From Mind-Bending To Mind-Blowing: Biofuel Stories of 2012

Sometimes the biofuels world is just truly bizarre. At other times, it’s too cool for words. The biofuels stories which cross my desk sometimes seem like they belong in a science fiction novel, at others like they should be in a horror movie. For example, in 2009 we had the Beverely Hills plastic surgeon who wanted to turn human fat into biodiesel.

Looking at the last year in retrospect, here are a few highlights from 2012:

From the “Teacher Tinkering With algae, Discovers Secret” Dept: we have; a 10th. grade teacher spies some algae in Yellowstone National Park and scoops some up to try and grow algae biofuels. Along with it, he scoops up a fungus as well. He then discovers the fungus likes feeding on the algae, getting in the way of growing the algae. Curious, he dries it out and finds it “oozes oil.” Further research finds that the secreted oil is perfect for biofuels, taking algae based biofuels in a totally new direction…or is it? Fungus biofuels, anyone?

algae architectureFrom the “It’s Just Too Cool For Words” Dept: If some of the talented designers at The Algae Competion had their way,  at Marina City in Chicago, you can expect to see buildings are covered with photosynthetic skins and vertical gardens, collecting the sun’s energy from the outside and producing food and energy for urban citizens on the inside. They want to  green desert coastlines and produce food for millions of people. They want to create algae building systems that recycle polluting wastes into high value animal food, fuel and biofertilizers.  If building with algae ever catches on, and I think it will, this is a whole new world in architecture.

From The “It Sounds Like Science Fiction” Dept: Engineering Magnetic Algae. Conversion of algae to biofuels requires dewatering before extracting usable products—a daunting task since the mass of water in a growth pond exceeds that of the algae by 999 to one. Recently, LANL physicists and bioscientists genetically engineered magnetic algae to investigate a novel harvesting method: pulling algae from the water with a magnet.

From the “Coolest Home Grown Design” Dept: The Skylight Harvest algae production system.We have another entry from The Algae Competition, from Lauren Benstead. Utilizes rooftop space incorporating solar panels, rainwater recycling, filtration station, fold-out drying screens, and a small pump system that agitates the growing algae. Highly adaptable due to its size and structural design, and offers the benefits of algaculture to everyone, everywhere. I expect to see more and more of in-house, as well as small scale designs in 2013.

From the “Brightest Kid On The Block” Dept: We have Josh Wolf. Josh is a 10th grade student at Elk River High School. He devised a way, using recycled parts, of basically creating a new type of bioreactor. Using Red, Blue and Green LED’s and utilizing alga’s night cycle, an ingenious method of enhancing algae growth. In addition, he designed a low cost solar drying method as well as completely solar open pond design.

For 2012, the algae world exploded with new designs,  new technologies, new strains, new uses, and best of all, new ideas. What 2012 has taught us is that there is seemingly no end to the uses we can employ algae in. Governments, multinational oil companies, airlines, the Navy, small business, and most of all, talented people all over the world have jumped on the algae train. And this, is just the beginning. Hold on, 2013 is going to be an even better ride.

The Algae Revolution Has Begun


Algae Bio Crude in One Minute

One Minute Algae Bio CrudeANN ARBOR-It appears as if Mother Nature Herself was wasting her own valuable time by using a multimillion-year program to produce crude oil. Michigan Engineering scientists have the ability to “pressure-cook” algae as little as 1 minute, as well as transform an unmatched 65 % of the actual physical eco-friendly slime to produce biocrude.

“We’re trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms,” said Phil Savage, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor, as well as a teacher of chemical engineering with the University of Michigan.

The precise breakthrough discoveries is going to be introduced Nov. 1st, during the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.

Savage’s ocean-going organism chosen will be the green sea micro-alga from the genus Nannochloropsis.

To create their own one-minute biocrude, Savage and Julia Faeth, a doctorate undergraduate in Savage’s research laboratory, filled metallic pipe connector utilizing 1.5 milliliters of moist algae, capped the unit and plunged it directly into 1,100-degree Fahrenheit soft sand. The small volume of mass revealed how come the algae became incredibly hot all through, however with merely a minute as a way to warm, the algae’s temperature level should have simply touched the 550-degree level, before they drew the reactor out.

