Stimulus Bucks to Fund Algae Biofuels Research

PNNL1Money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act … aka the Stimulus Bill … will go to fund research on algae-based biofuels.

This press release from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
says the lab will get about $14.2 million for its role in two biofuels research consortia:

[Energy Secretary Steven] Chu funded the consortia with nearly $80 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds with the goal of bringing new biofuels to the market and developing a cleaner and more sustainable transportation sector, as well as reducing dependence on foreign oil sources …

PNNL will co-lead one consortium with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and then play a large role in a second consortium led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

For more than 10 years, PNNL has advanced the science and technology for converting biomass into liquid transportation fuels, bioproducts and bioenergy. Its key focuses have been catalysis, environmental biotechnology and analysis. Biomass is biological material that comes from plants, wood, waste and other materials and can be converted into fuels and other products.

“We’ll be calling upon our entire suite of disciplines and capabilities in our support to these consortia,” said John Holladay, PNNL biomass manager. “We are positioned to address the entire spectrum of scientific challenges associated with developing a sustainable biofuels transportation sector – from fundamental research to applied processes.”

The press release goes on to say that the lab has several capabilities … proteomics, gasification and catalysis research… critical to biomass fuel conversion.

Danforth Center Receives $44 Mil for Biofuels Research

Danforth Center jpegThe St. Louis-area Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will receive $44 million in stimulus bucks to conduct advanced biofuels research.

This press release from the center says the money from the U.S. Department of Energy will go to helping the center to serve as the lead organization in a consortium:

The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB) led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is one of two cross-functional groups that will seek to breakdown critical barriers to the commercialization of algae-based and other advanced biofuels such as green aviation fuels, diesel, and gasoline that can be transported and sold using today’s existing fueling infrastructure. Ten to 15 jobs in St. Louis will be immediately created as a result of the project. Biofuels generate more jobs than any other sector of sustainable energy. As the industry grows, there is potential for hundreds of thousands of new jobs nationally.

The NAABB will develop a systems approach for sustainable commercialization of algal biofuel (such as renewable gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) and bioproducts. NAABB will integrate resources from companies, universities, and national laboratories to overcome the critical barriers of cost, resource use and efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and commercial viability. The consortium will develop and demonstrate the science and technology necessary to significantly increase production of algal biomass and lipids, efficiently harvest and extract algae and algal products, and establish valuable certified co-products that scale with renewable fuel production. Co-products include animal feed, industrial feedstocks, and additional energy generation. Multiple test sites will cover diverse environmental regions to facilitate broad deployment.

The release goes on to say that the award will help cements St. Louis as a center for the development of renewable energy from algae.

Algae-Biodiesel Maker Looking at Food Biz

solazyme-logoThe food-versus-fuel debate gets a bit of a twist as an algae-biodiesel maker decides it will make fuel AND food.

This story in the San Francisco Business Times says the Bay area’s Solazyme, which has been working on turning algae into biodiesel for the past seven years, recently has been developing the nutritionals side of its business and could have products out in 2010:

The decision to diversify into foods came almost by accident as the company successfully got algae to excrete oils, said chief technology officer and co-founder Harrison Dillon.

“We were running lipid profiles (on the algae) and observing that, ‘Wow this looks like olive oil,’” Dillon said. “Epiphany No. 2 was, ‘let’s stop thinking about ourselves as a diesel fuel company and starting thinking of ourselves as a renewable oil company.’”

Once Solazyme discovered the range of uses for algae oil, it structured its business in three units: fuels and chemicals; food products; and health sciences which includes cosmetics. Foods will likely be among the first products to market for the company, giving it some leeway — and revenue — before it can commercialize its fuels.

Some of the first food products being developed by Solazyme include mustard, a milk substitute and flour.

The diversity of their products should help Solazyme weather the current tough times the biodiesel industry is going through.

World Biofuels Markets Announces Speakers

WorldBiofuelsConfLogoIt’s never too early to start planning your 2010 conference schedule and here is one to consider: World Biofuels Markets. This is Europe’s largest biofuels conference and so far, 20 of the 50 companies who were named to Biofuels Digest’sTop 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” will be participating.

