Algae for bioenergy

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Bioenergy > Feedstocks > Biodiesel feedstocks > Algae for bioenergy

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The term algae encompasses a wide variety of mostly aquatic photosynthetic organisms. The potentially high biomass production potential of algae has drawn a lot of attention from researchers, particularly the possibility that algal oils could be used for biodiesel production. Biofuels produced from algae are known as "algal biofuels." (Algae can also be considered a type of "aquatic biofuel".)
Microalgae produce lipids that can be converted to biodiesel.



There are several options for large-scale production of algae.

  • Several companies are trying to commercialize technologies to harvest various forms of wild algae.
  • Wild algae can be harvested from municipal waste and other man made sources
  • Algal blooms that form naturally or as a result of pollution in the ocean can also theoretically be harvested for algae.
  • Open-air ponds: Algae has been grown commercially for 20 years in open-air ponds for many applications including Spirulina production in both Hawaii and California. For the production of biodiesel[1] commercial open-air ponds were dicussed by the Aquatic Species Program Close Out Report as the most cost effective way to produce algae for biofuels.
  • Closed ponds: Algae can be grown in covered ponds
  • Photo-bioreactors: One of the more promising areas for bioenergy production is growing algae in sealed bioreactors. These allow for much greater control of conditions for the algae, but have much greater capital costs and technical challenges.[1]









  • Algae Amendment Puts Biofuels Back in Energy Debate, 13 March 2012 by Alex M. Parker for U.S.News & World Report : "The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on legislation that will give an additional $1 per gallon tax credit to the producers of algae-based gasoline."
    • "The legislation, offered by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, would expand an existing tax credit for certain biofuel production to include the cultivation of algae for use in fuel. Stabenow's amendment would also extend several other tax credits for energy production."
    • "The cultivation of algae to create or enhance biofuels has, in the past, been relatively non-controversial. But the issue became politicized quickly after President Barack Obama mentioned it as a component of his energy platform last month. Mocking the idea as a pie-in-the-sky response to the real-life problem of high gas prices, the GOP presidential candidates have made it a regular laugh line on the campaign trail. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has taken to calling Obama 'President Algae.'"
  • Seattle: Officials keen to make region a center for aviation biofuels: Efforts are under way to create an aviation biofuels industry in the Northwest, harnessing the presence of Boeing, Alaska Airlines and research labs across the state. 17 March 2012 by Kyung M. Song for The Seattle Times: "For three weeks last November, Alaska Airlines flew passengers aboard Boeing 737s powered in part with used cooking oil, becoming only the second American carrier to operate scheduled flights using renewable biofuel."
    • "The destination for one of the maiden flights from Seattle, [ Washington ]? Washington, D.C. — home to lawmakers Alaska and other U.S. airlines believe are crucial to eventually securing plentiful aviation biofuels that cost no more than petroleum jet fuel. That's a distant reality. As it was, the biofuel Alaska bought was made from restaurant grease by a Louisiana company and sold through a broker based in Amsterdam — at $17 a gallon."
    • In all, Alaska flew 75 flights with a 20 percent biofuels blend "to highlight the issue. But it was very expensive for us to do it," said Keith Loveless, Alaska's executive counsel, who led the trial effort."
    • "The goal is to establish the Pacific Northwest as an epicenter for aviation biofuels by harnessing the presence of Boeing, Alaska Airlines and research labs across the state. In addition, the region's forests and farms are promising sources of [ biomass ] crops, algae and woody material that could be converted to fuel." [1]