Before, Savage together with his team, heated the algae during cycles beginning with Ten minutes to as much as 90 minutes. They witnessed their best results with roughly 50 % of the algae changed into biocrude, while operating it within a 10 to 40 minute span at 570 degrees.

What makes the one-minute conclusions  a whole lot better? Savage and Faeth are not probably going to be positive till after they perform further study, nevertheless they have a couple of ideas.

“My guess is that the reactions that produce biocrude are actually much faster than previously thought,” Savage professed.

Faeth demonstrates the super fast warming up could very well boost the biocrude by maintaining unwanted reactions in check.

“For example, the biocrude might decompose into substances that dissolve in water, and the fast heating rates might discourage that reaction,” Faeth claimed.

The team points out the reality that smaller reaction time intervals indicate the reactors doesn’t have to be so large.

“By reducing the reactor volume, the cost of building a biocrude production plant also decreases,” Faeth stated, but both she and Savage suggested they can’t announce beyond doubt if the the newest method is faster as well as less costly till the technique is more totally developed.

Present conventional producers of algae-based fuel initially dry the algae, and then eliminate the organic oil. Nevertheless over $20 per gallon, this type of petrol is not even close the gas pump.

“Companies know that that approach is not economical, so they are looking at approaches for using wet algae, as are we,” Savage declared.

One advantage using the wet method is that it not just cleans away the actual fat from the algae, it also isolates proteins and carbohydrates. The one minute method achieved this so efficiently that the oil held about 90 % of the energy source in the original algae.

“That result is near the upper bound of what is possible,” Savage stated.

Before biocrude being supplied into the existing refinery method for petroleum, it will require pre-refining to eliminate the extra oxygen and nitrogen atoms which often thrive in living things. The Savage research laboratory similarly is on its way with enhanced processes for this kind of cycle of biofuel development, and a few months ago smashing the track record getting a biocrude which was 97 % carbon and hydrogen. A study regarding this work is currently under examination.

As soon as producing biofuel utilizing algae is cost-effective, research professionals estimate that an area as large as New Mexico could create enough oil equivalent to modern day U.S. petroleum consumption. In addition balanced with corn produced for the objective of ethanol-which presently realizes 50 percent that area-the algae would not need to take up top quality farmland, cultivating in brackish waters as a substitute.

Speaking of the “pressure cooker” method of oil extraction, you can details of the entire “home grown” technique in “Making Algae Biofuels at Home” below.

“Building Open Ponds” Second Edition about to be Released


The second edition of “building Open Ponds is about to be released. If you’d like a “sneak preview” and a hefty discount when this book goes live, click the book or this link right here.

UPDATE: This book is in the final stages of approval. Amazon has agreed to publish the paperback. We added almost 300 pages of new material making this the most in-depth book available.


The Algae Revolution Has Begun

Algae Biorefinery in Saudi Arabia

Algae Biorefinery in Saudi ArabiaYou know you might be on to something profitable in micro-farming when even the country with the largest oil reserves sees reasons to invest its dollars in algae infrastructure.

Even if you sit on top of the world’s largest deposits of petroleum, algae still has it’s advantages. Saudi Arabia is now jumping into building localized algae biorefineries.

In an article published today in Ecomena, the intended goal is to build a “Saudi Arabia Biorefinery from Algae” (SABA Project) to screen for lipid hyper-producers species in Saudi Arabia coastal waters.”

The article goes on to say “These species will be the basis for next-generation algal biofuel production. The goal of this project is to increase research and training in microalgae-based biofuel production as well algal biomass with an additional goal of using a biorefinery approach that could strongly enhance Saudi Arabia economy, society and environment within the next 10 years.”

Think about that for a minute.

If the Saudi’s are making a concentrated effort to find, build, and tap into the vast resources offered by algae bio refineries, what does this say to the rest of the world?

