April 10, 2008

Company in El Paso Could be Farming the Fuel of the Future

Posted by Armando Saldivar, KDBC 4 News

A government report says retail gas prices could climb as high as $4.00 a gallon this summer, but over the past few years El Paso has become home to one of the most revolutionary ideas when it comes to alternative fuel.

There's no question, in the Lower Valley, farming and ranching can be big business, but one company is farming in a different way. It's the kind of farming that could be the answer to America's energy crisis. "It's the fastest growing plant on the planet. It sequesters more carbon dioxide than any other plant, and it converts it into useable lipids or oils" said Glen Kertz, President and CEO of Valcent Products. Those oils can then be converted into fuel.

It's a ten million dollar facility in El Paso that quickly and efficiently produces what, to us, is basically pond scum. A joint venture between Valcent and Global Green Solutions, they refer to the algae as Vertigro. "Each one of these has a different blend of those carbon chains. So if you're interested in making jet fuel, I can grow one kind of algae that produced the oils that are necessary to produce jet fuel. If you want to produce truck diesel, I grow a different type of algae to produce that type of carbon chain" said Kerts.

He also says other alternative fuel sources such as corn or palm can produce anywhere between 28 to 700 gallons per acre, a relatively small amount compared to Vertigro. "If I switch over to the algae though, and I don't do anything but just scrape the land off and put an open pond in, I can get somewhere between five and then thousand gallons of oil out of the algae"

El Paso is the perfect environment to grow it. "We have lots of open land, we have lots of sunshine" said Kertz. While it's still in it's research and developmental phase, Kertz says vertigro could be used commercially within the next two to five years.

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