  • Are Biofuels the Best Use of Our Limited Land Resources?, 21 December 2011 by "About seven million tonnes of grain corn was grown in Ontario in 2011, and by year’s end roughly 30 per cent of that is expected to go toward ethanol fuel production."
    • "Let’s focus instead on the use of corn as part of a greenhouse-gas reduction strategy that returns more economic value per harvested bushel. Through this lens, is biofuel production the best use of a renewable but also land-limited resource?"
    • "Corn, after all, doesn’t have to be made into ethanol and burned in the gas tanks of our cars to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It can also be used to make a variety of 'green' chemicals that form the basis of a wide variety of products currently made from petroleum-based chemicals."
    • "This isn’t just about corn; it’s also about how we choose to use agricultural residues, municipal organic waste, wood waste, algae biomass, and non-food crops."
    • "Does it make sense to just burn this material for energy, or convert it into fuel so it can be burned? Or, should we be doing a better job of targeting niche markets with high-value 'green' products that are just as effective at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels?"[2]
  • Navy’s Big Biofuel Bet: 450,000 Gallons at 4 Times the Price of Oil, 5 December 2011 by "The Navy just signed deals to buy 450,000 gallons of biofuels — arguably the biggest purchase of its kind in U.S. government history....But at approximately $15 per gallon — nearly four times the price of traditional fuel — the new fuels won’t come cheap."
    • "The $12-million purchase, expected for months, will all be used this summer off the coast of Hawaii. There, supersonic F/A-18 jets will launch from the deck of an aircraft carrier, powered by fuels fermented from algae. A 9,000-ton destroyer and a cruiser will join it on a voyage across the Pacific, using fuel made from fats and greases."
    • "If it works, the Green Fleet will not only be poised for a full alt-fuel deployment in 2016. Mabus will be much closer to his promise of obtaining half of the Navy’s fuel from alternative sources by 2020. And the often-struggling biofuels industry will be a lot closer to proving its viability."[3]
  • Magnetic algae make biofuels sticky, 21 October 2011 by MSNBC: "Scientists at a government lab in New Mexico have created what appear to be magnetic algae, a breakthrough that could lower the cost of harvesting biofuels from the microscopic plants."
    • "Current techniques for extracting algae from the ponds where they are grown include sound waves and the addition of chemicals that cause the algae to clump together, a process known as flocculation."
    • "These techniques account for about 30 percent of the total cost of algae-based biofuel production, Pulak Nath at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory noted, and 'is one of the limiting steps for algae fuel from becoming cost competitive to fossil fuels.'"
    • "Permanent magnets are inexpensive. In theory, algae biofuel systems could flow algae-filled water through a tank lined with the magnets and the algae will get separated from the water, Nath explained."
    • "The research, he cautioned, is in the early stages. So far, they've created one species of magnetic algae. Going forward, they will try to transfer the gene to more candidates for algae biofuel production."[4]
  • Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU, 8 July 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry, which has boomed in the wake of a decision by Brussels policymakers in 2003 to promote it, is now on the verge of being legislated out of existence after the studies revealed biodiesel's indirect impact cancels out most of its benefits."
    • "Biofuels were once seen as a silver bullet for curbing transport emissions, based on a theory that they only emit as much carbon as they absorbed during growth."
    • "But that has been undermined by a new concept known as 'indirect land-use change' (ILUC), which scientists are still struggling to accurately quantify."
    • "'The experts unanimously agreed that, even when uncertainties are high, there is strong evidence that the ILUC effect is significant,' said the report from the Commission's November workshop."
    • "'Ethanol feedstocks have a lower land use change effect than the biodiesel feedstocks. For ethanol, sugar beet has the lowest land use emission coefficients,' said [an] IFPRI report."
    • "The Commission's impact analysis predicts EU demand for biodiesel will collapse if their indirect impacts are taken into account in EU legislation. But at the same time it sees a sharp rise in demand for bioethanol from cereal crops and sugarcane, as well as advanced biodiesel produced from algae."[5]
  • Senators Reach Deal on Ethanol Subsidy Repeal, Urge Swift Congressional Action for Maximum Benefit, 7 July 2011 by The New York Times: "Bipartisan Senate negotiators today reached a deal to save $1.3 billion through an early repeal of two major ethanol tax benefits, setting what could prove a precedent for more energy-sector tax changes as part of a sprawling deal to raise the nation's debt limit."
    • "The agreement released by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) would end the ethanol blenders' tax credit and the tariff on imported biofuels this month, routing most of the proceeds to deficit reduction while extending tax breaks for infrastructure as well as cellulosic and smaller producers."
    • "But without a House-side buy-in to the deal, its prospects of becoming law -- either as part of a larger measure to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or as a stand-alone bill -- are slim."
    • "Klobuchar said today that she saw the ethanol accord as a template for a similar tax-benefit compromise with oil and gas companies."
    • "Ethanol interest groups largely hailed the terms of the Senate agreement, which would extend the tax credit for cellulosic production through 2015 with an expansion for algae-based fuels, extend tax incentives for infrastructure through 2014 and extend benefits for smaller ethanol producers through 2012."[6]
  • European Commission Funds Global Project to Produce Ethanol, Biodiesel and Bioproducts From Algae, 24 May 2011 by PR Newswire: "Nine partners from seven countries have joined in an innovative project to show that ethanol, biodiesel and bioproducts can be produced from algae on a large scale."
    • "The BIOfuel From Algae Technologies (BIOFAT) project, largely funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program, aims to demonstrate that biofuels made from microalgae can offer energy efficiency, economic viability and environmental sustainability."
    • "BIOFAT seeks to maximize the benefits from algae while minimizing environmental impacts. Along the way, the project will introduce the world to the algorefinery, a facility that can produce high-value co-products in addition to biofuels."
    • "This project will be carried out by a transnational consortium drawn from the academic, industrial and public sectors and include the University of Florence (IT), A4F-AlgaFuel (PT), Ben-Gurion University (IL), Fotosintetica & Microbiologica (IT), Evodos (NL), AlgoSource Technologies (FR), IN SRL (IT) and Hart Energy (BE)."[7]
