March 31, 2008

Aquaflow steps up algae-to-biocrude project

NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand-based Aquaflow Bionomic Corp. is about to start producing biocrude from wild algae. Aquaflow Chairman Barrie Leay said the company expects to produce commercial quantities of biocrude from wild algae within the next few months. "We have commissioned our newly built proprietary biorefinery and made our first machine run," he said.

Aquaflow's technology focuses on harvesting algae from industrial waste streams. During the harvesting, the contaminants in the water are removed together with the algae collected for biocrude production. The technology is touted as a twofold solution providing both a water and sludge treatment process and a means to generate a low-cost feedstock for conversion to fuel.

The company has achieved commercial scale continuous harvesting of tonnes of wild algae at the Marlborough oxidation ponds, Leay said. The next step is to step up to the commercial scale production of biocrude, he said.

Algae BioFuel On Sale Soon

Written by Hank Green Sunday, 30 March 2008

Just last week I was gushing about all of the press algae biofuel had been getting, and without even a single company with a commercial scale plant online.

Well, apparently folks could smell the green sludge on the horizon because Green Fuel Technologies just announced they had begun construction of their commercial scale algae plant while PetroSun announced they'd be taking their pilot algae farm commercial on April 1st.

Now, this obviously isn't ethanol, with millions of gallons of production...or even cellulosic ethanol, with a wood-waste to fuel plant ready to go online this year, but it is a big deal.

It's a big deal because algae don't just create energy from the sun...they create energy from the sun more effectively than anything else save photovoltaic panels. And, as you may have guessed, they're a heck of a lot cheaper than photovoltaic panels. Green Fuel Technologies is adding another environmental advantage, planning to hook their algae bioreactors up to the smoke stacks from power plants.

So the algae will be using the sun to turned burned fuel back into fuel. Theoretically, this could become a closed loop. Burn Fuel...feed exhaust to algae...harvest algae for fuel...burn fuel...etc.

PetroSun's facility on the other hand, has 1,100 acres of open ponds growing algae in Texas. Open ponds are cheaper, but it's more difficult to control which species of algae are growing, so less productive strains often take over. Also, you can't feed your crop with CO2 straight from a power plant.

Via Gas 2.0 and GreenTech Media

March 25, 2008

PetroSun to launch algae to biofuels operation

USA: Scottsdale, Arizona-based PetroSun, Inc. will commence operations on April 1 at its first commercial algae-to-biofuels facility. The algae farm in Rio Hondo, Texas, consists of 1,100 acres of saltwater ponds that the company projects will produce a minimum of 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million pounds of biomass on an annual basis.

The company has dedicated 20 acres of ponds for a proposed algae derived JP8 jet fuel research and development program.

The Rio Hondo algae farm will be expanded in the future to provide the feedstock required by present or proposed company owned or joint venture biodiesel and ethanol refineries.

PetroSun plans to construct or acquire additional plants in the Gulf Coast region that are reachable via barge up the Mississippi River and its tributaries including the Red River. The previously announced Bridgeport, Alabama, refinery will receive algal oil feedstock from this distribution program. New algae farms and algal oil extraction plants are planned for Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mexico, Brazil and Australia during 2008. The algal oil product will be marketed as feedstock to existing biodiesel refiners and planned company owned refineries.

"Our business model has been focused on proving the commercial feasibility of the firm's algae-to-biofuels technology during the past eighteen months," said Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., CEO of PetroSun. "Whether we have arrived at this point in time by a superior technological approach, sheer luck or a redneck can-do attitude, the fact remains that microalgae can outperform the current feedstocks utilized for conversion to biodiesel and ethanol, yet do not impact the consumable food markets or fresh water resources."

PetroSun's operations include oil and gas exploration, development and production and algae-to-algal oil alternative fuels production. The oil and gas division is focused on the exploration of the Holbrook Basin of Arizona, the San Juan Basin of New Mexico and certain Australia prospects. The company also is developing oil and gas reserves in Louisiana.

UNH researchers pursue algae in hopes to make fuel consumption greener

Amanda Flitter

In a corner of Morse Hall 103, surrounded by foil-lined cardboard and fluorescent lights, looms a glass container of green liquid. The green liquid churns as bubbles float up to burst at the surface. Two beakers containing samples of the green liquid are connected to machines by clear tubes that weave and curl their way out of the stoppered tops.

