Sapphire’s Algae Project Picked for China Eco Program

Sapphire1Sapphire Energy has been picked to partner with China’s Sinopec’s to produce algae-derived renewable crude oil. This statement from Sapphire says it’s part of the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships program, one of six new U.S.-China partnerships that promote cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese companies that work on clean energy, climate change, and environmental protections.

“This collaboration between our two companies exemplifies the mutual goal of producing cleaner energy solutions for the U.S. and China. Together, we will demonstrate that crude oil from algae can be produced with favorable economics; that it can be integrated into existing fuels distribution networks; and that it will deliver substantial advantages for the reduction of CO2 emissions in both nations,” [said Sapphire Energy CEO Cynthia Warner].

“Projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that China, the world’s most populous country, will be the largest importer of oil in 2014. The need for renewable, sustainable and low carbon energy solutions to meet growing demand is vital. Given China’s leadership and strong support for embracing new, clean, sustainable fuel options, along with the country’s abundant availability of non-farmable land and non-potable water, Sapphire Energy’s proven algae-to-energy technology platform offers a promising solution.”

Sapphire Energy is based in San Diego, Calif. with an R&D facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is currently operating the first Integrated Algal BioRefinery in Columbus, New Mexico.

Biostimulation for Algae Growth Could Help Biodiesel

solarmagnatron1Growing algae for biodiesel seems like a viable option when you consider how oil-rich (and thus, feedstock-rich) the one-celled organisms can be. But while algae is one of the fastest growing organisms on Earth, getting enough growth out of the microbes to make the proposition commercially viable is the holy grail for algae-biodiesel producers. Researchers from AlgaStar Inc. have found a way to increase algae growth rates by 300 percent using a technique called biostimulation and a biomass grower called the SolarMagnatron.

Biological stimulation from electromagnetic fields and/or microwaves offers a novel technology that can accelerate algae growth substantially compared with natural sunlight. Laboratory tests at AlgaStar, Inc. and research collaborators at the University of Western Ontario, (UWO) have proven the biostimulation concept but considerably more research is needed. Additional research efforts are now funded for AlgaStar with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Additional grant applications and research sponsor funding will include Dr. Bruce Rittmann’s lab in the Biodesign Institute at ASU, the world class AzCATI Test Bed at ASU, NanoVoltaics, UWO and others.

The AlgaStar algae production and biostimulation system integrates two types of electromagnetic energy. The first is a millitesla generator and the second a millimeter microwave generator that radiates spontaneous growth energy into large volumes of algae biomass. The research teams have demonstrated that electromagnetic energy waves can provide an increase in algae biomass and its corresponding lipid oil production by up to 300%.

AlgaStar is using it’s patented 4500 gallon SolarMagnatron biomass production system that has an automated biosystem controller (ABC), which optimizes biomass production and uses light very efficiently. During the day, it maximizes natural sunlight, and when it’s night, special domed acrylic lenses and flat-panel glass reactors containing high-efficiency florescent and LED lights produce artificial sunlight at specific wavelengths and power levels that optimize algae photosynthesis.

More information is available on the AlgaStar website.

Biodiesel, Hydrogen Studies Continue Despite Setback

scstateA school in the southeast will continue its studies into biodiesel and hydrogen production, despite an academic setback. This story from the Orangeburg (SC) Times and Democrat says South Carolina State University was trying to get its multi-disciplinary study of energy accredited but was put on probation and denied approval of a new master’s in energy and environmental science program by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But Dr. Kenneth Lewis, dean of the College of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, calls the decision a “minor setback,” and while the classes in the program scheduled for this fall won’t happen, the research the school does on biodiesel and hydrogen will go on.

Biodiesel from the cafeteria’s waste cooking oil has gone through various stages and is now at the point where it’s being tested, Lewis said.

“Right now we’re testing the fuel on small engines,” he said. But he’s looking at having the university’s vehicles operating on biodiesel produced at the center within three to five years. He noted that the lab can produce up to 40 gallons of fuel a day.