  • Study: Algae Could Replace 17% of Oil Imports by 2022, 13 April 2011 by "In a new study released by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (NPPL), algal fuels could replace 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil by 2020. The paper was published in the journal of Water Resources Research but warned that biofuels production, including algal fuels, can require a lot of water so the study cautioned that being smart about where the algae is grown can reduce the water needed."
    • "The research team’s goal was to provide the first in-depth assessment of algal biofuels potential based on the amount of available land and water. The study also factored in how much water would need to be replaced due to evaporation over 30 years."
    • "The researchers found that 21 billion gallons of algal oil, equal to the 2022 advanced biofuels goal set out by the Energy Independence and Security Act, can be produced from American-grown algae. The study also concluded that up to 48 percent of the current transportation oil imports could be replaced with algae, but this higher production level would require significantly more water and land. The authors also found that algae’s water use is similar to other biofuel sources."[8]
  • Biofuel From Algae Could Compete With Oil, Report Says, 16 March 2011 by Mother Nature Network: "Biofuels made from algae can be produced in a way that make this energy source cost-competitive with crude oil by increasing the amount of energy algae stores as fat, according to early research from VG Energy, an alternative energy and agricultural biotech company."
    • "The resulting biodiesel and algae-based jet fuels could be produced at a cost of $94 per barrel, well below the current crude oil price of above $100 a barrel."
    • "It’s all based on a technique developed by Viral Genetics researcher Dr. Karen Newell-Rogers."
    • Newell-Rogers has been developing molecular techniques “to disrupt tumor metabolism to prevent them from burning fat reserves, making them more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation.” The same switch could force the algae to store energy as fat, which could then be extracted as algal oil."
    • "The technique increased production of extractable lipid, or fat, by at least 300 percent when applied in the lab. The fat was stored outside the cell walls, making it easier to extract without first killing the algae."[9]
  • OriginOil’s Algae Biofuel Gets Ready for U.S. Market, 16 March 2011 by "OriginOil, is taking steps to fast-track its algae biofuel out of development and into commercial use."
    • "One barrier to large scale algae biofuel farming is the need for a significant amount of land and water."
    • "OriginOil’s algae growing system, called the MultiReactor, uses lenses to channel solar radiation through relatively deep layers of algae. That reduces the surface area of the growing pond, which minimizes the environmental impacts of conventional algae farming."
    • "OriginOil has also developed a system to overcome another hurdle, which is the large amount of energy required to extract oil from algae through conventional technologies. The company’s Single-Step Extraction method uses energy to “crack” the algae, and then oil, water and algae biomass are separated by gravity."[10]
  • IEA Bioenergy Annual Report Highlights Algal Biofuels Status and Prospects, 16 March 2011 by IISD Reporting Services: "The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) IEA Bioenergy has released its 'IEA Bioenergy 2010 Annual Report,' with a special feature on 'Algal Biofuels Status and Prospects.'"
    • "The special feature emphasizes that despite recent enthusiasm over these biofuels, they remain at a pre-commercial ‘proof of concept’ phase, although they warrant investment in further research, development and demonstration. Of the production methods reviewed, authors found that photobioreactors are generally more costly than raceway pond algae production facilities....[T]he report concludes that algal biofuels are unlikely to be able to displace a large fraction of liquid fossil fuels."[11]
    • Download the IEA Bioenergy 2010 Annual Report
  • Biodiesel leader: Arizona positioned to lead in producing algae for fuel, 8 February 2011 by The Sierra Vista Herald: "Arizona’s sunny, dry weather makes it the perfect location for farming algae to produce renewable fuels, an executive of a national biofuels group said Monday."
    • "In addition, the state’s coal-fired power plants produce quantities of carbon dioxide that would allow for more efficient production of algae."
    • "However, technology that would allow for mass-production of algae is probably a decade away."
    • "Bruce Rittman, director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, said in a telephone interview that he thinks the technology needed to mass-produce algae probably is more like five years way. But the infrastructure required probably means the U.S. is 15-20 years away from algae being a major fuel source."[12]
  • Shell Exits Algae Biofuels Development, 1 February 2011 by Chem.Info: "Last week Shell announced that it will will exit its shareholding in Cellana, a joint venture between Shell and HR Biopetroleum (HRBP)."
    • "In 2007, HRBP and Royal Dutch Shell had formed Cellana as a separate joint venture to build and operate a demonstration facility to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into biofuel."
    • "'In keeping with Shell’s portfolio approach to the research, development and commercialisation of advanced biofuels, this decision will allow Shell to focus on other options that have shown a better fit with Shell’s biofuels portfolio and strategy.'"
    • "To support the transition, Shell has agreed to provide short-term funding to advance and focus the algae technology development program which is supported by stakeholders including the University of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Company, Maui Electric Company, the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium, and the DOE."[13]
  • Biofuels of No Benefit to Military -- RAND, 26 January 2011 by ClimateWire/New York Times: "A new analysis presented to Congress yesterday paints a stark picture for the Defense Department's current efforts to secure renewable fuels."
    • "Fuels made from plant waste or algae will not be achievable in large or cheap enough quantities to make sense for military applications in the next decade, concluded the report penned by the RAND Corporation."
    • "'The use of alternative fuels offers the armed services no direct military benefit,' it added, urging the military and Congress to rethink dedicating defense appropriations to alternative fuels research."
    • "The work assessed the current status of the alternative fuels market and concluded that the only fossil fuel substitutes that could be attainable in the foreseeable future would be those produced through the Fischer-Tropsch process, a method with a hefty carbon footprint that produces synthetic diesel from coal, natural gas or coal-biomass blends."
    • "The Navy, which has been on the front lines of biofuel research, blasted the findings."[14]
    • Download a summary of the report, Alternative Fuels for Military Applications (PDF file)