The set-up seems like a scaled-down version of a mad scientist's lab, but the boiling contents of the container, called a bioreactor, could be the key to the next step in alternative energy. That is because the green liquid is full of algae, the microscopic plant that is the new poster child for biodiesel production.

"It's definitely an alternative source of energy we should be looking into," said Thad Webster, a junior who works in the lab. "If algae can grow and produce more in worse conditions [than food crops], we should utilize that."

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, which is composed of fatty acids and glycerin. In order to make it, alcohol is added to vegetable oil to break apart the fatty acids and the glycerin. The alcohol then combines with the fatty acids and the glycerin settles out, leaving pure biodiesel. The advantage of biodiesel is it burns cleaner and can easily be substituted for regular diesel. It is also carbon neutral, which means all carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning it is taken up by the next generation of biodiesel crops during photosynthesis. However, biodiesel has generated controversy due to the ethical dilemma of using large quantities of food crops, like soybeans and corn, for its production. In some countries, farmers are paid more to sell their crops for biodiesel production than for food due to high demand for biofuels in Europe and the United States. The food crops are then scarcer, driving up prices and as a result, poor people go hungry.

"It's creating this ethical dilemma now of do you use the land to make food or energy?" said chemical engineering professor Ihab Farag.

In addition to ethical problems, there is the practical problem of the amount of crops needed for large-scale biodiesel production. Farag said one acre of soybeans could produce 60 gallons of biodiesel; it would take 20,000 acres of soybeans to generate 1 million gallons of biodiesel. Annually, the United States uses about 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year.

Farag said substituting all the United States' diesel with crop-based biodiesel is "unrealistic."

Algae, however, could hypothetically make these issues obsolete.

One acre of algae generates 5,000 to 15,000 gallons of biodiesel, according to Farag. However, algae do not need arable land to survive; only a pool of nutrient-rich water is needed. This solves the ethical land use problem. Also, algae grow in a week, compared to 6 to 9 months for corn.

In order to grow enough algae to replace all diesel used in the United States, an area half the size of Texas would be needed, according to Farag.

"It's still a big area, but not as huge as we were talking about [with food crops]," he said. Since algae thrive in a carbon-rich environment, he said, municipal wastewater would be an ideal nutrient source. The algae would take up the carbon, cleaning the waste water by absorbing the nutrients it needs.

Algae could also be used to scrub power plant emissions. Jason Ouellette, a junior who works in the lab, said a coal plant could bubble its carbon dioxide rich emissions through water, growing algae for biodiesel while cleaning its emissions.

The first step in growing algae in the lab is placing them in beakers, where they are given light, air and nutrients. When they are mature enough, they are moved to a larger photo bioreactor, which bubbles air through a nutrient rich solution. As the algae grow, they produce the oil needed for biodiesel. The oil is extracted by breaking the algae cells using a machine called a cell disruptor.

No biodiesel has been produced from the algae so far. Ben Chiang, a sophomore who works in the lab, said they are trying to find the conditions that will yield maximum oil production. So far, he said, they have tried two different types of algae and are testing different kinds of water, such as freshwater, saltwater and pond water. They are now bubbling house air through the photo bioreactor, but he said they hope to get a carbon dioxide drip to bubble through.

Farag said there are many challenges facing algae research, including the issue of secrecy. He said the person who perfects algae for biodiesel could make a lot of money, so groups are keeping research under wraps.

"We're not taking advantage of knowing what others are doing," he said.

He also said there is concern that oil companies will resist the new algae technology.

However, Farag is hopeful about biodiesel's future. He said producing biodiesel here in the United States would cut down on imports and create jobs within the country, and using it would help clean up the air.

"Biodiesel is here to stay," he said. "I would hope people would look at it in a positive way."

Meanwhile, Farag and his students carefully tend the algae in hopes of creating fuel for the future.

"I'm hoping we'll see this in an actual plant," Farag said, watching the algae churn.