Last year several hundred people were on hand and this year more even more are expected due to the recent policies passed in the U.S. including the announcement on Monday that the EPA has designated greenhouse gas pollution as a threat to society.

In part, the conference will consist of a series of focused sessions that cover topics from energy crops, to algae fuels, biofuels for aviation, policy, sustainability, biofuels from waste, and more. More than 200 people will be presenting during the conference. Keynote speakers include:

  • Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, former Head of the World Health Organisation
    Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director, International Energy Agency
    Philip New, Chief Executive Officer, BP Biofuels
    Jan Ernst de Groot, Managing Director, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
    Suani Coelho, Executive Director, CENBIO, UN Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change & IRENA
    Karl Watkin, MBE, Bioenergy Pioneer & Founder, D1 Oils & former Chair Bioenergy Advisory Board, UN Foundation
    Peder Holk, Nielsen, Executive Vice President, Novozymes
    Andrew Owens, Chief Executive Officer, Greenergy

Registrations incentives are available. Click here for more information about the World Biofuels Markets conference.

Solayme Awarded $21.8 Million for Algal Fuel Project

Solazyme_logoSolazyme, Inc., which was just named the ‘Top 50 Hottest Company in Bioenegy‘ by Biofuels Digest, announced that it has received a $21.8 million federal grant to build its first integrated biorefinery in rural Riverside, Pennsylvania. The funding was announced by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and marks the next step in producing algal based fuel. Research conducted by the company has shown that their algal oil will reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions between 85-95 percent.

“We are honored to partner with the Department of Energy and are excited to be creating jobs in California and Pennsylvania. Our technology reduces reliance on foreign oil and enhances national security while providing strong environmental benefits,” said Jonathan Wolfson, chief executive officer of Solazyme.

According to the company, the DOE funds, along with other private investments will be used, “to move toward commercialization faster, creating and preserving jobs in diverse regions across the country and creating jobs in manufacturing, construction and agricultural processing.” Solazyme’s Integrated Biorefinery will be located on the site of Cherokee Pharmaceuticals’ existing commercial biomanufacturing facility in Riverside, Pa.

“Last year’s record high gas prices and their impact on families and businesses proved that we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil in favor of biofuels produced here at home. Solazyme’s innovative project is working towards that goal by demonstrating how we can turn algae into fuel in a cost-effective way and on a commercial scale. These are the types of investments we must make today in order to strengthen our economy, our environment and our national security in the long-run,” said Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Algenol, Linde Partner On CO2 Management Technology

DSalgaeAlgenol Biofuels, in partnership with The Linde Group, have agreed to collaborate in a joint project that will attempt to identify the optimum management of carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen for Algenol’s algae and photobioreactor technology. The goal is to develop cost-efficient technologies that capture, store, transport, and supply CO2 for the production of third-generation biofuels out of carbon dioxide, salt water and algae as well as remove oxygen from the photobioreactor.

“Producing fuels or chemicals from algae is a promising way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr Aldo Belloni, member of the Executive Board of Linde AG. “A cost-efficient supply of CO2 is a key factor in this biofuel chain. As a pioneer and leading company in CO2 capture, transport and supply we are delighted to be a key player in major projects in the algae-to-biofuel area.”

The technology will serve two purposes: to reduce atmospheric concentrations of C02 and to deliver sustainable low-cost alternative biofuels. Algenol has developed proprietary technology to produce advanced biofuels using algae, CO2, salt water and sunlight. One of the major benefits of producing biofuels from algae is that the algae consumes CO2 from fossil fuel sources, such as combustion flue gases from coal-fired power plants.

In other news, earlier this month, The Linde Group, in partnership with Waste Management, commissioned the largest landfill gas (LFG) to liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the U.S. in Livermore, Cali.

DOE Official: Algae and Biomass Future of Biofuels

DOEOil from algae and the biomass from the green microbes could be the future for advanced biofuels… that word from a top U.S. Department of Energy official.