  • Navy Drives Biofuel Production With Goal to Buy 336M Gallons a Year by 2020, Enhancing San Diego’s Role as Center for Algae Biofuels, 20 December 2010 by Bruce V. Bigelow: "The U.S. military’s interest in developing algae biofuels dates back at least three years, when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began to assess the technical capabilities needed to produce JP-8 grade jet fuel."
    • "Editor Jim Lane says the Department of Defense could prove to be the ultimate driver of advanced algae-based biofuels in the United States, 'by stepping up as a buyer, and communicating buying signals to the makers of advanced biofuels and their financiers.'"
    • "That view was seconded in a weekend column by none other than Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times, who wrote that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus... has also set a goal for the Navy to use alternative energy sources to provide 50 percent of the energy for all its war-fighting ships, planes, vehicles and shore installations by 2020."
    • "To meet this goal in 2020, the Navy will need 336 million gallons of drop-in advanced biofuels every year."[15]
  • Algae Biofuels 10 Years From Viability, 8 November 2010 by Pete Danko: "Algae isn’t nearly ready for prime-time as a biofuel, according to a new study, and until it is the industry will need to seize upon non-fuel applications that could help make it cost-effective."
    • "The report found that even under best-case scenarios, oil produced from algae will remain excessively expensive in the 'near-to-mid-term.' Another challenge is that the industry is highly dependent on availability of suitable climate, water, flat land and carbon dioxide, all 'available in one location.' When everything comes together — perhaps 10 years of research, development and demonstration from now, 'algal oil production technology has the potential to produce several billion gallons of renewable fuel in the United States.'"
    • "To bridge the gap, the report recommends a focus on co-products — for instance, producing algal biofuels in conjuction with wastewater treatment. Another possibility cited was animal feeds."[17]
  • The race to make fuel out of algae poses risks as well as benefits, 22 July 2010 by ClimateWire via EarthPortal: "One day, Big Algae may be competitive with Big Oil, but as researchers search for the ideal oil-producing algae strain to grow in commercial quantities, there are still a host of uncertainties standing in the way."
    • "The first is simply supply. A central question dominating algal biofuel conferences is whether the best oil-producing algae crop will come from strains occurring in nature, or if they will need to be genetically modified to enhance their fuel-producing potential."
    • "History shows that in general, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be difficult to contain."
    • "Unlike genetically modified, or GM, corn, which has been used for some 15 years, similarly altered algae are newcomers to the scene and have not been tried outdoors before. 'Being a nascent industry, there are no existing standards for various aspects of algal biofuels production,' said an Energy Department algae road map issued last month."
    • "If companies do not take the time to educate the public and regulators about potential risks and the current state of the technology, they run the risk of a 'serious backlash from the public and from advocacy groups and eventually from regulators that could shut down these projects' in the event anything goes wrong,'" according to Evan Smith, "co-founder of Verno Systems, a Seattle-based consulting firm that looks at financial strategies for advanced biofuels."[18]
  • Alaska Airlines, Boeing, & Airports Partner on Biofuels, 14 July 2010 by Bill DiBenedetto: "Their endeavor, called the “Sustainable Aviation Fuel Northwest” project, is the first regional assessment of its kind in the U.S., according to a joint announcement from the group this week."
    • "The assessment will examine all phases of developing a sustainable biofuel industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina, wood byproducts and others. The project is jointly funded by the participating parties and is expected to be completed in about six months."
    • "Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh added, 'Developing a sustainable aviation fuel supply now is a top priority both to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity at regional levels and to support the broader aim of achieving carbon-neutral growth across the industry by 2020.'"
    • "The assessment process will be managed by Climate Solutions, an Olympia, WA, environmental nonprofit organization, which will align the effort to sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. The project’s objective is to identify potential pathways and necessary actions to make aviation biofuel commercially available to airline operators serving the region."[19]
  • Department of Energy Announces $24 Million for Algal Biofuels Research, 28 June 2010 by the US DOE: "The U.S. Department of Energy announced today the investment of up to $24 million for three research groups to tackle key hurdles in the commercialization of algae-based biofuels."
    • "The consortia consist of partners from academia, national laboratories, and private industries that are based across the country, broadening the geographic range and technical expertise of DOE partners in the area of algal biofuels... Together, they represent a diversified portfolio that will help accelerate algal biofuels development with the objective of significantly increasing production of affordable, high-quality algal biofuels that are environmentally and economically sustainable."
    • "Despite algae's potential, many technical and economic challenges must be overcome for algal biofuels to be commercialized. To identify these hurdles and guide research and development activities, DOE convened the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop, bringing together more than 200 experts and stakeholders from across the country. The Department synthesized workshop results and released a draft report for public comment in June 2009"[20]
  • China, US launch airline biofuel venture, 26 May 2010 by By Joe McDonald: "The United States and China launched a research venture Wednesday to develop biofuels for use by Chinese airlines based on algae or oily nuts and said an inaugural flight could come as early as this year."
    • "The two sides signed a series of research partnerships between Boeing Co., U.S. government agencies and Chinese research institutions and state companies including Air China Ltd. and PetroChina Ltd."
    • "The first flight in China using biofuels could happen this year, and the fuel could be in use in commercial aviation in three to five years, said Al Bryant, Boeing's vice president for research and technology in China. He said four test flights using biofuels have been flown successfully in the United States."
    • "Chinese companies have yet to decide which plants to use as a fuel source, but researchers are looking at algae and jatropha, a tree grown in south China that produces an oily nut, Bryant said."[21]
  • Cyanobacteria generate electricity under sunlight, 25 May 2010 in PLoS One: Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) can convert sunlight directly into electricity in a self-sustainable and CO2-free manner, according to a new research study published in the journal PLoS One.
    • Cyanobacteria grown on a special conductive surface deposited electrons to their surroundings when exposed to light.
    • Ongoing research in the laboratory of Ilia Baskakov at the University of Maryland seeks to reveal the biological components involved in this newly discovered form of environmental energy exchange. This knowledge can complement other algae bioenergy programs, such as the electrofuels initiative.
