Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Seven New Algae Ventures Line Up at the Gate

You may have thought that big investors like Dow, Exxon, Valero, Bill Gates, Chevron, BP, Indian Oil . . . have managed to control research and development in algal fuels. But you would be wrong. Here are 7 new algal ventures attempting to prove their worth:

In Kentucky, Alltech announced that it will establish the world’s second largest algae farm in Kentucky, and will announce the location in August. Alltech, primarily known as a nutritional supplements maker, said that the deal for land is still under negotiation, but said that the company believed that its algae operations could realize up to 5,000 gallons per acre.
In Texas, Photon8 CEO Brad Bartilson said that his company’s “Traveling Wave Tube” photobioreactor technology can boost algal growth production rates by 500 percent, has slashed production costs associated with other PBR technologies, and has been genetically modifying its algae to double lipid production. Photon8 is presented at the Algae World Summit earlier this week in San Diego.
In Illinois, students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed an algae biofuels photobioreactor, using a collection of parts including an old Apple G4 CPU tower, an Apple iMac CRT, PVC pipes, a Dell Latitude CPX laptop, acrylic panels, and foam. The project’s goal? Bringing algae biofuel production down to the household level, with the project team estimating that a deployment of the BioGrow technology in around 7 million homes would produce enough biodiesel to replace petroleum as a diesel feedstock. The developers say that their algae can be harvested every three days, and can sell for up to a dollar per gallon – with a proposed central collection system that would transport the algae to a biorefinery for oil extraction and conversion to fuel.
In Wales, Merlin Biodevelopments said that it is using anaerobic digestion to harness electric energy from cow slurry and food waste, to bring down the cost of producing protein-laden algae for food consumption, using a closed PBR system. The company has developed a bench-level project at the Moelyci Environmental Centre in Tregarth. The company said it is capturing waste CO2 from waste, as well, and characterized its operation as a means of producing high-value protenin from low-value land.
In Pennsylvania, Berks County state Representative David Kessler has driven through a $175,000 award for a feasibility study for algal biofuels production — and said that he has been collaborating with Colorado-based Algae at Work as well as two unnamed “multi-billion dollar” companies in Houston and DC on the prospects for biofuels in the Keystone State. The feasibility study is due within five months.
In California, Jose Olivares updated Xconomy’s Bruce Bigelow on progress at the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB). Olivares said that the consortium of more than 20 companies and universities is primarily focused on increasing algae production rates to more than 20 grams per square meter per day, and developing cost-effective water and oil extraction systems. By contrast, a typical US soy farm develops an average of 1 gram of soybeans per square meter per day. The consortium has a three-year budget of $69 million from the DOE and cost-shares from the institutions.
In Missouri, Phycal announced that it is moving out of the lab and into the BioResearch and Development Growth Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center, with a 2800 square foot facility. Phycal, which was co-founded by Dr. Richard Sayre, Director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Danforth Plant Science Center; Chief Scientist of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB); and Director of the Center for Advanced Biofuels Systems (CABS). The company is based in Ohio, where it is part of the Logos Energy Group, and is building a pilot project in Hawaii that will open this year.
Current lower oil prices might dampen some of the interest in bio-energy startups, but most people understand that "political peak oil" is likely to strike the US and Europe due to incompetent and corrupt government policies relating to carbon hysteria. Oil prices will rise and fall -- creating demand destruction in a cyclic pattern.

Algae (and other microbes) represent a qualitatively new form of biomass -- a much denser and more prolific form of biomass than most analysts have accounted for in their long term energy projections. Algae biomass will be a game changer. Later, as the production of oil-from-algae improves, algal oils will be a game changer. But biomass first.

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