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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

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Small Scale vs. Large Scale Algae Biofuels Cultivation

Small Scale vs. Large Scale Algae Bio fuels ProjectsSmall Scale vs. Large Scale Algae Bio fuels Projects

I was talking to a consultant for Exxon algae bio fuels program. (Remember these are the guys that sank 600 million dollars into algae biofuel research.) We were talking about the difference between small scale cultivation and large scale.

“Just because you can brew beer in your basement doesn’t mean you compete with Budweiser.” And “If you can’t grow a small amount of algae first, you won’t be able to grow a large amount either.” And still another…

“If you are not running enough tests that are really failing, then you are not doing your job…we fail all the time. You’ve got to fail first in order to succeed. It sucks, it hurts, it does damage to your ego.  But it’s the only way to hit home runs the next time.”

Wise words.

So many people seem to be caught up in the fantasy of large scale production and being the next J. Paul Getty that they overlook what actually works. Then they fail miserably, and blame the entire world.

Large scale, commercial scale, algae oil production is not reality at this point in time.  (There are some BIG small scale projects though) It is a pass time for the big boys only. If Exxon with 600 million dollars can’t do it, it’s time for a re-think.

Some people want to immediately jump into the deep end of the pool, investing time, and money without first checking how deep the water is. There are complexities at commercial scale which can’t be envisioned. It’s not a matter of “simply scaling up small scale.”

Only small scale is real world, right here, right now. It has been proven over and over, by thousands of people, all over the world. (Most of them used my books)

The thing to keep in mind is the applications for small scale are endless. You don’t have to be Exxon, or have 600 million dollars to make money in algae.

For example, I hear from..

  • Trucking companies wanting to make small scale algae biodiesel “bio refineries” to services their fleets.
  • Green houses looking to offset their utility costs as well as use organic fertilizer.
  • Aquaculture and fish farmers, looking to offset fish feed costs.
  • Farmers wanting to slash their fuel/fertilizer/animal feed costs.
  • Survivalists wanting an “all in one solution” for when they head to the hills.
  • Health food enthusiasts who can’t say enough about the benefits of adding algae to their diets.
  • Cancer survivors who credit their survival to algae.
  • Cosmologists and dermatologists who swear by algae as a skin treatment.
  • People from all walks of life who have used algae to fight obesity, diabetes, ulcers, and arthritis, to name a few.

Small scale, localized algae production are becoming more and more a reality.

I have it from a number of good sources that small scale, pre-fab home units will be hitting the market soon. When they do, I’ll review them and post my results here.

Having said that, there’s research going on at a break-neck pace, in this country, as well as others,  trying to bring large scale algae bio fuel production on line.

This isn’t to say commercial scale algae bio refineries are way off into the distant future, they aren’t. AlgaeTec, along with OriginOil, just inked a deal to build the first commercial scale plant in Australia.

  • The US Army is researching ways of utilizing mobile battlefield algae “bio refineries” to shorten fuel supply lines. Think “MASH” units for biofuels.
  • The US Navy wants to employ algae biorefineries on ships so that they create their own fuel at sea.
  • Towns and cities are starting to see the benefit of having localized fuel production in their districts and creating zoning specifically for them.
  • The airlines are also moving into algae in a big way. Asiana Airline landed a jet at LAX powered by Algae jet fuel.
  • As I write this Sapphire Energy issued a press release saying “first Phase testing” of their “green Crude Farm” has been completed on time and under budget.

Speaking of MASH units, here’s Alan Alda “Hawkeye Pierce” of the television show “MASH” extolling the virtues of algae and drinking it at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

[youtube width=”500″ height=”300″]EnOSnJJSP5c[/youtube]

There is nothing wrong with thinking big. But big accomplishments are made by taking small steps. Find out how you can start taking steps to lowering your bills, improving your health, or making money with algae.