Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Algal Research Heats Up for Fuel and Alternative Uses

Yesterday we read about Sapphire Energy's big collaboration with Monsanto. Now we learn that Solazyme is teaming with Dow Chemical to develop large amounts of algae-derived dielectric fluid for electrical transformers and other power equipment applications. This is a potentially huge market, providing Solazyme with crucial early revenue streams while it is improving its algal fuel approaches.
The algae chemical is a replacement for so-called dielectric insulating fluid, which is used to insulate transformers from heat and electricity, and is traditionally made out of petroleum or occasionally plant-based oils like soy beans. Solazyme’s founder Harrison Dillon told me in an interview on Tuesday that Solazyme can make the algae version optimized for that insulation application with characteristics like an optimal viscosity and oxidation point.

Dow says as part of its deal with Solazyme, it plans to buy 20 million gallons of the fluid from Solazyme in 2013 and up to 60 million gallons in 2015, if everything goes as planned. While Solazyme has been working with Unilever on algae-based soaps, the algae fluid made for Dow is its first major industrial chemical product. _Gigom
Solazyme is different from most algal biofuels wannabes, in that it grows its algae in the dark, gorging it on sugars instead of sunlight and CO2. The economics of that approach for fuels is not likely to work out until cellulosic sugars become cheaply available -- hence the multi-pronged advance into alternative product lines which offer higher profits than fuels do, at this point.
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Solazyme, Inc., the leading industrial biotechnology company producing renewable oil and bioproducts from microalgae, has signed agreements with leading beauty retailer Sephora® and leading global multimedia retailer QVC® to launch Algenist™, Solazyme’s microalgae-based prestige anti-aging skincare line, in the U.S. and internationally. Beginning in March 2011, Algenist will be available on QVC in the U.S. and in over 800 Sephora stores in seven countries throughout Europe and in the US before expanding to Asia and the Middle East. Sephora and QVC will align their powerful promotional efforts behind Algenist in an unprecedented launch.

“We are constantly looking for the latest groundbreaking products to debut to our beauty customer who is both an early adopter and a beauty enthusiast. Algenist is the perfect addition to our growing assortment of premium beauty products.”

Algenist is a line of advanced anti-aging skincare products formulated with Solazyme’s breakthrough ingredient, alguronic acid. Solazyme’s biotechnology scientists unexpectedly discovered alguronic acid, a true breakthrough in the anti-aging market, after studying thousands of microalgae strains for renewable energy solutions. When researched for potential anti-aging benefits, alguronic acid demonstrated significant rejuvenating properties. _Businesswire

Meanwhile in Hawaii, a high powered 5-member consortium has formed a pact to develop a commercial scale algae-to-fuel plant by 2015.

The quest for algal fuels and co-products is worldwide in scope, and grows more urgent as political unrest pushes oil prices higher.

Al Fin energy analysts are sticking to their prediction of the year 2020 as the time when algal fuels are able to compete head-to-head in the marketplace with petro-fuels. Of course, if political peak oil sets in thanks to Obamaesque energy starvation policies and other misguided political influences, the economic balance could easily change in favour of synthetic fuels.



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