March 24, 2008

Researchers hope algae might help solve oil crisis

By Brian Maffly

Some species of algae - yes, the green slimy stuff that accumulates on ponds - hold rich stores of oil, rendering them a source of alternative fuel. The growth on the surface, however, shades the algae beneath, thereby impeding biomass growth and thwarting algae's potential usefulness.
With USTAR funding, Utah State University has hired researchers to crack this problem so algae aquaculture can become a viable alternative to crude oil for the production of liquid motor fuels - an alternative that holds huge advantages over corn used in ethanol production.
"Look at the Midwest. We have food and fuel competing for the same natural resources, causing corn prices to go up and we're looking farther afield into less fertile land," says Jeff Muhs, an optics innovator recently hired from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. USTAR's biofuels campaign joins elements from three USU colleges - agriculture, science and engineering - to address the alternative puzzle.
"To solve the problems of today, you need these different disciplines," says Ned Weinshenker, USU's vice president for strategic ventures and economic development.
"On biofuels, we want to focus on technologies that won't use existing food sources," he continues.
Joining Muhs on the biofuels research is Sridhar Viamajala, a chemical engineer USU recruited from the Department of Energy's National
Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Leveraging Viamajala's expertise in feedstock technologies, the team will identify the strains of algae with the best energy potential, then develop a growing media that speeds growth and maximizes oil content.
"In our layer designs, we're figuring out how to get the sunlight deeper into the algae through interesting optical approaches," Muhs says. "We can increase biomass. We're fielding inquiries one a day from companies interested in teaming with us."
To make this optics-based approach
cost-effective, the team hopes to develop a use for the light not needed by the algae. Muhs is working on a two-step optical process that splits the spectrum, directing one stream to the algae and diverting the infrared spectrum - the longer waves beyond visible light - to photovoltaic devices for electrical generation.
This technology could offer a double benefit of reducing our dependence on fossil oil and curbing greenhouse emissions. The USU team's target is to achieve annual yields of 8,000 gallons of oil per acre. By contrast, a traditional crop such as soy yields only 100 gallons. According to one DOE projection, algae could replace all the petroleum consumed in the United States on an area not much larger than Maryland. With such potential, the field of algae fuels is catching fire.
"Our niche is an ability to manipulate the life systems of algae to improve yield and co-produce electricity," Muhs says.

March 19, 2008

Farmers High on Soy, BiodieselMakers Not so Much, Brazil and S.A. Boom, Alabama Gets Texas Oil

The economics of soybean oil for biodiesel has committed market suicide. Even with rising gas (and diesel) prices, it is nearly impossible to make a profit from biodiesel production with soy oil as the feedstock. At least that is the conclusion of someone a lot closer to the ground than I am. The Farmers' Guardian published a story dated March 14, 2008 saying, "Two years ago soy oil was in the low 20s (cents per pound),"" says Ed Ulch, a soybean farmer from Solon, Iowa. ""Now it´s 52 cents per pound. The break-even price for these biodiesel plants is 43 cents.""

Now, in truth, I don't necessarily subscribe to the above stated conclusions, but considering other feedstocks (as the story goes on to discuss, including using rapeseed (canola), animal fats and waste fryer grease) is an essential strategy for survival of the many biodiesel production facilities that are still springing up like toadstools all around the world. Indeed, biodiesel producers have to realize that even if they find a much cheaper feedstock today, the demand for their product is rising so fast that the primary feedstock of tomorrow will rapidly rise in price, too, in all likelihood. By all means we need to turn more attention (and quickly, I might add) to jatropha, neam, and perhaps even cellulosic biodiesel (umm, I think that one would be one we'd have to call "synthetic diesel" according to the technical definitions that exist today). But beyond that, we need to turn our eyes (again, rapidly) toward the one biological source that appears to hold the most promise, which is algae.

On the other hand, the evidence is in that at least some biodiesel facilities are grinding to a halt as a result of the rising price of soy oil. The Albert Lea Tribune (in Minnesota) reports that the Board of Governors of SoyMor Biodiesel LLC are suspending the production of biodiesel at this time in hopes of preserving the longer term health of the company that employs 30 people. This source quotes soy oil pricing this way: "The Chicago Board of Trade closing price Friday for March soybean oil was 62 cents per pound; January soybean oil closed at 64 cents." Which a SoyMor spokesman called 10 cents too high to be viable. (Seems that the SoyMor spokesman and Mr Ulch, at least, can agree.) Yet they remain optimistic in the true tradition of mid-Western farm communities. Board Chairman Gary Pestorius, is also quoted as saying, "High prices cure high prices."