The primary Plan

The primary mission of the SABA project is to develop the Algae Based Biorefinery – According to their website” ABB biotechnology putting into operation innovative, sustainable, and commercially viable solutions for green chemistry, energy, bio-products, water conservation, and CO2 abatement. Microalgae are known sources of high-value biochemicals such as vitamins, carotenoids, pigments and anti-oxidants. Moreover, they can be feedstocks of bulk biochemicals like protein and carbohydrates that can be used in the manufacture of feed and food.”

The strategic plan

Is for SABA project is based on  already ongoing Research, Technology Development & Demonstration (RTD&D)  using of microalgae biomass production and downstream extraction in a unique way, e.g. together with biomass production with wastewater bioremediation or extracting different metabolites from the produced biomass (numerous fatty acids, proteins, bioactive compounds etc.). This approach including algal biology, genetic engineering and technologies for algae cultivation, harvesting, and intermediate and final products extraction is critical for the successful conversion of the developed technologies into profitable industries.

Why is this interesting?

A number of reasons. One, Saudi Arabia certainly isn’t lacking in petroleum resources. Yet, they still feel to need to be aggressively pursuing algae biofuels. Second, notice they are pursuing secondary products as ambitiously as biofuels. Third, if you click on the graphic, it will enlarge. Notice the scale of production. They are planning on having up to 5000 acres under production in the near future. They’re aren’t fooling around.

The Saudi’s are pouring money, research, and gearing up for massive production of algae biofuels as well as other related products and benefits. It makes you ponder what they know. One wonders if perhaps they have been overstating their oil reserves. Or are they simply preparing for the future…today?

The Algae Revolution Has Begun

“Building Open Ponds” Second Edition about to be Released

building open ponds second edition


The second edition of “building Open Ponds is about to be released. If you’d like a “sneak preview” and a hefty discount when this book goes live, click the book or this link right here.

Algae Biodiesel is Available at Gas Stations in California

There’s been a lot of talk lately that algae based biofuels are too expensive and that it could never compete with petroleum. So it came as a shock to find out that this month gas stations in California will be selling algae based diesel to the public. So how much? $100 a gallon? $33 dollars a gallon?

Nope. Same price as regular diesel.

Propel Fuels announced today it is teaming up with Solazyme, Inc and kicking off a month long pilot program bring algae derived biofuels to gas pumps in California. This marks the first time in history that algae based fuels will be available to the public.

Solazyme is rolling out it’s algae based biodiesel in a big way. It is proving once and for all the algae revolution is upon us. “Solazyme’s high quality algae-based SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including cold temperature operating performance. The fuel is compatible with existing diesel engines and the fuel’s performance is guaranteed by Propel. The fuel will be sold at the same price as conventional diesel fuels and will be available exclusively at Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose (N. First St.), Berkeley, and Oakland.”

“Solazyme’s high quality algae-based SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including cold temperature operating performance. The fuel is compatible with existing diesel engines and the fuel’s performance is guaranteed by Propel. The fuel will be sold at the same price as conventional diesel fuels and will be available exclusively at Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose (N. First St.), Berkeley, and Oakland.”

Not only that, it is as green as it gets. Testing undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that, in a 20% blend, SoladieselBD significantly outperforms ultra-low sulfur diesel in total hydrocarbons (THC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter tailpipe emissions. This includes an approximate 30% reduction in particulates, a 20% reduction in CO and an approximate 10% reduction in THC.

Their website went on to say “Solazyme’s revolutionary algae-based technology platform has supplied our development partners and customers with advanced biofuels that meet or exceed some of the world’s most stringent fuels specifications and requirements, “ said Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme.  “We’ve successfully demonstrated our land-based fuels in fleet vehicles and corporate buses, and are excited about this pilot program with Propel because it enables us to make these fuels available to the public.”

The Algae Revolution Has Begun

More Evidence Algae Biofuels is About To Go Commercial in 2013

Who’s funneled $116M into Algenol and Aurora Algae? We know finally, it’s Reliance.

Algae’s Secret Investor

In earlier 2010, a considerable amount of information started to mount up indicating that Reliance Industries Limited – the oil, chemical products, telecommunications and industrial conglomerate, was planning to place a wager on algae in the fuel oils and chemicals area.

Reliance – for those people not as knowledgeable about India’s business environment – is known as a South Asian giant. It’s the country’s biggest private-sector business concerning income revenue and profits, and also scored in the Global Fortune 100 this past year.

