Industry Market Trends

Algae to Become the Big Guns of Biofuel

Nov 10, 2010

As we previously reported, there is a lot of research and development behind algae this year and for good reason. The promise of algae biofuel process itself offers two highly sought after benefits; the capture and conversion of carbon dioxide to offset  polluting and the production of other products like low emissions biodiesel and fertilizers. Companies like PetroAlgae, Algae.Tec and Solazyne are securing major bucks to figure out a way to produce algae on a commercial level. Now comes word from The Associated Press that the U.S. government and military are taking their algae plans to the next level. Here's more from The Associated Press:

While it may sound far-fetched, the U.S. Navy in September ordered more than 150,000 gallons of ship and jet fuel from Solazyme and the company received a $21.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy last year to build a new refinery in Riverside, Penn., to help push production to commercial levels.

"Most of the planet is producing some kind of plant matter, even in the oceans," said Jonathan Wolfson, the CEO and co-founder of Solazyme. "(Our) unique microbial conversion technology process allows algae to produce oil in standard industrial fermentation facilities quickly, efficiently and at commercial scale."

So what's the big rush to get more military vehicles up-and-running on algae? The U.S. military hopes to run 50 percent of its fleet on a mixture of renewable fuels and nuclear power by 2020. Apparently, the Department of Defense has been investing in companies like Solazyme to help jump-start the young industry. In addition, the U.S. military uses more than 90 percent of the energy consumed by the federal government, officials said. To that end, algae is a sensible, cost effective and environmentally friendly choice. And while the results from early tests with Solazyme's algae fuel is promising, that nagging doubt of having enough on hand persists. Here's more from The Associated Press:

The U.S. Navy has already tested Solazyme's algae fuels on part of its fleet, with promising results, and plans to have its entire non-nuclear fleet tested by the end of 2012. For the Navy to achieve its 50 percent goals alone, production of algae and other renewable fuels will have to increase exponentially. Hicks said the Navy will need 8 million barrels of renewable fuels in 2020 to achieve its goals.

Sounds to me like algae will become a major player in the biofuels market, especially if the military is able to mass-produce it in an efficient, cost-effective manner.