Clearly there are signs that businesses still have faith that soy can be a viable route for biodiesel. In South Africa, EngineeringNews (of South Africa) reports a R1.5 billion (US$213 million) biodiesel plant has been announced, claiming expected operational date some time in late 2009. Investors in this company are mainly from Australia, and have not yet sold an interest [as required by law] to South Africans, but, "Rainbow Nation Renewable Fuels (RNRF) was in the "final stages" of applying for a licence from government to produce 288-million litres a year of biodiesel from a R1.5-billion plant it was building at Coega in the Eastern Cape." Although the company has targeted domestic crops of soy from the South African nation as their eventual feedstock, they anticipate that they will initially be importing much of the required 250,000 tonnes a year since the entire domestic soybean crop is approximately just 300,000 tonnes per year according to the Engineering News report.

Another company, LG Biodiesel has announced what, "they believe is a first in South Africa, a fully self contained and mobile Biodiesel manufacturing unit." It may well be the first in South Africa, but there are numerous versions available around the world. However, "the news" IS what you can get reported, so I guess it is newsworthy, or at least the price of R80,000 (which is just US$10,000) does seem like it might be viable for the purpose for which it was intended, which is to provide locally generated fuel for local electric generation in "off grid" remote locations. Provided local farmers are willing to grow the oil crops necessary, this really is likely to be the long term hope for eco-friendly modernization in much of Africa. While these mobile, trailer mounted units can provide fuel to power electric generators in isolated regions, they could also be used to accelerate development of villages as suburbs of the larger metropolitan regions too, temporarily extending the reach of electric services in advance of the arrival of a more interconnected power grid. There are those, too, who see the future of electric power as residing in distributed generation capabilities in general, and the addition of "smart grid" architecture is a hot topic in Europe at the moment.

Reportedly Brazil is considering advancing the target date of B5 manadatory blending to 2010. The report from Rio de Janeiro says (via the Estado newswire service, according to the website, which came from the Dow Jones newswire service)(sorry, I like to have more direct resources, but although I am sometimes re-published in Brazil, I don't read Portuguese myself) Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao wants to push up the starting lines for 3% biodiesel blends as a mandatory regulation for Brazil as early as July this year, with another increment to 4% next year before the 5% in 2010. According to this story, the country now consumes 840 million liters with the current regulations that require all diesel to be blended at least as B2 (2% biodiesel), so that would boost domestic consumption to 1260 million liters per year. The Minister indicated that this level was not a problem for the country since current capacity it to produce 2.5 billion liters per year, which, according to my math says that they could theoretically bump that up to 5% immediately without creating a shortage.

Ah, but THEN the newswire story goes on to say that: "Much of Brazil's biodiesel output capacity lies idle, however, due to high prices of raw materials, such as soy oil." You see? I told you.

Ah, BUT, that's not the whole picture, and as I suggested above, let's now turn our eyes to algae.

Last month PetroSun BioFuels, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroSun, Inc. (Other OTC:PSUD.PK - News), acquired an 87.5% ownership interest in Fleet Biodiesel, Inc. located in Bridgeport, Alabama. This facility is located with access to the Kentucky river, and is currently producing at about an annual rate of 720,000 gallons according to the news release from Petrosun. Now, if everybody else is moaning and groaning about biodiesel being squeezed out of the market by rising soy prices, what does Petrosun know that everybody else does not?

Petrosun has also (and more recently) announced that they are opening a facility near South Padre Island (South East of Houston, TX), that will be producing algae, and from that, algal oil. Indeed, production plans for the Bridgeport facility are to boost production to 2.4 million gallons per year, using algal oil. The open pond method being employed by Petrosun allows them to get started with a huge facility (well, huge compared to anything anyone else in the continental United States is operating currently) (to the best of my knowledge, though if you know about one that is larger, please tell me about it). The photo at the top of this article shows some of the ten acre open pond cultivation areas, in full bloom on the left and not active on the right.

Petrosun says they expect to be operational by April 1st, 2008. The "farm" as they call it has 94 ponds of five acre size and 63 ponds of ten acre size on the 1,831 acre site. By Petrosun's calculation that is 1,100 acres under "cultivation" in the ponds. With their commitment to the Bridgeport facility I don't know how much oil they will have left over, but their press release tantalizingly promised, "PetroSun will conduct algae-to-jet fuel and algae-to-bioplastics research and development projects." If that's true, I applaud their aim, and will look forward to meeting and talking with them.