Biomass Magazine reports that Valerie Reed of the U.S. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said at the Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy held this week in Honolulu, Hawaii the her agency will develop advanced biofuels faster than cellulosic ethanol:

“We learned a lot over the past 20 years, and we believe we can apply that to a faster deployment phase,” Reed said, adding that biomass-based liquid transportation fuels are going to be the only adequate displacements for jet fuel. “This is now becoming a priority fuel we need to consider, and that’s why we’re moving into the advanced biofuels arena,” she said.

Algae has the potential to fit in our advanced biofuels scenario and has been a topic of great attention over the past couple of years, Reed said. “Why is this important to us? It’s an extremely diverse feedstock that comes from several kingdoms—this broad scope of diversity is something that we’d like to tap into and capture.”

Reed highlighted the high productivity of algae and it’s massive presence in the ocean, pointing out that if each algal cell were lined end to end there would be enough algae to reach the moon and back 15 billion times. She also pointed out that a troublesome algal bloom near the Olympic Stadium in China yielded more than 3 million tons of biomass in a three-month period. “Their nightmare is our opportunity,” she said. “If we can harness that type of productivity, and do so in a sustainable fashion, we can look at this in a different scenario.”

The article goes on to say that a DOE study from a few years ago shows the U.S. has 1.3 billion tons of sustainably available biomass. And Reed believes about 60 billion tons of cellulosic ethanol could be produced from that … about one-third of what is anticipated that will be needed for transportation. She says that doesn’t even count for what algae could produce, possibly 100 percent of U.S. fuel needs.

Reed admits there are some barriers, but that’s where research would come in and help overcome those obstacles.

Future of Algae-Biodiesel Could be in Open Ponds

NAALogoThe future of algae-biodiesel could come in catfish ponds that have lost their fish. That’s the topic of discussion for the National Algae Association Mid-South Chapter’s workshop next week.

Experts in open pond production of algae will talk about the challenges and opportunities their industry faces in making biofuels and biomass for animal feedstocks, bioplastics, fertilizers, and other bioproducts, Nov. 18-19 at the Holiday Inn Express-Downtown Memphis, TN:

“This workshop is designed to bring the top experts in open pond production together with catfish pond owners, investors and entrepreneurs to learn from each other and fast-track algae open pond production for energy, animal feedstock, organic fertilizer and many other products,” says Tamra Fakhoorian, president of the NAA Mid-South Chapter.

Pete Moss, president of Frazier, Barnes and Associates, LLC observes, “Open pond production of algae holds great promise for the widespread production of renewable energy and fuels. However industry and project risks that have accompanied renewable alternatives in the past will certainly be present in the development of algal production. Managing and minimizing this risk will be the key to the success of this industry. This workshop will be instrumental in addressing these risks.”

For more information and registration, click here.

Kansas Project Turning Algae into Biodiesel

JayHawkResearchers in the land of sunflowers are looking for a way to convert sunshine into algae… and then into biodiesel.

The Lawrence (KS) Journal-World & News reports
University of Kansas scientists are working on one of just a few in the world functioning, pilot-scale bioreactors connected to a municipal wastewater treatment plant, where they’re turning sewer waste into the green fuel:

“From the point of view of the EPA, this should be like heaven,” said Val Smith, a KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “We’re harnessing a waste, making it do work for America, and purifying it all at the same time.

“It’s like a win-win-win-win-win.”

The KU effort is being financed by the university’s Transportation Research Institute, using money from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bob Honea, the institute’s director, is confident that the work of KU researchers — collaborating on a “Feedstock to Tailpipe” program that includes a wide variety of biofuel efforts — is on the right track. Gasoline prices eventually will return to $4 a gallon or more, he said, and the world will continue to seek ways to lessen a reliance on petroleum.

Using algae to make biodiesel simply makes sense, Honea said, given the aquatic organisms’ built-in advantages compared with traditional crops: higher yields on less land.

KU officials believe they are the verge of a major breakthrough.