Observers of the rising impetus driving algae at Reliance were dumbfounded this year after no investment decisions had been reported, with either a large-scale inside financial commitment or perhaps a tactical financial commitment with one of the top early-stage businesses. All of us certainly were puzzled with no activity here at Digestville.

Ends up that Reliance has been making investments the whole time. Silently. Significant.

A Credit Suisse statement regarding the business, (see page eight of the report, downloadable here), stated that Reliance has devoted $116 million (Rs6.2 billion). $93.5 million (Rs5.0 billion) in Algenol and 22.5 million (Rs1.2 billion) in Aurora Algae.

The most current news from Algenol

During the initial plenary period at the Algae Biomass Summit in September, Algenol CEO Paul Woods disclosed that the business, located at its 4-acre, out of doors Process Development Unit in Lee County, Florida, had attained continual output of ethanol for the 7,000 gallon per acre amount. That’s a considerable gain above the business’ initial goal of 6,000 gallon per acre, and was accomplished at its out of doors operations facility under standard performing procedures.

The most recent regarding Aurora Algae

We featured the launch of Aurora Algae‘s demonstration scale work in Western Australia as being #2 concerning Algae’s Big 2012, “Small Scale Algae Goes Big Time.”

Previously this year, we published: “Word has been sneaking back to the United States from Australia that Aurora Algae is well into a $100 million capital raise from a combination of existing and new investors, and is aiming at an IPO later in the year to fund its growth from a 6-acre demonstration unit to a small commercial facility of 250 acres, and then potentially to thousands of acres in its next iteration.”

Additional points of view on Aurora and Algenol

A shared factor among the two technologies. Neither of them utilize fresh water – each concentrate on saline-based varieties. We ranked these two in the leading 4 businesses “heading for commercialization now” amid “saltwater-based, Civilization-Saving, Bioenergy Technologies worth watching”.

The Reliance indicators from 2010

The Hindu initially discussed Reliance’s interest in algae-based biofuels starting in April 2010, after a delivery by M. Ganapati, President, Corporate Planning, Reliance Technology Group about the ‘Biofuels Scenario in India’. “Algae seems to be the most promising feed stock. Microalgae are uncellular biofactories that can provide oil from sunlight and carbon dioxide,” Ganapati stated back then. The Hindu appended that RIL suggested that the company may be “considering a proposal on setting up of a biofuel refinery, and called for selective government “investment grants to biofuels which will facilitate the update of biofuels.”

The indicators from 2011

Many people were convinced enough of Reliance’s intent that we ranked their desire for creating a significant wager in the industry.  Another corporation we concentrated on DuPont – made a large financial investment in the purchase of Danisco and its Genencor enzymes unit later that year. Yet the seeming inactivity at Reliance left us perplexed.

The indicators restart in 2012

Still there persisted to be rumblings in the arena of algae. During an interview with the Digest, Dr. Jose Olivares, the leader of the NAABB algae R&D consortium, proclaimed:

“I think India is a force to contend with because of their long history with algae, but at this point they are trying to determine out how best to enter into the biofuels industry. We are very fortunate, from a NAABB perspective, to be partnering with Reliance Industries Limited, which is one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world and is located in India. They have two of the world’s largest refineries and they are in the top 20 petrochemical producers in the world.  Reliance Industries is in the process of developing a strategy for biofuels and algae biofuels in particular. We are very privileged to be partnering with them in developing this strategy.”

Additionally we mentioned that Reliance, as well as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, sponsored an international summit, “Algae for Sustainable Development” together with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Indian Phycological Society. The February conference drew contributors from 11 countries around the world while exploring “Biofuels from algae, marine farming of macroalgae, carbon sequestration, nutraceutical and protein supplements from algae, and effluent remediation.”

The Conclusion

It’s a significant type of financial investment, evidently focused at the commercialization step, because of the phase that each Algenol and Aurora have arrived at on their particular paths – also it originates with a major corporation.