I don't know where I found the self-restraint to avoid mentioning politics this week, except that it is already Tuesday, and I still haven't submitted this to my editors, so, I will postpone politics and entertainment "bon mots" until next time.


Stafford "Doc" Williamson

p.s. Oh, yes, part of the reason I have been so slow getting this week's musings together is that I have been working on a government bid, and revamping my "printer supply" shop at , where prices are better than ever to the public and the corporate and government trade has been isolated out of sight (more or less).

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March 18, 2008

Researchers: Algae may be miracle fuel of future

By Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - "Pond scum" biodiesel? There are plenty of nicknames for algae, but it is one of the more plentiful natural crops in the world, and now it is being considered as a potential fuel source.

Oregon State University researchers are working to find an efficient method of processing algae to produce biodiesel fuel and ethanol.

Technology to mass-produce algae and extract its oils could be five to 10 years in the future, but the advantages would be worth the wait, says Ganti Murthy, an assistant professor of biological and ecological engineering.

"In a closed growing system," Murthy said, "algae require 99 percent less water than any other crop."

Algae can be found nearly everywhere, and it does not require a choice between food and fuel, such as converting corn into ethanol does.

"Algae can be grown using wastewater and in areas that cannot support agriculture," Murthy said.

Varieties of the organism have been found flourishing in fresh and salt water and all kinds of environments, from the Arctic to tropical areas.

Algae also are highly productive compared with conventional crops. For example, a productivity model estimates that 48 gallons of biodiesel can be produced from an acre of soybeans. Algae could produce 819 gallons in a single acre, and theoretically as much as 5,000 gallons.

One of algae's most remarkable qualities is that it can thrive on greenhouse gases from industry and coal-fired electrical generating plants. Waste carbon dioxide can be piped to algae ponds, where the gas is a necessary ingredient for growth and can even accelerate it by up to 30 percent.

Murthy has built two small experimental photobioreactors to grow microscopic algae in a closed system at OSU's Sustainable Technologies Laboratory in Corvallis.

The reactors are simple plastic cylinders that have advantages over an open-pond system in greater productivity, reduced contamination and better control of growth.

It takes about three weeks for the algae, combined with light, water, carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients, to multiply and turn the water green.

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Will Petrosun's Algae Biodiesel Grow on Investors?

by Tom Konrad

Celluslosic Ethanol is all the rage. A less noticed, but significant "Biofuel 2.0" is biofuel based on algae.

Follow the Biomass

As I have consistently argued (see these recent articles on John Deere, Biogas, Cellulosic Ethanol vs Biomass Electricity, and Renewable or Green Diesel) the people most likely to make money from biofuel are not the processors and distributors (who compete directly with petroleum or other fossil fuel-based products, and so have little pricing power), but the producers of feedstock, which, like oil, is in very limited supply, and so they will have pricing power.

When it comes to converting sunlight into biomass, algae is the most productive type of plant. According to this chart from Five Star Consultantsfivestar.bmp , Biodiesel from algae has the potential to produce enough fuel to drive a Prius-type car 370,000 miles per acre per year (MAY), compared to 2,000 to 31,000 MAY for conventional biodiesel crops, while ethanol from switchgrass could produce 32,500 MAY. Furthermore, some strains of algae are as much as 40% oil by weight, leading to the hope of a large supply of oil which is much easier to convert into biodiesel than it is to ferment even corn (let alone cellulosic biomass) into ethanol.

With an order-of magnitude advantage, it would seem that algae is the green wave of the future, and actually so productive that it could produce enough biomass feedstock for us to continue to drive our SUVs with our current reckless abandon.

Theoretically, biodiesel produced from algae appears to be the only feasible solution today for replacing petro-diesel completely... In practice however, biodiesel has not yet been produced on a wide scale from algae, though large scale algae cultivation and biodiesel production appear likely in the near future (4-5 years). -

Ponds or Reactors?

There are two basic approaches to growing algae: open pond and closed reactor. The open pond method, which is what Petrosun Drilling (OTC:PSUD) recently announced they are pursuing, involves growing the algae in open ponds of water, much like it grows in nature. Open ponds are clearly quite cheap, but they require a reliable supply of water to replenish that lost from evaporation (making them impractical in all but the wettest parts of the country (Petrosun's first farm will be on the Texas coast, and use saltwater, which helps with this problem.) The lack of temperature and weather control can further decrease yields from the theoretical potential.