It’s a great advantage that the supplies for the process and that of the switchgrass/cow manure project [to make hydrogen] are practically free, according to Lewis.

“We can go to any farmer, any slaughterhouse and get the manure,” he said.

Lewis said that bacteria found in cow’s stomachs and manure break down cellulose in the switchgrass and produce hydrogen.

The school has also applied for a $300,000, three-year grant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the aquatic tanks and other supplies to grow algae to turn into biodiesel. Lewis is also looking at Jatropha for biodiesel production noting that South Carolina’s climate matches that of the plant’s native home, Mozambique.

Solutions to Threat Oil Poses for Armed Forces

A new video offers solutions to the threat oil poses for America’s armed forces and the nation’s security. The video was developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Truman National Security Project. The new video details the growing danger of oil use to the country’s national security. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest institutional oil consumer, using more than 100 million barrels every year to power ships, vehicles, aircraft, and ground operations. That’s enough oil to drive around the Earth more than 4 million times. According to the two organizations, this high use leads to greater unpredictability for missions, especially given oil’s vulnerability to price swings on the world market.

“Moving fuel on the battlefield is dangerous and expensive,” said Michael Breen, a former Army captain and executive director at Truman. “A ten dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs the military $1.3 billion — money we can’t use to accomplish our mission and protect our troops.”

The groups argue that despite oil industry advertising championing new domestic production, so called “new oil and gas” resources aren’t really new at all. And they are only available because the oil industry is now desperate enough to go after dirtier, more difficult and expensive oil than they were before. They they said is neither a sustainable solution for our armed forces or our country.

“As the era of cheap and easy oil comes to an end, the oil industry’s desperation for continuing profits has led to more and more destructive practices that are not solving the problems associated with oil use,Hybrid Humvee” said Siv Balachandran, an engineer and oil analyst at UCS. “The real solution is to use less oil.”

Balachandran and Breen noted that the armed forces are adopting new, innovative technologies to reduce oil use while creating a stronger, more effective fighting force. For example, the Navy uses biofuels made from algae and other advanced sources, while the Army is powering Humvees with hybrid-electric engines. These technologies could benefit civilians too.

“The country is already making progress on this front, with federal and state policies helping cars go farther on each gallon of gas and putting thousands of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road — saving the country money while reducing emissions and creating jobs, but the work is not done,” said Balachandran. “By supporting policies that cut oil use even further, we’ll keep America healthier, wealthier, and more secure.”

Breen added, “As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the U.S. military is leading the way in reducing oil use and investing in renewable options. That’s good for America’s budget and for national security. Our communities – the veterans and national security leaders of Operation Free, and the scientists of UCS – are united in supporting the military’s innovative clean energy solutions.”

Heliae Partners with Sincere for Algae Project

Algae production technology company Heliae is partnering with Japan-based Sincere Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, to form a joint venture to develop a commercial scale algae production facility in Saga City Japan called Alvita Corporation. The partnership will combine Sincere Corporation’s operational skill, distribution networks and knowledge of the Japanese market with Heliia’s proprietary algae production technology to supply natural astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant with broad health benefits, to the growing health and wellness market in the region.

heliae logo“As we investigated technology partners for algae production in Japan, Heliae offered a truly complete package,” said Yukihiro Matsuzaka, President of Sincere Corporation. “From their algae technology platform, their experience at scale, and their extensive  traction in multiple industries, Heliae is clearly a world-class player and we look forward to building upon this joint venture with them and bringing algae production to Japan.”

Construction of the Saga City facility is planned to begin in 2015 and Alvita’s astaxanthin product should bScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.49.27 AMe available on the market in Japan by 2016. The Saga City facility will be designed based on Heliae’s first algae production facility in Gilbert, Arizona. This original facility has been operational since 2013 and produces astaxanthin for the North American market.