What precisely Reliance is finding in the information channels which would have been supplied to them, in the midst of contemplating and making financial investments at those sums, is still undisclosed. Evidently, although Algenol and Aurora are able to produce records data from their pilot and test projects, not only from the research laboratory. Indicating that they have significantly de-risked their technological innovation and are prepared to proceed to the commercially manufactured stage.

Another Mid-East Country Invests in Algae Biofuels

Both Lootah Biofuels and AlgaOil Ltd. announced the entry into a new project in which the two companies will merge their expertise together to develop new high oil content raw material for Biofuels such as Algae Oil.

“In line with UAE‘s vision for sustainable development, this project aims at developing alternate ways of extracting new raw material for Biofuels. We believe that algae can be a good replacement for vegetable oil based biofuel. We are in no doubt that this partnership will take Biofuel production in the region to the next level.”

Read full article here:

Algae Green Crude and The New Oil Boom

An interesting article appeared recently casting some solid, real world numbers on the state of commercial algae biofuel production. Sapphire Energy announced that they  are now growing “green crude” as a crop.

Algae Green Crude and The New Oil Boom

Sapphire Energy's ponds under construction

So just to be clear what I’m talking about, let me say it again...growing crude oil as an agricultural crop.

Think corn, rice, and soybeans.

It’s never been done before. At least, not as a crop in the tangible sense, but something that is crucial to the production of everything else: energy itself.

To do so, Sapphire is attempting to (que in “StarTrek” theme song) go where no man has gone before. Making use of algae as a key, world-wide crop system. Just to avoid confusion, this is not on the size which has developed around vitamins and/or nutritional products, but on the same level, and at the same expense, as dozens of staple crops or commodities worldwide.

Make no mistake, this is a game-changer. An amazing, change-the-algae-world forever endeavor.

In a nutshell, they’re making algae biofuel history.

The US Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the exclusive investors behind Sapphire Energy – who’ve together backed the building of Sapphire’s Green Crude Farm, which one hundred acres is in location, out of an final 300-acre location, transforming brackish water, CO2 and sunlight into oil-rich microalgae, by which  crude oil is produced.

Now, let’s consider the Farm alone. How exactly does it function? Growing algae is completed science, a “done deal” technology-wise, but cultivating algae at yields, along with costs low enough, to remain competitive on the same scale as petroleum, is a completely different story.

Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm remains in the murky world of “keep your fingers crossed…” phase.  But to be fair, you have to qualify the statement. The technology is complete as far as producing, harvesting and removing crude oils from algae. Actually on the thirty acres that Sapphire is managing at any given time, that’s “done deal” science as well. There’s no longer any question they can do it. HOW they do it, is of course, proprietary.

However, proprietary technology or not, doing this at a competitive price is another issue. They’ll be demonstrating, and proving their claim over the next 4 years, while they construct a 5,000 barrel per day facility. That’s right, folks, 76 million gallons per farm annually.

What strains are they using you ask?

Sapphire has examined numerous algae variations in its labs in San Diego. It’s reputation  as a man made biology shop is well known. However, the number of possible contenders in this sport are 100’000’s.  Just the selected few go on to Sapphire’s pilot location and test open-air ponds in Las Cruces, about 50 miles east of Columbus. From that list of prospects, a wintertime and a summertime algae athletes are already chosen at Sapphire. At this time, they are changing the ponds over to wintertime algae. This is Sapphire’s way of saying, we aren’t about to tell you what strains we’ve chosen. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out these are probably hybrid or specialty strains.

The Size and Scope

Sapphire’s system is, by current algae realities, enormous. One hundred acres completed, out of 300 acres in total capacity for this venture. They have functioning ponds as large as 2 acres in size. This is twice what was formerly believed feasible.

The Predators and Pests

Fortunately, success in microalgae is in the combination of factors, just like fish laying dozens of eggs, the objective of the process is to bombard nature with quantities, and then replicate swiftly and massively.

Consider it in this manner. Assuming algae increases its mass every 24 hours, as many strains do, in a 365-day growing period beginning with 2 kilos of algae, you’d generate more biomass by the Fourth of july compared to the total mass of the known universe. Main point here, an individual can manage to shed several as you go along. If 99.99999999999% of the algae is overcome by infestations, predators, rivals or health issues, you’d continue to generate much more biomass compared to known universe by September. So, you get the drift.


