Recently, the City of Tulare leased four acres next to its large wastewater treatment plant for the operation, which will use CO2 and other gases generated from the site’s adjacent fuel cells to grow the algae in large tubs of water.
The lipids, or oils, the algae produces as it grows can then be extracted and refined for use as a low emitting jet fuel.
The plant is the joint venture of Pacific Algae Oil consisting of the nonprofit association Algae International Group and Huntington Beach-based Pacific Oil Products.
According to Pacific Oil’s CEO David Gair, the facility is currently in a pilot-scale phase, with the capacity to produce around a half a million gallons of the fuel annually.
But given the right equipment and enough gases, he said, as much as 6 million gallons a year could be pumped out each year.
“I would like to give it 30 days before we get a commercial project underway,” said Gair, who started Pacific Oil Products in 2008 selling presses and other equipment to extract plant oils. “To use all our resources will take until the end of the year in order to get centrifuges, oil presses, ponds, green houses.”
A study last year by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that American-grown algae can produce 21 billion gallons of algal oil by 2022 consistent with the advanced biofuels goal set out by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.