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Algae Ethanol: Algenol Realizes 9,000 Gallons Per Acre

algae ethanolAlgae innovator Algenol currently at 50% over initial production goal – seeks to finish trial in 2013, and head for commercial-scale in 2014.

In Florida, Algenol proved that the organization had realized output levels 9,000 gallons of algae ethanol per acre annually – and business CEO Paul Woods said that ” I fully expect our talented scientific team to achieve sustained production rates above 10,000 by the end of this year.”

Only last September, in the beginning plenary session at the Algae Biomass Summit, Woods said that the organization, at its 4-acre, outdoor Process Development Unit in Lee County, Florida, had reached constant output of algae ethanol at the 7,000 gallon per acre rate.

That it was a large improvement over the company’s initial goal of 6,000 gpa, and had been obtained in open-air operation within typical working circumstances.

With the news, Woods verified that the business, right after finishing main engineering tasks at their built-in pilot scale biorefinery in 2012, has entirely changed focus to exhibiting the commercial practicality of Direct to Ethanol engineering at its pilot facility and determining sites for professional initiatives to start in 2014.

Woods added, “Our patented ‘Direct to Ethanol’ technology enables the production of algae ethanol for around $1.00 per gallon using sunlight, carbon dioxide and saltwater. The low production costs are achievable because ‘Direct to Ethanol’ technology produces high yields and relies on our patented photobioreactors and proprietary downstream techniques for the low-cost recovery and purification of ethanol.

“One ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) is converted into 160 gallons of ethanol, and 2 gallons of fresh water are produced for each gallon of ethanol in the ‘Direct to Ethanol’ process.

While preserving a principal focus on ethanol manufacturing, Woods revealed that Algenol had broadened its product profile to incorporate diesel and jet fuel from waste algae.  ”Algae Ethanol will be our main commercial product and jet and diesel will be integrated into our process over the next 2 years. We also continue to monitor opportunities to adapt our algae-based platform technology to produce valuable chemicals, such as propylene-based chemicals.”

The reports from Florida was the initial significant development in the Algenol story since last October, when it was disclosed that Reliance Industries Limited, the Indian petroleum, chemicals, telecom and manufacturing conglomerate, had put in a total of $116 million (Rs6.2 billion) in the algae space – with $93.5 million (Rs5.0 billion) heading to Algenol and 22.5 million (Rs1.2 billion) to Aurora Algae.

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The Algae Revolution Has Begun

Algae Gasoline Proving Popular

Algae GasolineBack in January we released an article about algae gasoline being sold in California during a 30 day trial program. Participating Gas Stations reported a whooping 35% increase in sales at the test sites. In addition, a survey conducted among the buyers revealed driver preference for algae based fuels over conventional fuels.

All of which begs the question…would buyers pay a premium for algae based fuels?

The pilot test was conducted at Propel’s clean fuel stations in San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, and Redwood City,

Even more interesting, a follow-up survey among buyers revealed that 92% of customers said that they would be more likely to buy algae based fuel for it’s environmental benefits. 70% said they would buy the fuel more frequently if it were derived from algae, and nearly 40% said they would pay extra.

This pilot program was the first time algae gasoline were ever sold to the public. It was retailed at a parity price with conventional diesel.

OK, very interesting…but do they have an encore?

OK, here is where it gets’ interesting. Understandably, both companies are keeping silent about their future plans, but here is what we do know. In December Propel Fuels anchored it’s Series D funding with 11 million from existing investors, then went on to secure another 10 million in debt financing. With the new capital in place, Propel will be able to build out it’s network of gas stations that are offering the cleanest, most sustainable, not to mention domestically produced, biofuels in the country today.

It currently has gas stations in California and Washington state and are planing building another 200 stations to service new and existing markets over the next 2 years. Algae GasolinePropel operates a growing network of stations that provide renewable fuels (Flex Fuel E85, biodiesel blends, SolaDiesel) alongside the conventional gasoline that most drivers use today.

Solazyme, Propel’s partner, was one of algae’s first benefactors and has been a leader in the algae biofuels ever since. They have achieved key performance metrics in both fuel and chemical markets and they believe this allows them to manufacture oils today at a cost below $1000 per metric ton ($3.44 per gallon, or $0.91 per liter) if the algae biofuel is produced in a built for purpose commercial plant.

In 2012 Solazyme increased their own capacity to 8,000 metric tons by expanding their facility in Peoria, as well as their phase I and Phase II Roquette Nutritional facilities. The kicker is, they expect to have 550,000 tons capacity by 2015. This would support over 1 billion in biofuel revenue.

To make matters more interesting, Solazyme also entered into non-binding offtake agreement with both Dow Chemical and Qantas Airlines. Dow Chemical has agreed to purchase 20 million gallons (76 million liters) of oils in 2013, rising to 60 million gallons (227 million liters) by 2015. Qantas Airlines will purchase a minimum of 200 to 400 millions liters of jet fuel per year.

Can you say, the algae revolution has begun?

All well and good…what about fuel performance?

According to Life Cycle Associates, an independent greenhouse gas measurement firm, they determined that soladiesel provides 85-93% reduction in greenhouse gas emmissions compared with conventional diesel fuel. The NREL (National Renewable Energy Labs) indicates that a 20% blend significantly out preformed ultra-low sulphur diesel in hydrocarbons (THC), carbon dioxide (CO), and tail pipe emissions.by 20%.

Bob Ames, VP of fuels at Solazyme said “Our fuels have already been successfully demonstrated in fleet vehicles, corporate buses, military applications and the first U.S. commercial flight on biofuel,” said Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme. “The successful pilot program with Propel further exhibits strong consumer appetite for the superior performance and environmental properties of Soladiesel.”

“Propel is committed to providing drivers true choice at the pump by bringing to market the world’s highest quality and most sustainable fuels,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. “The results show strong preference for algae-based fuel, and we are thrilled to have partnered with Solazyme to enable our customers to be the first in the country to purchase this next generation biofuel.”

So what does this mean to us?

It means, first of all, that not only was algae biofuels history made last December when they rolled out the first commercially available algae biofuels, but it was no freak accident of the market. It was the first step as part of a planned expansion into the market. This means, commercial algae based biofuels are now a reality. A historic first, in and of itself.

Second it means there is also a growing acceptance of algae biofuels by the government based on their low environmental impact. No easy feat. This one fact has slowed many alternative energies from ever gaining the market at all.

Third, it shows growing public awareness of, and acceptance to, algae based biofuels in general and algae gasoline in particular. Not only acceptance, but forward thinking populations are also willing to buy it at higher cost in order to have domestically produced, renewable energy and transportation fuels. This bodes very well for small scale algae biorefineries and producers.

 

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