    • Full text article by John M. Pisciotta, Yongjin Zou and Ilia V. Baskakov is available here
  • Biofuels from algae plagued with problems, says review, 7 May 2010 by SciDevNet: "Hopes that algae could become a source of biodiesel that is friendly both to the environment and the poor may be premature, according to a review."
    • Algae feedstocks "have serious drawbacks that may mean they can never compete with other fuels, according to Gerhard Knothe, a research chemist with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service."
    • "When researching his paper, 'Production and Properties of Biodiesel from Algal Oils' which will be published by Springer in a book, currently in press, entitled Algae for Biofuels and Energy, he made "unexpected" findings, he said."
    • "Knothe found that 'many, if not most' of the biodiesel fuels derived from algae have 'significant problems' when it comes to their ability to flow well at lower temperatures ('cold flow') and they also degrade more easily than other biofuels."
    • "The principal hope for overcoming the problem," scientists said, "is through genetic engineering of algae so they yield oils with more useful properties."[22]
  • DOE juices biofuels industry with 13 “Electrofuels” grants, 30 April 2010 by Biofuels Digest: "In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it will award $106 million in ARPA-E funding for 37 research projects that produce advanced biofuels more efficiently from renewable electricity instead of sunlight; design completely new types of batteries to make electric vehicles more affordable; and remove the carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants in a more cost-effective way."
    • "According to the DOE, 'today’s technologies for making biofuels all rely on photosynthesis – either indirectly by converting plants to fuels or directly by harnessing photosynthetic organisms such as algae. This process is less than 1% efficient at converting sunlight to stored chemical energy. Instead, Electrofuels approaches will use organisms able to extract energy from other sources, such as solar-derived electricity or hydrogen or earth-abundant metal ions. Theoretically, such an approach could be more than 10 times more efficient than current biomass approaches.'" [23]
  • Obama touts ethanol as vital piece of rural economic recovery, 28 April 2010 by Ben Geman, The Hill:"Obama endorsed expanded ethanol production during a speech at a Macon, Missouri plant owned by POET, the country’s largest ethanol producer."
    • "Obama noted funding for ethanol projects and research in last year’s stimulus law, and also cited his interagency biofuels working group. The administration wants to see ethanol production tripled over the next 12 years, he said. "
    • "POET and other companies are also seeking to develop next-generation fuels made from materials such as crop wastes, algae and grasses."[24]
  • Hawaii crops, algae may get funded for military biofuel, 3 April 2010 by William Cole for the Honolulu Advertiser: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Navy are hoping to jumpstart the growth of crops and algae in Hawai'i that can be used for military fuel as part of an aggressive drive by the Pentagon to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and increase renewable energy sources."
    • "By 2016, the Navy wants to deploy a "Great Green Fleet" that will be powered entirely by alternative fuels, said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus during the signing of the Navy and Department of Agriculture agreement on Jan. 21."
    • "'Through alternative energy use, improved technological efficiencies and biofuel development,' Mabus said, 'we are going to improve the range and endurance of our ships and our aircraft, reduce their reliance on a vulnerable supply chain, and create a resistance to the external shocks that come from overreliance on a fragile global oil infrastructure.'"[25]
  • UK looks to produce 70bn litres of biofuel a year from pondlife, 19 March 2010 by ClickGreen staff: "The 'dream team' of eleven leading UK institutions was unveiled who will work together with the Carbon Trust to find a winning formula for cultivating 70 billion litres of algae biofuel a year by 2030."
    • "Algae has the potential to deliver 5 to 10 times more oil per hectare than conventional cropland biofuels and new Carbon Trust lifecycle analysis indicates that, over time, it could provide carbon savings of up to 80% compared to fossil fuel petrol and jet fuel."
    • "Production of 70 billion litres will require man-made algae ponds equivalent to a landmass larger than Wales to be built in optimum locations across the world. " [26]
  • Solazyme’s amazing algae, 18 March 2010 blog post by Marc Gunther: "Algae are so good at producing oil from sunlight and carbon dioxide that there are, by some accounts, as many as 200 companies trying to make biofuels from algae."
    • "Solazyme, a private company based in South San Francisco, stands out from the algae crowd, for a number of reasons....First, there’s the sheer variety of its products."
    • "Solazyme, unlike other startups, is 'producing large volumes of oils and fuels, and we have been for a while,' says its CEO, Jonathan Wolfson."
    • "Wolfson says:
      • 'Pretty much everyone in the space disagrees, but the conclusion that we drew is is that…algae is by far the best thing on the planet at making oil but it’s far less economically efficient at capturing photons than higher plants.
      • 'We take algae, we put them in a tank, we feed them biomass, they make oil and we take the oil out. There’s a lot of technology in the process, but that’s basically what’s happening.'"
    • "Keep in mind that algae’s a risky, crowded business. Sapphire Energy, a prominent competitor, got a $50 million DOE grant and a $54 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January to expand its commercial-scale pond operation in New Mexico. Meanwhile, GreenFuel, another algae startup which raised venture money and signed a commercial production deal, shut down last year."[27]
  • US Company Wins No. 1 Sustainable Biofuel Award in Europe, 17 March 2010 by CleanTechnica:"South San Francisco’s Solarzyme has just taken home the gold in the Sustainable Biofuels Technology category at the 2nd Annual Sustainable Biofuels Awards held in Amsterdam."
    • "Since its beginnings in 2003, Solayzme has produced the world’s first algal-based renewable diesel and the world’s first 100% algal-based jet fuel. It has also signed the largest production orders for commercial algae fuel contracts to date, supplying the U.S. Department of Defense with 21,500 gallons of fuel for Navy compatibility testing."
    • "In 2009, a field-to-wheels greenhouse gas life cycle test conducted by the Life Cycle Associates found that Solazyme’s algal biofuel, Soladiesel™, emits 85 to 93 percent less GHG emissions than standard petroleum based ultra-low sulfur diesel. But not just that. It also found that its biofuels result in a significantly lower carbon footprint than any currently available first-generation biofuel as well."[28]
  • DOE to Award Nearly $80 Million for Biofuels Research and Infrastructure, 20 January 2010 by EERE Network News: "DOE announced on January 13 its investment of nearly $80 million in advanced biofuels research and fueling infrastructure under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."
    • A majority of the money is going to, "two biofuels consortia that will seek to break down barriers to the commercialization of algae-based and other biofuels that can be transported and sold using the existing fueling infrastructure, including refineries and pipelines."
    • "In addition, the new infrastructure projects will allow the installation of new pumps and the retrofitting of existing pumps to dispense E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline."[30]