“Local support for the project has been significant and we’re proud that the new algae production facility will bring significant community development for the Saga City area through job creation and tax revenue,” said Dan Simon, President and CEO of Heliae.

“We choose our partners carefully, and the Sincere Corporation has a complimentary culture combined with a long track record of success in Japan,” continued Simon. “This is just the beginning of what we believe will become a long-term partnership to deliver high quality algae products to multiple markets throughout the country. We are honored to have been chosen by Sincere and excited about the potential. Now the real work begins.”

Cellana Deal Could Have Implications for Biodiesel

cellanaA new deal between Cellana, a California-based maker of algae-based products, and Israel’s Galil Algae Cooperative Agriculture Society Limited could have implications for biodiesel. This Cellana news release says the partnership looks to combine the industrial qualities of Cellana’s ReNew™ Algae – high-value algae biomass rich in Omega-3 nutritional oils, proteins, fuel-grade oils, cosmetic-grade oils, acids, and polysaccharides, as well as other valuable micronutrients – with Galil Algae’s whole-algae products that are rich in Omega-3s for aquaculture applications at a new joint algae research center in northern Israel.

“This newly-established relationship with Galil Algae is an extension and validation of Cellana’s core competencies in minimizing contamination in large-scale outdoor algae biomass production and in growing algae strains that naturally produce high-value Omega-3 oils,” stated Martin A. Sabarsky, Chief Executive Officer of Cellana. “Many of the same strains that can be grown for aquaculture hatchery applications can also be good sources of crude oil for fuel applications, proteins for animal feed and food applications, and oils and polysaccharides for cosmetic applications,” continued Mr. Sabarsky. “Galil Algae’s algae strains for aquaculture hatchery applications are qualitatively better than competing products based on their Omega-3 profile and other qualities. We look forward to finalizing the definitive agreements with Galil Algae and working closely with Galil Algae to expand commercial-scale production of these high-value products.”

Galil Algae officials see the deal as a way for them to partner their high-performing, high-Omega-3 algae strains with Cellana’s approach to commercial strain development and market focus within the nutraceutical and aquaculture sectors.

Neste Inks Algae Oil for Renewable Diesel Deal

RAE algae1Neste Oil has signed a deal that should help keep up its feedstock supply for its renewable diesel. This company news release says the agreement with U.S. algae producer Renewable Algae Energy (RAE) will secure algae oil as an alternative feedstock for Neste Oil’s NEXBTL renewable diesel for the future.

Cooperation with RAE is intended to secure Neste Oil’s access to a cost-effective supply of industrial volumes of algae oil in the future. Implementation of the agreement will require RAE to increase its algae oil production capacity and to comply with the requirements of biofuel legislation with strict sustainability criteria in the US and the EU throughout the production chain. RAE anticipates that it will be able to produce commercial-scale volumes of algae oil from 2016 onwards.

“Algae oil is well suited for producing Neste Oil’s renewable products,” says Lars Peter Lindfors, Neste Oil’s Senior Vice President, Technology. “The agreement we have just signed is yet another step in our constant work to support the commercialization of the algae industry and to take part in research on new, sustainably produced feedstocks.”

“We are honored to partner with Neste Oil,” said Jeffrey S. Kanel, Ph.D., CEO of RAE. “Neste Oil is known worldwide as the industry leader, and they are committed to producing a sustainable energy source. This commitment aligns perfectly with RAE’s mission and values, and we look forward to assisting Neste Oil to produce renewable fuels that will benefit the world.”

The agreement is non-exclusive, as Neste Oil wants more partners able to produce algae oil at a commercial scale.

Navy, Arizona State Work Together on Algae Biofuels

mcginn at asu1The U.S. Navy is working with Arizona State University to develop biofuels from algae. This article from the school says Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, visited the school’s Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) to discuss how the Navy and civilian industry have some key overlapping issues, such as cost, sustainability, efficiency and energy security, and how the Navy wants to work with research institutions and industry to solve these problems for everyone.

