Sunday, March 07, 2010

Nippon Oil's Algae to Jet Fuel 5 Year Plan

Nippon Oil is collaborating with Hitachi Plant Technologies to invest in Euglena Co. The plan is to develop a viable commercial technology for large scale production of jet fuel from euglena algae -- within 5 years.
Euglena Co. is currently focused on the growth the algae for application in the food and nutraceutical markets. The partners reportedly plan to build a test plant to culture euglena and extract oil from them to produce fuel. The companies also aim to start testing the fuel with airplanes and buses.

Using Euglena’s culturing technology, the organism can be grown efficiently in pools and ponds. Area for area, the production yield of euglena far exceeds that of sugarcane, corn and other crops commonly used to produce biofuels. The three firms see this as a distinct advantage for Japan and other countries where large-scale farming is difficult. At present, Japan imports most of its automotive-use biofuels from Brazil.

Nippon Oil, Hitachi Plant and Euglena aim to lower the production cost of their euglena-based jet fuel to around 70 yen per liter [about $2.90 per gallon US] to keep the supply price not much higher than that of conventional jet fuel. _GCC
Current oil prices around $80 a barrel are sufficient to spur a widescale investment into bioenergy and biofuels by large oil, chemical, and utility companies. Each incremental rise in oil prices will trigger new investment and investigation into biological methods for producing energy and fuels.

It is true that large-scale commercialisation of hydrocarbon bio-fuels is still at least 5 years away. And yet the fact that so many large industrial firms are investing so much in bioenergy cannot help but worry the oil dictatorships of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. In fact, Saudi Arabia is already preparing for "peak demand" -- the day when the market for oil will diminish steadily due to alternative fuels on the market.



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