  • Exxon Sinks $600M Into Algae-Based Biofuels in Major Strategy Shift, 15 July 2009 by The New York Times: "Exxon is joining a biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc., to research and develop next-generation biofuels produced from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide by photosynthetic pond scum."
    • "Next-wave biofuels that could reduce carbon emissions and displace oil imports are politically popular but have not moved into commercial production as fast as supporters would have hoped. Biofuels overall got a boost through a 2007 law that expands the national renewable fuels standard, or RFS, to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022."
    • "Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the RFS expansion is too restrictive and could freeze out emerging technologies -- including algae-based biofuels....'despite having characteristics superior to any renewable fuels in commercial production today, [algae-based fuels] have no home in the RFS'".
  • Algae-based Biofuels Moving Ever So Slowly to Market, 15 June 2009 by Earth2Tech: "Algae-based biofuels hold enormous promise as an alternative transportation fuel, but investors had better have patience. Fuel made from algal feedstocks is forecast to reach commercial availability by 2012, according to a report released today by Pike Research on the global biofuels industry, but isn’t expected to have a significant effect on the market until 2016. Algae startups like Solazyme with aggressive production timelines, however, might disagree."
    • "Pike Research expects algae-based fuels to be the third key wave of next-generation transportation fuels in coming years, just after those based on waste greases hit the market followed by jatropha-based fuels."
    • "'Algae is the only feedstock that has the potential to replace the world’s demand for transportation fuels,' the report said."
    • "Of course, biofuel startups have been known to make aggressive claims about their growth trajectories, only to fall short once the realities of competitive fuel markets took hold. GreenFuel Technologies, a Cambridge, Mass.-based algal-derived fuel maker, had daring production estimates before it started struggling to raise funding. It went on to cut nearly half its staff and then finally closed down last month."[31]