“We are thinking about energy in three different ways: first in technology terms; biofuels, wind and solar energy storage, power grid systems and more,” McGinn said during a visit to Arizona State University. “But it takes two other critical elements to achieve our energy goals: partnerships and culture. This is why we’re interested in forging and strengthening relationships with outstanding organizations like ASU.”

While the Department of the Navy broadly funds energy research, another key aspect is its considerable influence in setting purchasing standards for their operations. The Navy is using its authority under the Defense Production Act, which allows the Navy, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in industries that are determined critical to national security; in this case, biofuels. McGinn said that the Navy has already invested millions in projects with the DOE and USDA in order to bring down the cost of producing biofuel.

“The Navy wants to buy anywhere between 10 and 50 percent biofuel blends for our ships,” he said. “We want it to be a cost-competitive program. We are working specifically with the USDA to bring down biofuel costs to $3.50 a gallon or less at the commercial scale of 170 million gallons a year by 2016.”

McGinn went on to say that algae biofuels show great potential as an alternative transportation fuel for the nation’s fleets because of their sustainability and scalability.

Microalgae Project Underway in Portugal

A one-hectare pilot project for the production of microalgae is under construction in Portugal. The facility will demonstrate, what a consortium of biotechnology experts say, is an innovative approach to produce microalgae biomass with biodiesel validation in a sustainable manner.

The demonstration pilot facility is one of the milestones expected from the Integrated Sustainable Algae (InteSusAl) project. The project aims at optimizing the production of algae by both heterotrophic and phototrophic routes. It will also demonstrate integration of these production technologies to achieve the microalgae cultivation targets of 90-120 dry tonnes per hectare per year.

algae“InteSusAl’s demonstration unit comes in a time of extreme importance to ensure Europe’s energy supply security, said Dr Neil Hindle, coordinator of the InteSusAl project. “We are glad that the European Commission is making it possible to demonstrate this new approach to produce microalgae biomass. We hope that our results will attract attention from investors interested in financing a 10-hectare site to produce microalgae in a sustainable manner on an industrial scale.”

The project integrates heterotrophic and phototrophic production technologies, using biodiesel glycerol as a carbon source to the heterotrophic unit and validating the biomass output for biodiesel conversion. The demonstration unit will be located in the municipality of Olhão, in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. The pilot site will be composed of a set of fermentation units, tubular photobioreactors and raceways.

The sustainability of this demonstration, in terms of both economic and environmental (closed carbon loop) implications will be considered across the whole process, assessed via a robust life cycle analysis.

Arizona State to Offer Algae-to-Biodiesel Showcase

azcati1Algae has a great future as a feedstock for biodiesel, as well as cleaning up wastewaters. Arizona State University will be offering a showcase on how to do both at its Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), May 1-2.

Students from Arizona universities will demonstrate their projects to the public at the Innovation Showcase May 1, and during a formal public presentation workshop May 2. The multi-university collaboration is made possible by funding and support from the Arizona Board of Regents.

Tour the labs and the green algae testbed fields of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation from 3-6:30 p.m., May 1, during the Innovation Showcase, hosted by the College of Technology and Innovation. Throughout the showcase, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University faculty and students will discuss their algae projects, and AzCATI representatives will host tours throughout the center. Stop by the AzCATI booth at the Innovation Showcase in the Sun Devil Fitness Complex to learn about algae and begin a guided site tour.

The school promises more in-depth insight into the students’ leading-edge research on May 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with tours of the AzCATI facility to follow.

TX Algae Operation Confirms Commercial Potential

auroraalgae1An algae growing operation in South Texas has confirmed it is about ready to go commercial scale. Aurora Algae says after six months of testing and evaluation, it has the potential to go commercial-scale, and the company is expanding its test facility with four, one-acre cultivation ponds and a harvesting system.