The other problem with open ponds is that it is impossible to keep other types of algae (a.k.a. weeds) out, meaning that high percentages of oil in the final crop will be impossible to attain. This means that biofuel produced from pond algae will require much more extensive processing to be turned into fuel. It's easy to grow pond scum, but turning it into something useful is harder.

The other option is the algae bioreactor, one type of which (from Solix biofuels) was referenced in the chart above. The Solix technology uses closed plastic bags agitated by rollers, has climate control with the use of controlled radiative cooling, and uses concentrated carbon dioxide emissions to enhance algal growth. (The best description of the technology is at Algae @ Work, a company which was started by Solix's former CTO seeking to apply the technology to carbon capture.)

To me the bioreactor approach (Solix's technology is only one version) seems most likely to achieve the promise of extremely high yields, and even that is not without problems. Large scale bioreactors are complex systems. As such, they will be expensive and take great efforts to move from the lab to commercial scale.

Ken Regelson, the author of the chart above, and he believes that Solix does not have "a prayer of achieving their expected yields per acre" but that he used the number from Solix because he has yet to get authoritative numbers from anyone else.

What about Petrosun?

I wrote this article because readers wanted to know about Petrosun DrillingPSUD), an oil exploration company that has been promoting their algaebiodiesel efforts since September. Other than Petrosun, the only public companies I know of which are seriously looking into algae based biodiesel are large conglomerates: Boeing (BA), Chevron (CVX), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A) and Honeywell (HON), which can take the long view and have large research budgets to finance their efforts for as long as it takes. If you click through the company names to the news stories, you will note the common theme: These are all research stage projects. (OTC:

Petrosun has not filed even an unaudited quarterly report since March 2007. Given that it is also promoting exciting technology, I detect the whiff of snake oil salesmen. Although readers are clearly interested in this company, until they begin to file current information, I don't consider it worth my time to investigate further. Petrosun's main product is much more likely to be snake oil than algae oil.

Even if Petrosun does execute on its algae farms, will there be any first mover advantage? It seems unlikely to me; growing algae in open saltwater ponds will depend on access to suitable land near coastlines... later entrants who can acquire suitable land should be able to produce algae just as efficiently as Petrosun, since they do not seem to have any special technology or expertise. After all, the company is simply an unsuccessful oil exploration company with a algae farm division.

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OSU develops biodiesel from algae

USA: The Oregon State University (OSU) is working on a new process that could draw up to 60 percent oil from an algae farm, as part of a project to develop biodiesel from the world's most plentiful organism.

Assistant Professor Ganti Murthy, the lead researcher behind the project, has two small photobioreactors built to grow microscopic algae of both fresh water and salt water varieties in a closed system at the OSU Sustainable Technologies Laboratory.

The algae take about three weeks to multiply and turn the water green. The photobioreactors hold about six gallons of water and produce about 0.17 pounds of algae with each batch.

"Depending on the algae growth conditions, we can usually extract 20 to 30 percent oil from it, and up to 60 percent is possible," he said.

The primary focus of the OSU lab is to discover efficient ways to extract the oils, also called lipids, and process them into bio-diesel fuel and ethanol, with fertilizer and animal feed as co-products.

The biggest challenge, according to Murthy, is separating water from the micro algae he is testing - Chlorella and Dunaliella - which must continually be mixed with carbon dioxide and light as they grow. A combination of straining and centrifuging is the current method of extraction.

Algae is touted as a promising next generation biodiesel feedstock for its potential capacity to reduce carbon emissions. The OSU researchers said algae breeds 30 percent faster when fed with carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

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Report: GreenFuel gets $92M to build first plant

Algal bioreactor maker GreenFuel Technologies Corp. has reached an agreement to build an algae-based fuel plant in Europe, according to a report on website Xconomy. The project, according to the report, which cites an anonymous source close to the company, is valued at $92 million.

Further details of the project weren't available but, if built, the plant would be Cambridge-based GreenFuel's first commercial plant, after building smaller scale test plants in Arizona and other locations, according to company documents.

It is also a major step for a firm working its way back from the brink. Last spring, the company was forced to scale back its operations after new funding failed to come through and the Arizona project yielded some unexpected results. At the time, CEO Cary Bullock stepped down, but remained with the company, while board member and investor Bob Metcalfe, of 3Com Corp. fame, took the helm as interim CEO. At the time, the company also brought in a bridge round of funding worth $5.5 million.

