UC Riverside



Joseph Norbeck


Joseph Norbeck

Creating Low-Cost, Sulfer Free Diesel Fuel from Waste

A revolutionary process developed at UCR may one day turn sewage sludge, municipal solid waste, agricultural waste and other carbon-containing-material, such as coal, into synthetic, cleaner-burning diesel fuel.

Research by Professor Joe Norbeck and colleagues is being actively commercialized for large national and international markets for sulfur-free, lower-cost diesel fuel. In 2006 California began requiring the use of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, the most stringent standard in the world. Low-sulfur diesel fuel allows the implementation of advanced emission controls for large diesel engines such as heavy-duty trucks and off-road construction equipment which are major sources of pollution in our area. In Europe, where diesel fuels 60 percent of automobiles, the market is potentially even larger.

A Riverside-based energy company, Viresco LLC, has licensed commercial rights to the process from UCR and is working to develop it for large-scale production. Viresco has begun demonstrating the technology in pilot scale and has received grants from the Department of Energy to build a pilot plant. There have been 12 patents awarded or submitted on this technology.

For Norbeck, the head of the UCR Environmental Research Institute and former director of CE-CERT, the reasons for pursuing the project are simple. "It comes down to two things. Can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and can we transition to lower cost clean alternative fuels as seamlessly as possible? This technology looks ideal to meet these goals."

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