“We have successfully tested our algae cultivation system in countries around the world, including Australia, India, Italy, Mexico, and multiple locations in the United States,” said Greg Bafalis, Aurora Algae CEO. “Our most recent test site, near Harlingen, Texas, is meeting and surpassing our growth rate expectations for this area.”

Aurora Algae operated a demonstration-scale algae cultivation facility in Karratha, Western Australia, for over two-and-a-half years, successfully demonstrating production of up to 15 tonnes of dried algal biomass per month while continuing to refine its cultivation and harvesting processes. Aurora management believes the Karratha facility to have been the most technologically advanced algae production system in the world.

Located nine miles from Harlingen, the Aurora Algae evaluation site in Rio Hondo, Texas, sits on a 1,880-acre parcel, which was formerly home to a shrimp farming operation.

Company officials say their particular variety of algae grows best in salt water in warm. arid climates.

UC San Diego Has Top Algae-Biodiesel Programs

scripps1Plenty of warm Southern California sun must be helping fuel the brains of algae-biodiesel researchers, as two programs at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are rated tops in the Nation. This article from the school says the U.S. Department of Energy bestowed the high marks.

A program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography was rated the best in the nation. Mark Hildebrand and his team in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography received the top honor… The report specifically cited the lab’s “outstanding research” in the genetic manipulation of algae to improve the yield of key components for biofuel production. Another UC San Diego research group, the UC San Diego Consortium for Algae Biofuel Commercialization (CAB-Comm), led by UC San Diego molecular biologist Stephen Mayfield, was recognized by the DOE as the number two-ranked research program.

… Hildebrand’s group has found that diatoms, among the most prevalent oceanic algae, are uniquely suited to biofuel production. In particular, diatoms are a good system for scientists like Hildebrand who hope to use genetic tools to perfect algae biofuel production.

CAB-Comm … partners with industry collaborators Sapphire Energy and Life Technologies, focuses on green algae and cyanobacteria, and was cited by the DOE for “demonstrating how the yield potential of algae can be preserved by controlling pests through development of resistant strains, use of chemical pesticides, and cultivation of consortia of strains.”

Researchers from both groups at UCSD hope the high ratings will help them secure more government funding for their projects.

Better Sites for Algae Helps Biofuels Production

ABOA new process for identifying and evaluating algae production facilities could help with biofuels production. The article, “Siting Algae Cultivation Facilities for Biofuel Production in the United States: Trade-Offs between Growth Rate, Site Constructability, Water Availability, and Infrastructure,” in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, talks about the new method developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sapphire Energy and was welcomed by the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), the trade association for the algae industry.

“Effectively siting algae cultivation facilities for commercial biofuel production is critical to the success of every commercial algae project,” said Margaret McCormick, chair of the Algae Biomass Organization and CEO of algae company Matrix Genetics. “The biology is so complex, existing ‘off-the-shelf’ measurement tools fall short. Because this analysis considers numerous variables along with real-world algae cultivation data, it offers project developers a much more complete and rigorous evaluation of sites.”

Site selection for large construction projects is a complex task, but a particularly challenging one in the case of algae cultivation in open ponds, where facilities could be thousands of acres in size. The factors that drive success include: a warm and sunny climate, available water, economically available land with soils good for construction, and proximity to transportation and utility infrastructure. In addition, special consideration must be given to local issues that are difficult for national-scale models to address, such as regulatory constraints, tax incentives, receptivity of local populations and ecological constraints.

The study found that there is good potential for cultivating green algae along the Gulf of Mexico, especially on the Florida peninsula. It also says that the type of algae to be grown is a big factor when choosing a site.

MSU Increases Odds of Algal-Biofuel Success

david-kramerA team of Michigan State University (MSU) scientists have invented a new technology that they believe increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels bridge the gap to success. The environmental photobioreactor or ePBR system is the first standard algae growing platform and it stimulates dynamic natural environments. The system is featured in the current issue of Algal Research.

