California Approves Fuel Made From Algae
California has taken a giant leap forward in mainstreaming algae biofuels by offering it’s approval of a new 20% blend. Last month we saw a successful trial of algae biofuels being sold to consumers at gas stations. This month we see California moving forward and paving the way for successful, wide-spread, distribution.
In Sacramento, California, The Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) has tested samples of a new 20 percent biodiesel blend fuel made from algae and is happy to report that the fuel is compliant with California’s quality specification for biodiesel blends. The new fuel became available November 13, 2012 at four gas stations in Berkeley, Oakland, Redwood City and San Jose as part of a pilot program.
The algae is not typical pond algae – it is produced specifically to consume sugar and convert it to stored oils that supply energy. The algae is grown in special reaction vessels under very sterile conditions to encourage maximum oil production.
The fuel is 20 percent algae biodiesel blended with low sulfur diesel fuel. Samples were tested to ensure overall high-quality engine performance and to ascertain that exhaust emissions will remain low. The tests were also good indicators that engine deposits and engine wear will be minimal, and that corrosion and filter plugging are reduced – very important factors for fuel used in diesel engines.
When evaluating biodiesel and other fuels, California adheres to standards set by ASTM International and SAE International, which meet the requirements of engine manufacturers worldwide. DMS has a rigorous program of sampling and testing for fuels sold at retail. A 2012 marketplace survey showed 99 percent quality compliance rate in gasoline and 98 percent compliance for diesel.
Persons experiencing problems with quality, quantity or product labeling of fuels or automotive products can contact their local county department of weights and measures or the DMS at 916-229-3000. The DMS website http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/dms/ has additional information about petroleum products as well as an online complaint form and links to county weights and measures offices.
What this means to the rest of us.
Basically, California is stealing the show in terms of setting the stage that the rest of the country will follow. They were the first to establish city zoning areas for algae biofuels, the first to establish guidelines, the first to sell algae biofuels publicly, now the first to grant governmental approval. I would also expect some of the first commercialized algae biofuel production centers to start moving to California as well.
This is both good and bad. It’s no secret that while California is no doubt a leader, it also has its own particular way of doing things. Which sometimes fit, and sometimes doesn’t, with the rest of the country. The various law makers being what they are, tend to look at what one state is doing and if seeing no glaring mistakes, adopt the same rules and regulations without much introspection.
On the other hand, implementation has to start somewhere. California is as good a place as any, and better than most. The legal groundwork has to begin. Beginning sooner is better than beginning later. It doesn’t hurt that California has many natural attributes, both in climate and in infrastructure, which make it an ideal place for algae biofuel start ups.
Everyone knows they can certainly use the tax dollars.