Commercial Production Of Algal Oil Officially Begins In The U.S.

by Nathan

The pioneering biofuels producer Solazyme recently made yet another important step towards its goal of offering a commercially and economically viable alternative to conventional sources of liquid fuels — the company has officially begun commercial production for the first time at its US facilities.

The two facilities — both the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) facility in Clinton, Iowa, and the American Natural Products (ANP) facility in Galva, Iowa — are expected to rapidly increase their production capacity over the next year/year and a half, potentially until they are handling up to 100,000 MT/yr.

Algae Biofuel
Algae in the process of making Biofuel. Image Credit: Algae via Flickr CC

Green Car Congress provides more:

ADM and ANP have successfully manufactured three distinct tailored oil products at the facilities, and products are currently being sold and distributed in both the US and Brazil. Volumes shipped to Brazil are being utilized for market development activity in advance of the opening of the Solazyme Bunge Renewable Oils Moema facility. Production at the ADM and ANP facilities is expected to ramp to a nameplate capacity of 20,000 MT/yr within 12-18 months, with targeted potential expansion to 100,000 MT/yr in subsequent years.

Truckloads of product are now shipping from the Iowa operations for use in applications including lubricants, metalworking and home and personal care. These shipments are being made pursuant to multiple supply agreements as well as spot purchases, and include reorders.

It’ll be interesting to see if Solazyme can perform to company expectations and become economically profitable. The technology of producing liquid fuels directly from algae is certainly an interesting one, but a number of important questions remain with regard to its economic viability.

This article, Solazyme Begins Commercial Production Of Algal Oil In The US, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nathan — For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 3:19

New Study Adds Meat to Algae Biofuel Muscle

New Study Adds Meat to Algae Biofuel Muscle | 21/09/2013
by Tina Casey

Algae biofuel still has some catching up to do in the profitability department, but a first-of-its-kind study of a large scale algae biofuel operation puts it very close to petroleum in a key indicator of efficient energy production.

That might come as a surprise given the heavy load of water, nutrients and other inputs required for conventional algae farming and refining, but we’re talking about a next-generation algae biofuel operation here.

Algae biofuel courtesy of Sapphire Energy.

The study was conducted by the University of Virginia and published under the moniker “Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction” in the peer-reviewed journal Bioresource Technology.

It examined a demonstration-scale algae operation in New Mexico owned by the company Sapphire Energy, which by the way just paid off a $54.5 million Energy Department loan guarantee last month.

A Competitive Algae Biofuel EROI

One key measurement the study examined was Energy Return on Investment (EROI). Loosely speaking, EROI is a way of comparing the amount of energy needed to produce energy in various forms, including petroleum as well as biofuel, wind, solar and other renewable sources.

In other words, it’s a way of getting a handle on how energy-efficient your energy production is.

EROI is not an absolute indicator of sustainability, but it does help to indicate where a particular source fits in with regional, national and global energy markets. In that context, a competitive EROI for algae biofuel provides support for a national energy policy that replaces petroleum.

A while back, when non-food biofuel crops began to come on the scene, we predicted that corn biofuel would be toast some day, so it’s also interesting to note that the study found that algae biofuel at the Sapphire Energy operation easily beat out corn ethanol for EROI.

Lower Carbon Emissions For Algae Biofuel

Another piece of big news out of the study is the finding of 50 to 70 percent lower carbon emissions at the algae biofuel operation compared to petroleum.

That’s where the next-generation aspect of Sapphire’s algae biofuel system comes in. That includes the selection of arid New Mexico as a site for the open-pond algae farm, which may seem counterintuitive in terms of water input. However, the Sapphire system was designed to use non-potable saltwater, with no nutrient input.

Sapphire’s algae was developed to produce a natural oil described as sharing the “highly branched and undecorated” molecular structure of light sweet petroleum crude. The algae is also engineered for disease resistance and ease of harvest.

The result is a “Green Crude” that can be substituted throughout the existing petroleum transportation and refining chain, dovetailing with the Obama Administration’s focus on drop-in biofuels.

Before we leave off, let’s emphasize for the record that the study indicates a path forward for the US biofuel industry, but it only covers one facility and does not necessarily extrapolate to other existing algae operations. We bring that up because we just raised a similar point about extrapolation earlier this week, regarding a methane emissions study of natural gas fracking operations.

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This article, New Real-World Study Adds Meat To Algae Biofuel Muscle, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina Casey Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.