Which delivers us to the crux of the entire matter, which would be Sapphire’s wet extraction technology. Like extracting picking watermelon seeds to seedless watermelons, -this is their essential engineering, their own personal development. They don’t discuss it very much, besides to state that they’ve got it, it works, and will inexpensively wet extract crude oils from algae. If this is true, and there is no reason to think it isn’t, then they also join the ranks of OriginOil and ground breaking extraction technology as well.

The Crude

Following extraction, exactly what do you have? Green crude oil. Ideal for, as with most crude oils, for delivery to refineries for transformation to everyday fuel and chemical products. It’s drop-in fuel, meaning it is suited to pipelines and current refinery infrastructure, and translates into an infrastructure-compatible, drop-in fuel.

The bottom line and the balance sheet.

When should we know if this going to pan out or not? 2018, ultimately. Once the 5000 barrel per day factory is constructed  as well as delivering at full scale. For now, we’ll have to take the word of Sapphire Energy and the Green Crude Farm to guarantee us, or not, that the outcomes can be scaled from a 300-acre assortment of 1- and 2-acre ponds to a plant 50 times that size. But we’re well past the hopeful science fiction phase of algae development, with so much money on the line, and so many people watching, it would make sense that they would stick to what they can deliver.

Instead, what we understand for now is this. The assets of CO2, sunlight, and brackish water are enough – in the Sapphire strategy – they’ve made it bond into a functioning end-to-end technology. We’ve still to verify that the prices can come down as far as making $100 barrels of oil obsolete.

Considering the mixture of sunlight, flattish land that has slipped out of farming, brackish groundwater, and accessibility to the Denver City CO2 pipeline hub – many of us wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see West Texas arise as the new world leader in green crude fuels.  A new Texaco growing out from oil fields that never diminish, or deplete. That are able to replenish itself every 24 hours, not every 24 million years. I guess everything IS bigger in Texas.

What we are clearly seeing here is the birth pangs of a huge, new industry being born.

The “Algae Revolution” has begun.

Algae Biofuels 101

A new video put out by the Dept of Energy. A basic overview of the algae to biodiesel process


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Small Scale Algae Goes Big Time!

Commercial Scale AlgaeBig Oil, Big Ag, Big Auto, Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Air,…all the big boys, are all throwing their weight (And Dollars) behind algae.

Almost all the world’s major industries are recognizing the potential of algae. Even the most jaded  are giving ground and conceding to the tsunami of commercial support for building algae infrastructure. And they’re voting with their wallets. Not only is private business jumping in with both feet, but entire governments are betting their countries capital on it. Here are just a few of the developments this week in the world of algae…

The news out of algae biofuels sector is nothing short of mind blowing.

First Australia: The boys “Down Under” are getting serious. It’s been my experience that when Aussie’s get down to business, you need to get out of their way. People in algae biofuels are starting to refer to the continent now as “algstralia.” Australia is moving into commercial scale algae biofuels at a fever pitch.  They’re probably going to get to commercial scale before we (the US) do. Good on you!

Aurora biofuels, algae-TEC, and a host of other world reknown companies are opening up the West Coast of Australia to algae biofuels. Massive studies, being done by a team of researchers at NMurdoch Univeristy and the University of Western Australia in identifying key areas for commercial scale production.

Keep in mind, Aurora Algae, at the demonstration plant it opened in May of this year, met all of its ten milestone operating targets set by the Western Australian Government’s Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) fund.

In addition, Algaetec an Australian based company inked a deal with Luthansia Airlines to build a commercial plant.

Algae Market Growth Predicted at 41.3% per year

A recent studCommercial Scale Algaey came out predicting  algae biofuels to see market growth of 43.1% annually.  According to energy research firm SBI, algae biofuels will post a compound annual growth rate of 43.1% that will lead the market to $1.6 billion in 2015. “Investment into algae biofuels is shifting as government grants, which were a major funding source in 2009 when over $100 million in funding from the US Department of Energy was distributed, is being replaced by strategic partnerships and slowly growing internal company revenues,” it says.