New Report Offers Algae Ethanol, Biodiesel Markets Info

Algae might be the feedstock of the future for biodiesel and ethanol… if you know how to use it right.

This press release posted on Reuters.com says a new report from Research and Markets entitled “Algae For Fuel, Algal Oil, Biofuels, Ethanol, Biodiesel And The Future Of Petroleum And Green Energy: Global Markets, Technologies, And Opportunities: 2009-2020 Analysis and Forecasts” could offer the insight you need in the algae biofuels game:

This research provides an overview on what could become one of the most significant technological and economic events of the early 21st century: turning algae into fuel, i.e. algal oil, on a commercial scale. If this feat is accomplished, and it’s not certain it will be, it will have dramatic, disruptive consequences to oil producers, oil refiners, ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels producers, biotechnology companies, agricultural producers, consumers, motor vehicle makers, regulators, R&D activities and investors, among others.

The report, due out in December, will offer a review of algae and an analysis of the algal oil market in terms of how it fits in the biofuels arena. You’ll be able to read for yourself profiles of 56 major players in the algal oil market, as well as information on 175 biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel companies and organizations.

Check out more information here.

Congress, Don’t Forget About Algae Biodiesel

USCapitolAs the folks who are making the next generation of ethanol made their pitch to Congress (see Cindy’s post from earlier), the people who are producing biodiesel from what could be the next great feedstock, algae, reminded members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research not to forget about their truly green fuel.

house-panel-algalMary Rosenthal with the Algal Biomass Association told the representatives that despite some good progress for the algae biodiesel industry in recent years (not to mention the potential it holds), many of today’s federal biofuel policies simply ignore the role algae could play, limiting opportunities for funding and regulatory acceptance. She says she just wants a fair shake from the government:

Key to algae’s success in the fuels market will be ensuring:

1. Financial parity – Algae should receive the same tax incentives, subsidies and other financial benefits that other renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels, receive.
2. RFS parity – Algae is currently excluded from the majority of the Renewable Fuel Standard, due to a 16 billion gallon carve out for cellulosic biofuels. The carve out should be changed so that it is technology neutral, thus allowing algae-based and other environmentally sustainable fuels to contribute to our nation’s efforts to become energy independent.
3. Beneficial CO2 reuse recognition– Algae’s unique ability to turn CO2 into renewable fuels will allow the organism to play a significant role in abating carbon emitted by industrial sources. Consequently, algae’s beneficial reuse of CO2 should be acknowledged and accounted for in carbon capture and sequestration legislation.

Rosenthal urged Congress not to miss the opportunity of developing a truly renewable, sustainable fuel that will create jobs, reduce pollution and increase national energy independence.

Cellulosic Ethanol Firms Testify Before House Panel

Leading industries in the race to commercialize next generation biofuels told a House agriculture subcommittee hearing on Thursday that more funding and stable government policy are needed to do the job.

“The current financial crisis has prevented venture capitalists and bankers from investing in many worthwhile investments,” BP Biofuels North America president Susan Ellerbusch testified. “The industry and investors must see a secure market,” which she said, includes addressing the current 10 percent ethanol blend wall.

In addition to addressing the blend wall, Coskata president William Roe, whose company is pioneering low-cost production of ethanol from a variety of feedstocks, stressed the need for a consistent and inclusive biomass definition, as well as new or extended tax incentives. “Extend the cellulosic producer tax credit,” he suggested. “This expires in January of 2012 and consequently would provide little or no impact to even the earliest industry movers.” He also recommended flexibility in the monetization of biofuels tax credits.

Bruce Jamerson with Mascoma talked about shortcomings in the USDA loan guarantee program that should be addressed. “For example, as the project size increases, the loan guarantee amount reduces which discourages larger projects,” Jamerson said. His company found that the vast majority of commercial lenders are unwilling to work with the loan guarantee program because of its requirements.

The president of Osage Bio Energy, Craig Shealy, told the panel that existing federal loan guarantee programs are “either too restrictive or too structured around specifically technologies, excluding commercial scale biorefineries from eligibility.” He recommended revising those programs, as well as taking other policy steps, such as increasing the ethanol blend level to 15 percent and simplifying the RFS2.