To better visualize the technology, ePBR is in essence a pond in a jar that helps identify, cultivate and test algal strains that have the potential to make the leap from lab to pond – or thrive and multiple in real-world, real-pond settings and produce vast amounts of oil.

As the quest for “better biofuels” continues, many researchers are looking to algae as a viable solution, but a barrier to commercial success has been that algal strains that perform well in labs don’t often perform well when moved to commercial scale applications.

“It’s like training elementary kids to be really good pingpong players,” explains Ben Lucker, MSU research associate.. “But then they take the kids and throw them into a football game against professional players; in those settings, they simply can’t compete at all.”

epbrThe ePBRs, which the team believes will help make algae biofuel research more desirable to investors, were the brainchild of David Kramer, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at MSU. His lab is unique. Although it’s housed among other plant biologists, it could be mistaken for an electronics factory. The benches are covered with wires, soldering irons and printed circuit boards. There are even few early prototypes that provide a history of ePBR’s progress.

The latest models glow green and whir quietly as they test various strains. By allowing scientists to duplicate natural settings in a lab, ePBRs eliminate many variables before scaling up. The bioreactors are about the size of coffee makers and can induce changes in light, temperature, carbon dioxide, oxygen, evaporation, nutrient availability and more.

The ePBR system also can duplicate and confirm results from experiments conducted anywhere in the world. It replaces home-built growing platforms made from flasks, tubing, aluminum foil and grow lights and gives researchers a tool that can consistently replicate conditions and reproduce results, Lucker said.

The potential of ePBRs has already inspired the launch of a company, Phenometrics, an MSU spinoff headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, and while only two years old, steady orders for the bioreactors have the company on the same track of success as algal biofuels.

Advancements in Algal Biofuels: Year in Review

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has released its Advancements in Algal Biofuels: Year in Review. The goal of BETO is to support advanced in the production of algal biofuel – especially those that lower the cost of production.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.09.14 AMThe report highlights several notable R&D breakthrough including:

  • Fast algae-to-bio-crude oil process reduces production costs – DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is receiving national recognition for developing a process to turn algae into bio-crude oil in just minutes. PNNL’s technology eliminates the lipid extraction step and subjects whole algae to very hot water under high pressure to convert the algae biomass into bio-crude oil (a process called hydrothermal liquefaction). PNNL successfully treated wet algae biomass in a commercially relevant, continuous process that doesn’t require drying steps or solvents to make the bio-crude oil.
  • Discovery in algae cell biology overcomes key challenge to algal biofuels – Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) made a significant breakthrough in the metabolic engineering of algae to improve yield of lipids (the energy-storing fat molecules that can be used in biofuel production). Algae typically only accumulate lots of lipids when they are starved for nutrients, but the drawback to starvation is that it limits organism growth. The SIO research team genetically engineered a disruption in the synthesis of the enzymes that breakdown the storage lipids that are produced during normal growth, allowing for lots of lipid accumulation without starving the algae. The resulting algae both grow fast and accumulate lipid at the same time. The high lipid yields that result from utilizing this method can potentially improve the economics of algal biofuel production.
  • Collaborative outdoor algae production testing facilities come online – Two national algae R&D testbed programs kicked off their project work in 2013. The Arizona State University-led Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) and the University of Arizona Regional Algae Feedstock Testbed Partnership manage algal biofuel R&D facilities across the United States and serve as engines for algal technology innovation and validation, job training and workforce development, and long-term cultivation data.

In response to the report, the National Algae Association’s (NAA) Barry Cohen said that while the advancements might be news in Washington, none of them are newsworthy to the algae production industry.

For example, Cohen said the work being done at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is not news. “Hydrothermal liquefaction is another name for a process that has been used in petroleum refining for more than 100 years.”

He also noted in regards to the two national algae testbeds that NAA has not been able to independently verify the status of any of the facilities. “NAA has, however, created its own online Algae Production Certification Course and its second algae production incubator facility is operational,” said Cohen.

Read NAA’s full remarks regarding the report here.