According to Biofuels Digest, there are 14 algae companies now listed in the top 50 of America’s “Hottest Biofuel Companies.” Including, Sapphire Energy, Algenol, Algix, Cellana, Phycal, Algae.Tec, Bioalgene, BioProcess Algae, Heliae, Muradel, Bio Architecture Lab, Solix, and Aurora Algae.

Success, breeds even more success

The Algae Biomass Summit opened this week in Denver, Colorado. Among the exhibitions include a 50/50 blend of biodiesel derived from algae and cooking oil waste, developed by the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), and a 100% algae-derived Green Crude diesel fuel provided by Sapphire Energy. Here are just some of the highlights.

Algae Biomass Summit: Producers say commercialization is close. The take-away message was that algae production is very close to commercial deployment

Small American companies are directing the global algae industry’s commercialization approach. With Big Oil, Big Food and big money behind them, U.S. algae start-ups continue to scale up, build out, and tap into the infrastructure of willing industrial hosts from Iowa to Indonesia.

7,000 gallons per acre?

Yesterday Algenol CEO Paul Woods announced , that it’s 4 acre pilot plant has continuous production of algae ethanol at the 7,000 gallon per acre level. Algenol, an industry leader and innovator, is once again, taking the first steps toward commercial production.

Major advances in commercializing co-products like cosmetics, food, feed, and chemicals are supporting the industry that is ramping up to providing commercial quantities for fuel markets. So much so that The Dept. of Energy just awarded $15 million  in AZ  to build the first national algae testbed.

BioProcess Algae’s Tim Burns said his company’s story is “all about colocation” and going after what he called the “insatiable demand” markets: high value feed ingredients, first, and advanced biofuels later.

What we are clearly seeing here is the beginning stages of a huge, new industry being born.

The “Algae Revolution” has begun.

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Graphic courtesy of

6 Myths (Or Excuses) Why Algae Biofuels Will Never Work

In any business, profession, or hobby, you’ll always have nay-sayers pointing to some old, usually untrue, chestnuts about the reasons why you shouldn’t do something. Algae biofuels is no exception. In fact, if anything, the tripe trotted out by the “Armchair Generals” in algae biofuels is pretty much epic.

The bull excretion usually takes on 3 forms:6 Myths (Or Excuses)  Algae Biofuels

  • The “Forum Board Crowd” who never try anything if it involves more than getting up from behind their keyboards. This particular species is especially vocal in opposition to just about anything and everything. They for the most part, have never met a negative they couldn’t wholeheartedly embrace. Not that they have ever tried, or have any experience in, what they are degrading. 99% are perfectly happy putting down the legitimate sweat and efforts of others without expending any energy themselves. The very fact that they have an opinion seems to be all that is required for them to start chirping.
  • Academics who know all there is know about anything and everything. Ah yes…Academus Americanus. These birds are easy to spot. Usually they have capital letters after their names and like to strut them. They make it a point to use important sounding vocabulary (Latin is always a favorite) and dense technical jargon, most often to confuse the issue. Many are most at home in the environment of “Baffle them with BS.” Another all time favorite feeding tactic is to use outdated research papers to back up their claims. Many also regurgitate vague, impossible to substantiate claims, i.e. “that would NEVER work,” with no explanation as to what they are specifically talking about, or why. One is left with the impression that all should hang onto every word they say as the gospel truth, simply because they are uttering it. Challenging their word usually results in primitive “fight or flight” behavior. This isn’t to say I dislike academics, (I don’t…I used to be one) or that all academics are like this. But I bet if you ask most teaching professionals they’ll tell you they know a colleague or two like the ones described above. It seems to be an occupational hazard.
  • People who tried once, failed, therefore it is impossible for the human race to ever advance beyond that point. These guys I can least sympathize with. They took the plunge. More often than not, they dived into the pool before checking the depth at the shallow end. (I’m not knocking it…I did it too, and have the lumps of my head to prove it.) This is a subject where preparation and self-education (not necessarily formal education) matters. My advice to you guys? Get up and try again. Wallowing in self-pity doesn’t get you any further towards the goal either. Like Wayne Gretsky said “I miss 100% of the shots I didn’t take.” Please understand, “failure” isn’t a bad thing. It’s a LEARNING thing. You will never succeed at anything until you’ve failed at something. Very few of the pros hit home runs the first time at the plate.

