this clean fuel industry creates jobs for farmers, engineers, factory workers, scientists, truck drivers, railroad engineers and others — and does it without competing with food crops.

In a world economy dependent on petroleum, bio-fuels are to proponents the darling of the future, long talked about but long struggling. Is the light finally showing at the end of this tunnel?

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