Also testifying on the panel was Mary Rosenthal with the Algal Biomass Association, who called for greater recognition of the potential for algae-based fuels. “Algae should receive the same tax incentives, subsidies and other financial benefits allowed to other renewable fuels such as cellulosic ethanol,” she said.

Opening statements from all panelists are available on the House Agriculture Committee website.

Cereplast to Develop Bioplastics from Algae

1185861940Do you feel guilty when you buy drinking water bottled in plastic? If you don’t, you should and if you do then Cereplast may have a way to ease your mind. The company’s mission is to producing bio-based sustainable plastics and today announced that it has developed a breakthrough technology to transform algae into bioplastics. Cereplast intends to launch a  new family of algae-based resins that will complement their existing line of Compostables & Hybrid resins.

Frederic Scheer, Cereplast’s Founder, Chairman and CEO said, “Based on our own efforts, as well as recent commitments by major players in the algae field, we believe that algae has the potential to become one of the most important “green” feedstocks for biofuels, as well as bioplastics. Clearly, our focus will be on bioplastics. However, for our algae-based resins to be successful, we require the production of substantial quantities of algae feedstock. We are very encouraged when we see big players entering the algae production business, including Exxon’s $600 million investment in Synthetic Genomics and BP’s $10 million investment in Martek Biosciences.”

The company calculates that their algae-based resins could replace 50 percent or more of the petroleum content used in traditional plastic resins. Currently, Cereplast is using renewable material such as starches from corn, tapioca, wheat and potatoes and Ingeo® PLA.

Scheer concluded, “Our algae research has shown promising results and we believe that in the months to come we should be able to launch this new family of algae-based resins. Algae-based resins represent an outstanding opportunity for companies across the plastic supply chain to become more environmentally sustainable and reduce the industry’s reliance on oil. We are still in the development phase, but we believe that this breakthrough technology could result in a significant new line of business in the years to come.”

Next Gen Biofuels Hearing Today

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research will hold a hearing today to review the future of next generation biofuels.

Subcommittee chairman Tim Holden (D-PA) will preside over the hearing, which will include testimony from U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, as well as representatives from several companies involved in exploring new technologies and new feedstocks for biofuel production. Among the companies presenting testimony are BP Biofuels, Coskata, Mascoma and Osage Bio Energy.

A live video and audio feed will be available from the hearing, starting at 10 am eastern time today.

Algae Biodiesel Maker Updates Progress

PetroSunAlgae-biodiesel maker PetroSun, Inc. has released reports on the progress of three keys areas for the company: the domestic algae-to-biofuels program, algae derived co-products and alternative energy programs:

D.O.E. Integrated Biorefinery Proposal (DE-FOA-0000096)

The D.O.E. Integrated Biorefinery oral presentation was completed on October 15th by the University of Arizona-led team that included Texas A&M, Los Alamos National Lab, Air Liquide, Lurgi and PetroSun. The D.O.E. moderator indicated that a decision on the awards for this program is anticipated during December 2009.

Gulf Coast Algaculture Lease Program

This program was placed on hold until acceptable terms are reached for the capital required to retrofit the existing aquaculture farm ponds for commercial algae production. The global economic crisis crippled the capital markets during the past twelve months that PetroSun had engaged for this program, but those markets and new sources of foreign investment are now in the negotiation stage to provide potential funding for this program.

Business Model Moving Forward

The future implementation and operation of the commercial algae integrated biorefinery facilities by PetroSun BioFuels in the Gulf Coast Algaculture Program and the pilot scale Arid Raceway Integrated Design designed in collaboration with the University of Arizona team. The focus of the algae operation is to produce algal oil for conversion to fuel, recognizing however that a major revenue contributor to the program will be the value of the co-products, including animal feed and fertilizer.

PetroSun, Inc. is a diversified energy company with technology and operations in oil, natural gas and helium exploration, as well as algae-biodiesel.