An Arizona energy company is betting big on algae. PetroSun Biofuels has opened a commercial algae-to-biofuels farm on the Texas Gulf Coast near scenic
Harlington Harlingen Texas. The farm is a 1,100 acre network of saltwater ponds, 20 acres of which will be dedicated to researching and developing an environmental jet fuel.
PetroSun's gameplan is to extract algal oil on-site at the farms and transport it to company bideisel refineries via barge, rail or truck. The company plans to open more farms in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia in 2008.
Of all the options for future jet biofuel production, algae is considered one of the most viable. It yields 30 times more energy per acre than its closest competitor, and requires neither fresh water, arable land used for cultivation, or consumable food, giving it an advantage over ethanol. PetroSun asserts that an area the size of Maryland could produce enough algae biofuel to satisfy the entire fuel requirements of the United States.
Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, the once skeptical Boeing is now said to be working with alternative fuel developers from around the world to accelerate alternatives to jet fuel, which at $110 a barrel is threatening to sink the major airlines. Continental has said that it will conduct a biofuel test flight next year, the first US airline to do so. Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic flew a 747 partially powered by coconut and babassu oil. In addition to its commercial applications, PetroSun says, somewhat cryptically, that it is also working with a "government laboratory" to co-develop an algae-based fuel for military use.
Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., the CEO of PetroSun, is quoted as saying that the company's success is a combination of a superior technological approach, sheer luck, and a "redneck can-do attitude."