Anyhoo…onto the the 6 all time favorite myths and excuses usually from the crowd above.

1.) Only “Big Oil” has the ability to make algae bio fuels work. Wrong. This flies in the face of the fact that most research into algae biofuels are, or were started, by small research grants or entrepreneurs on a boot strap budget. After the pioneers PROVED IT, then “Big Oil” got involved. Of course, Big Oil is perfectly happy if you believe their propaganda. It’s why they put it out there to begin with. If you stay tied to their gas pumps, paying through the nose every week for the rest of your life, they consider it a job well done. If only Big Oil or the government can do it, then why haven’t they done it yet? Commercial scale algae biodiesel is still in the fantasy stage. Only small scale, is reality so far. Also, localized production of fuel scares the crap out them. The last thing they want to do is compete with 1000’s of small, localized producers who can produce fuel cheaper than they can suck it out of the ground. Something like that might introduce REAL competition into the marketplace, and they certainly wouldn’t want that.

Yeah, but…

2.) It’s too difficult to grow algae. They are absolutely right. In fact, it is so difficult to grow algae that most people have to buy industrial grade chemicals to kill it in their swimming pools and bird baths. The products on the market to “rid yourself of algae” far out number the products to promote growth.  If it is so hard to grow algae why are there so many products out there to control the growth of it? Most people can’t kill it if they want to.

The fact is that algae is one of the most prolific life forms in the history of the earth, responsible not only for the vast oceans of oil under the surface, but also allowed every other life form to evolve. It is one of the basic building blocks of life. Without algae, there would be no life as we know it. It exists in every climate, even on the polar caps. The truth is, the opposite is true, most people have a hard time getting rid of it, or controlling it, …not growing it.

Yeah, but…

3.) You need high-tech equipment to get started. If you mean the kind of high-tech equipment you can find at your local pet and/or fish aquarium store, yes. In fact, you might even have to spend upwards of $30 or so for this high-tech equipment to start experimenting. So if your idea of “high-tech” is maintaining a gold fish bowl, then this is certainly a reason to stop right there.

Yeah, but…

6 Myths About Algae Biofuels4.) It’s impossible and/or algae oil doesn’t really exist. Yes, algae oil is a complete myth. Lucky for us, scores of these people are on hand to point this out and save us from embarrassing ourselves. It is now so impossible that every oil company, all the major airlines, NASA, the Army, the Navy, the Air force, the Dept. of Energy, President Obama, over 100 schools and colleges, 1000’s of companies, not to mention 100,000’s of ordinary people all over the world, have all decided to join in the madness, mayhem, and mass hysteria.

Yeah, but…

5.) You can’t hope to compete. Especially if you don’t try. They are 100% correct on that one too. It’s amazing that if you never do anything, never take a chance, or never try, how true those words of wisdom always seem to be.

Yeah, but…

6.) If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Now this is a tricky one. The ones perpetuating this myth are usually the algae entrepreneurs themselves. THEY don’t want the competition. So if you’re lucky enough to meet someone in the biz don’t expect them to say “why this is the easiest money I ever made!” They will tell you about the long, grueling, hours. The long days of trial and error. Ideas lost or stolen. The problems involved in scale up. Technology that never works as planned, etc. And it’s probably somewhat true too.

Psst….I got a secret a I want to share…this is true in any business, or any start-up. Ask any entrepreneur. It’s NEVER as easy as they thought it was going to be going in. The difference? They didn’t give up. So SOMETHING must be going right and making it worthwhile. Like my father used to say “Listen to a person’s actions first, his words second.”

The moral of the story? There has never been any shortage of negative people. They are not an endangered species. They want you to believe you can’t succeed because THEY couldn’t. You can believe the nay-sayers if you want, or you can try it yourself. Spend a few bucks and possibly change the entire course of your life.

Yeah, but…

There is no time like the present to get started. Try it yourself and see how easy it is.


The “Algae Revolution” has begun.

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