Founded in 2001 by former MIT researcher Isaac Berzin -- who is now the company's CTO -- GreenFuel's technology uses algae to mitigate both nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, key components in greenhouse gas emissions, from flue gas emissions in power plants burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

The company has raised more than $17 million in venture funding from Polaris Venture Partners (where Metcalfe is a partner), Access Industries and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

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PetroSun algae farm to begin operation April 1

By Jerry W. Kram

Web exclusive posted March 18, 2008 at 2:21 p.m. CST

The nation’s first commercial-scale, open-pond algae farm to produce oil as a biodiesel feedstock will begin operating near South Padre Island, Texas, on April 1. PetroSun Biofuels Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroSun Inc., will operate the farm, which is located on the site of a former shrimp farm, according to Jim LeCrone, chief operating officer of PetroSun Biofuels.

The facility currently has 94 five-acre ponds and 63 10-acre ponds totaling 1,100 acres of growing space on the 1,831-acre site. “The farm will give us a step into immediate large-scale production and extraction of the algal oil,” LeCrone said. “This is a quick start because the ponds are there and ready to go. This will be like a giant pilot plant for us, showing us how to do this on a much larger scale.” The open-pond system will use salt water, which implies a marine species of algae, but LeCrone wouldn’t confirm that.

The site has preexisting ponds, offices, labs and a building, which will allow the company to get the site up and running quickly. “If you go out and try to develop a farm, the first and foremost thing is the cost of the land,” LeCrone said. “You want to go where the land is cheap and you won’t be messing up the environment. The nice thing about this setup is that the land is there, and it has already been developed. We won’t have that learning curve to go through, and permitting will be easier. It makes the whole process much easier, so we can get started.” If the algae farm is successful, there are surrounding areas available for expansion.

PetroSun Biofuels is moving rapidly to create a widespread network of algae farms around the world, forming subsidiaries in Mexico, Brazil and Australia. It has also announced plans to build additional farms in several U.S. states. The company has entered a joint venture with Optimum Biofuels LLC to develop a biorefinery in Arizona and has purchased a 50 percent interest in Fleet Biodiesel Inc., which is acquiring an existing biodiesel facility in Bridgeport, Ala. Some of the algae oil produced in Texas may go to the Alabama facility. “They are using a different type of feedstock right now, but [in the] long term, that is a possibility,” LeCrone said. “We are building a facility in Coolidge, Ariz., and that will also be a customer. We are also talking with potential customers in Louisiana.”

LeCrone said tests conducted at the PetroSun Biofuels pilot algae farm in Opelika, Ala., showed oil production between 5,000 and 8,000 gallons per acre per year. He said challenges with extracting the algae from the water and the oil from the algae were overcome at the pilot facility. “All of the technology was developed at Opelika over the last year,” he said. “We have a process that is totally different than what anyone else has been doing. We can’t divulge what that process is, but we don’t have a problem with any of those things.” After extraction, the residual algae biomass can be made into ethanol or other products.

After the oil is extracted on-site using a proprietary process, it will be shipped to company-owned or joint-venture biodiesel production facilities. “We can ship by land, sea or rail, so this site is pretty nice that way,” he said.

PetroSun will conduct jet fuel and bioplastics research and development projects supported by the supply of oil from the operation.

An aerial view of the algae farm can be found at

Aquaflow tipped for Air NZ biofuel flight

by Fiona Robertson

Biodiesel firm Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation has appointed an aviation engineer to a new consulting position, lending weight to speculation that the company’s algae-based fuel will power Air New Zealand’s biofuel test flight.

Des Ashton runs his own Blenheim-based aviation consultancy, Ashton Technologies, and was previously chief executive of Port Marlborough.

His role will be as a consultant to lead operational development, in particular aviation projects.

The first biofuel-powered plane trip was made just last month by a Virgin aeroplane using nut-derived fuel.

At the time, Virgin boss Richard Branson told media that Air New Zealand would be the first airline to trial a “next-generation” algae-based fuel later this year.

Nelson-based Aquaflow has developed its biofuel from sewage algae and has already test-driven its fuel in land vehicles.

Air New Zealand is partnering with Boeing and Rolls Royce in its biofuel project, though it has not confirmed what fuel will be used.