  • Bacterium Gets Wheels Turning on Ethanol Fuel, 10 March 2009 by The Washington Post:
    • "A strain of bacteria accidentally found in the Chesapeake Bay more than 20 years ago -- a bug that decomposes everything from algae to newspapers to crab shells -- could help produce cheaper fuel, according to scientists at the University of Maryland."
    • "Some researchers now use a pretreatment that softens the plants, then another treatment to turn cellulose into sugar, then a fermentation that turns the sugar into alcohol. Several scientists said that if the U-Md. research could make this process faster and more efficient, it could produce serious savings." [32]
  • Continental to Test Flight Powered by Biofuel, 8 December 2008, by MSNBC:
    • "Continental Airlines Inc. said Monday it will test the use of a biofuel blend to power one of its jetliners on a flight that won't carry any passengers."
    • "Airlines are studying the use of alternative fuels to help deal with volatile jet fuel prices that spiked to record highs this summer, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."
    • "Continental said the plane on the Jan. 7 flight in Houston will use a special blend of half conventional fuel and half biofuel with ingredients derived from algae and jatropha plants." [33]
  • Algae-based oil would save 160m tonnes CO2, 24 October 2008 by "Algae-based transportation fuel could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by over 160 million tonnes, according to the Carbon Trust."
    • "The organisation has set up a funding initiative to boost research and development into algae biofuels with the aim of creating an alternative to fossil fuels by 2020."
    • "It has set up the Algae Biofuels Challenge, which it will fund with up to £6 million and will also have the backing and funding of the (U.K.) Department of Transport.
    • "According to the Carbon Trust, algae could produce between six and ten times more energy per hectare than conventional biofuel feedstocks, while generating just 20 per cent of the carbon emissions of fossil fuels."[34]
  • Saline County Missouri Approves $141 Million Revenue Bonds for Alternative Energy, 31 July 2008 by iStockAnalyst: "Green Star Products, Inc. (OTC:GSPI) today announced that EcoAlgae USA, LLC, has received a signed resolution from Saline County Missouri commissioners to construct a commercial Algae Production Facility in conjunction with an Integrated Biorefinery Complex."
    • "EcoAlgae USA will contract with Green Star's Associated Consortium of Companies to construct the Algae-to-Biodiesel and Next Generation Waste-to-Energy Complex."[36]



