Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fuel from Algae


Algae Farm

I wrote about Oil from Algae in my post last January http://wood-pellet-ireland.blogspot.com/2008/01/oil-from-algae.html

Seems like this algae to oil idea has taken serious hold in the US of A according to a just published announcement.

US corporation PetroSun has just announced the opening of its Rio Hondo, Texas algae farm on April 1, 2008. (Hope it is not just an April Fools Day affair)

It is PetroSun's first commercial algae to bio-fuel facility. The algae farm is on 1,100 acres of saltwater ponds. It will eventually produce, the company say, a minimum of 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million pounds of biomass yearly.

The Company also plans to establish algae farms and algae oil extraction plants in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mexico, Brazil and Australia during 2008. The algal oil product will be marketed as the basic oil product to bio-diesel refineries.

PetroSun has its headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their website is at:

Good luck to PetroSun, I hope their investment pays off in a big way - we will all benefit!



Stephen said...

PetroSun has been big on announcements in the past and small on shareholder value. The potential is there, but I wouldn't be too sure that PetroSun have the wherewithall to deliver.

Thaidiamond said...

Tony, you're getting really slimy...I love it.

I believe you're right on track in thinking of biofuel potential of algae.

The world's oldest plant can reproduce itself in 24 hours -- some species reproduce up to 6 times a day! Algae doesn't need land to grow and, importantly, sequesters more CO2 than any other plant in the process. Producing a lot of oxygen as a by product.

Add sunlight, stir in water and away we go...well kind of.

There's at least 60,000 different species -- and probably a lot more -- with some microalgae containing up to 50% lipids or vegetable oil.

Soy is about 20% lipids. The good news about soy used to be that you could claim that you only use the lipids for biofuel, preserving the rest of the bean for food. That's true but China, Malaysia and Indonesia have already complained to the EU about how its soy biofuel programs are driving up the price of soy oil in Asia. What's one man's fuel is another man's dinner.

Two companies I've come across have some interesting approaches.

Valcent produces algae in their closed loop "bioreactors" -- initial test runs were at 33,000 gallons an acre -- on semi-arid land in Texas that can't be used for food cultivation. To put that in perspective, palm, which I believe is the next highest source, can get some 6,700 gallons an acre.

Valcent thinks it can find the right algae species to get them up to the 100,000 gallon level. Indeed, they claim that if 1/10 of the state of New Mexico were used for algae production, they could meet the energy demands for the entire United States.

Go here for a "must see" video interview on algae per se and the technology: http://www.scribemedia.org/2007/11/15/glen-kertz-valcent-vertigro-algae-biofuel/.

Also intriguing is SF-based Solyzyme. They're private and much more secretive, but they claim not to even need sunlight to make algae. If that's true, they just solved one of the major obstacles to industrial production of biodiesel from algae.

Chevron seems to be impressed. America's number 2 oil producer just signed an agreement the company. I'm guessing to get Chevron to open their wallets they told them a lot more about the proprietary methods than almost 'nothin' they told me!

Solyzyme claim they their "oil" can be used to make anything that currently comes from a convention barrel of hydrocarbons. Jet fuel, petrol, plastics...the whole nine yards!

Importantly, algae also promises no change in infrastructure required. They just drove a diesel Mercedes all around San Francisco. Just funneled their oil in...and away.

After all, they remind us, oil itself is essentially fossilized algae.