GreenFuel lands big deal for algae fuel plant

GreenFuel Technologies has reached an agreement to build an algae-to-fuel plant in Europe, which could be worth as much as $92 million, according to a report.

Xconomy on Friday reported the deal, saying that it was apparently brokered by former CEO Cary Bullock who was replaced by Bob Metcalf last year in a company shake-up.

GreenFuel has developed a bioreactor that grows algae from the carbon dioxide emissions of power plants. The algae is harvested and turned into different types of fuel--either biodiesel or biomass--that can be burned to make electricity.

The company ran into trouble last year when it found that its process was too expensive because it generated too much algae and required too much manual intervention.

The board replaced Bullock as CEO with interim CEO Metcalf, best known for his contribution to inventing Ethernet and who is now venture capitalist at Polaris Ventures.

The company is operating a pilot plant with the utility Arizona Public Service Company.

The reported deal comes after a few other biofuels companies have gained funding to expand toward commercial-scale plants.

On Friday, Range Fuels said it is has secured $100 million to build a gasification plant that will make ethanol from blue chips.

Also last week, ethanol company Coskata, which General Motors has invested in, was said to have landed $19 million to ramp up its operations.

Update 12:18 p.m. Pacific.In response to a query, GreenFuel's interim CEO Bob Metcalf said that the company can "neither confirm nor deny these rumors."

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Ex port chief to work with algae biodiesel company

Algae biodiesel developer Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation has appointed former Port Marlborough chief executive officer Des Ashton as a consultant.

Aquaflow is developing pioneering biodiesel technology using wild algae from the Blenheim sewage ponds.

The project received significant overseas interest after then Minister of Energy David Parker drove an unmodified standard Land Rover along the Wellington Motorway in December 2006, powered by Aquaflow bio-diesel.

The international interest has included inquiries from organisations keen to explore the fuel's potential for aviation purposes.

Mr Ashton runs his own Blenheim-based aviation consultancy, Ashton Technologies. He is also a director of Marlborough Lines and Cuddon Engineering.

Aquaflow director Nick Gerritsen said Mr Ashton brought considerable skill and experience to Aquaflow.

Mr Ashton, who has a Bachelor of Engineering degree, also held senior roles during his 24 years in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and retired as Wing Commander.

Australian-born Mr Ashton spent his early life living on airfields in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands where his father worked for CAA as a Flight Service officer.

He moved to New Zealand as a child and was educated at Auckland Grammar, Lindisfarne College, the University of Canterbury, RAF Cranwell and the RNZAF. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree.

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Green Star Products acquires algae license

By Bryan Sims

Chula Vista, Calif.-based research company Green Star Products Inc. acquired a license in late January to utilize a breakthrough processing technology that can convert algae oil and cellulose sugars into biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, respectively.

According to GSPI President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph LaStella, the process uses an efficient, low-cost method to extract the oil and cellulose sugars from oil-bearing microalgae. The novel technology also eliminates the need to mechanically dry and press-extract the algae oil. According to LaStella, approximately 80 percent of algae oil is comprised of carbohydrate-rich cellulose and hemicellulose that can be used to produce a variety of products, including biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. “GSPI, along with a handful of other high-tech companies, are leading the industry in algae commercialization,” he said. “However, there are two major hurdles to overcome: first, an efficient, affordable construction and processing method to control the environment to promote optimum algae growth; second, efficient harvesting and oil extraction from the microscopic algae biomass.”

GSPI secured the technology license from Biotech Research Inc., which developed the patent-pending process that continuously strips oil from the algae and breaks down the biomass into carbon-chain carbohydrates, proteins and other components.

GSPI’s licensing of the technology followed a successful testing trial at its hybrid algae production facility in Butte, Mont. Data collected from the 10,500-gallon demonstration facility revealed that the algae not only survived, but also managed to grow in severe Montana winter conditions. According to LaStella, the testing method had never been attempted nor accomplished by any other research organization.

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National algae group forms

The newly formed National Algae Association, based in The Woodlands, Texas, is providing a forum for researchers, producers and investors to advance the discussion and production of algae as a renewable energy source. Biodiesel producers are looking for other feedstock options due to the high cost of corn, soybean and vegetable oil feedstocks, said association founder Barry Cohen of Biofuel Capital Partners. Algae can grow in ponds or tubes, and is considered a low-cost, high-yield feedstock. An inaugural networking forum will be held in Texas on April 10. For more information, visit:

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