  • XL Biorefinery - A new generation biorefinery combines a dairy operation with a bioufels plant and fractionation mill to produce renewable biofuels, quality animal feeds, and milk products. They currently use corn as a feedstock but are developing an algae to biofuels component.


  • Algal Biomass Organization - ABO is a not-for-profit organization that "promotes the development of viable commercial markets for renewable and sustainable commodities derived from microalgae."[37]


See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.




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Algae edit
Algae for bioenergy
Events: International Workshop on Sustainable Bioenergy from Algae
Bioenergy feedstocks edit

Biodiesel feedstocks:
Currently in use: Animal fat | Castor beans | Coconut oil | Jatropha | Jojoba | Karanj | Palm oil | Rapeseed | Soybeans | Sunflower seed | Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)
Currently in research and development: Algae | Halophytes (Salt-tolerant plants)

Ethanol feedstocks:
First-generation: Cassava | Corn | Milo | Nypa palm | Sorghum | Sugar beets | Sugar cane | Sugar palm |Sweet potato | Waste citrus peels | Wheat | Whey
Second-generation: For cellulosic technology - Grasses: Miscanthus, Prairie grasses, Switchgrass | Trees: Hybrid poplar, Mesquite, Willow

Charcoal feedstocks: Bamboo | Wood
Waste-to-energy (MSW)

Bioenergy conversion technologies edit
Technologies categorized by bioenergy processes:

Biochemical: Aerobic, Anaerobic, Landfill gas collection (LFG), Biodiesel production, Ethanol production
Thermochemical: Combustion, Gasification, Pyrolysis, Depolymerization

Technologies categorized by feedstock:
Algae | Cellulosic technology

Technologies by commercialization status:

Analysis of technologies: Life-cycle analysis


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