Sapphire Energy To Sell Algae-Based Crude to Tesoro

Sapphire Energy has entered into an agreement to sell its algae-based Green Crude oil to Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company. Under the agreement, Tesoro will purchase crude oil from Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm in Columbus, New Mexico, which recently reached a new milestone: continuous cultivation and crude oil production. This begins the first step of a commercial relationship to process Green Crude oil from Sapphire’s future commercial facilities.

SAPPHIRE ENERGY, INC. GREEN CRUDE OIL ALGAE“In less than one year, Sapphire Energy has started up its commercial demonstration to grow algae; has produced crude oil from our farm; and now with Tesoro as our first commercial customer, we’re providing barrels of our oil to be refined for market use,” said Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, CEO and chairman of Sapphire Energy. “This moment is enormously important for the industry as it validates the benefits and advantages of Green Crude, and confirms its place as a market-viable, refiner-ready, renewable crude oil solution.”

Sapphire says it is now producing crude oil daily from algae biomass. The company says its process enables algae to be processed without the need for a timely and costly drying step. With this process, which is the result of more than four years of research, development and field trials, the entire algae cell is now used in oil production, greatly improving yield. Furthermore, the process is scalable, and has proven to be effective with a wide range of algae strains.

In initial testing by Sapphire Energy, Green Crude oil was refined into on-spec ASTM 975 diesel fuel, proving its compatibility with the existing network of pipelines, refineries and transport systems. Moving forward, the company plans to grow production significantly to further expand its commercial demonstration and begin the transition towards commercial-scale production.

Joel Larkins, vice president of Renewable Development at Tesoro, added, “Tesoro is continuously looking at new technologies for producing renewable fuels. We are pleased to become a purchaser of Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude, which shows promise as an alternative fuel solution.”

Alltech Gears Up for Algae Symposium

alltechalgae1Animal health company Alltech will hold a symposium on algae with hopes of expanding the pond scum’s potential beyond biofuels and into sustainable food production. The 29th Annual Alltech International Symposium is to be held in Lexington, Ky., May 19th-22nd:

“We will focus on algae as part of the foundation of the food chain by identifying the importance of DHA and how it can balance the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in today’s Western diets,” said Becky Timmons, chairperson of the algae-related track at Symposium. “As we look toward the future of nutrition, there is an increasing need to find high-quality, alternative raw materials to feed the growing population. There is a big challenge in front of us – we need to provide consumers the right nutrition, a balanced diet of fatty acids, vitamins and amino acids. We must be forward thinking and identify various opportunities to use value-added solutions in order to provide nutritious food to the world.”

This year the symposium will offer breakout sessions focused on algae, including:

Simplify Your Food Chain: Algae as the Foundation of Nutrition in the Future
You Are What You Eat: Better Health Through Better Nutrition and the Role of DHA
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: Identifying the Opportunities for Value-Added Products

Organizers hope this will offer attendees a more holistic experience, with discussions ranging from algae and agriculture’s carbon footprint to nutrition and marketing.

Registration and more information is available here.

Algal Based Biofuel Retail Pilot Successful

Propel Fuels and Solazyme have announced the results of their pilot retail program and over the 30 days consumers were given a choice to purchase biofuels produced from algae, they chose the algal-based biofuel. In a survey of users, consumers said they prefer its environmental benefits compared to conventional fuels; would purchase more of it if it was widely available and would even pay a premium for it. The pilot program, which marked the first commercial availability of algal derived fuels, offered SoladieselBD in a B20 blend (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel) to consumers through Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose, Berkeley, and Oakland.

Algal-B20 at Propel Photo: Michael Macor, The ChronicleIn the consumer survey, 92 percent of participants noted that they would be more likely to purchase algae-derived fuel for its environmental benefits; 70 percent indicated that they would purchase the fuel more frequently if it were derived from algae; and nearly 40 percent of customers indicated they would pay a premium for algae-derived fuel. The survey responses were reflected at the pump. Sales results reflected a 35 percent volume increase at Propel stations offering the algae-derived fuel over area sites not participating in the pilot.

“Our fuels have already been successfully demonstrated in fleet vehicles, corporate buses, military applications and the first U.S. commercial flight on biofuel,” said Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme. “The successful pilot program with Propel further exhibits strong consumer appetite for the superior performance and environmental properties of Soladiesel.” The algal-based biofuel, SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including superior cold temperature operating performance and environmental benefits, according to Solazyme.

“Propel is committed to providing drivers true choice at the pump by bringing to market the world’s highest quality and most sustainable fuels,” added Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. “The results show strong preference for algae-based fuel, and we are thrilled to have partnered with Solazyme to enable our customers to be the first in the country to purchase this next generation biofuel.”

Fat Worms Play Role in Algal Biofuels

Fat worms confirm are playing a role in improved biofuel and animal feed production.

Catapillar's on Arabidopsis thaliana plantsResearchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves, a feat that could improve biofuel production. The research was led by Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology along with a team from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

The results of the study were published in the journal, The Plant Cell, and show that researchers could us an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in it leaves. This is uncommon for most plants.

To date, little research has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems because in nature, most plants don’t store lipids in these tissues.

“Many researchers are trying to enhance plants’ energy density, and this is another way of approaching it,” Benning said. “It’s a proof-of-concept that could be used to boost plants’ oil production for biofuel use as well as improve the nutrition levels of animal feed.” Continue reading

Algae.Tec Awarded $12.15M from Australian Gov.

Photo From Algae.TecAlgae.Tec has been awarded AU$12.15 million cash refund on Australian and overseas development costs for the financial years June 30, 2012 through June 30, 2015. The terms of the payment allow for an additional investment of AU$27 million on Algae.Tec technology developments, of which the Australian Government will reimburse 45 percent or $12.15 million. The approval is to support the funding of at least three algae bioreactor facilities in Australia, Asia and the U.S. The refund will be paid in cash to the company following expenditure. In addition, additional investments above the AU $27M will also be eligible for further government grants.

According to Algae.Tec, its enclosed bioreactor technology takes waste C02 from power and manufacturing facilities and uses it to grow valuable algae oil for transport fuels. The tax offset payments, called R&D Tax Incentives, are awarded and managed by the Australian Government entity AusIndustry and are designed to provide business with a “more predictable, less complex,” financial support structure.

Algae.Tec Managing Director Peter Hatfull said the company had applied for the approval last year as part of a range of attractive financing options available for the Company’s growth plans. “It was a rigorous process involving a complete review of our technology and global expansion plans. We see this as a real endorsement of our technology and strategic direction, and we are very pleased to have the support of the Australian Government’s AusIndustry. This is excellent news for the Company and our Australian and international investors,” said Hatfull.

Ethanol Industry Pleased With Tax Extensions

Very early this morning the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed that included several one-year biofuel tax extensions including the Cellulosic Producer Tax Credit. While the ethanol industry was pleased with the bill, they remain outspoken that the biofuel industry needs a long-term federal commitment – not just one year.

aeclogoBrooke Coleman, Executive Director of Advanced Ethanol Council responded to the passage of the bill. “The advanced ethanol industry commends President Obama and the 112th Congress for extending the cellulosic producer tax credit and accelerated depreciation allowance as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Just five years after the passage of the amended Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the cellulosic biofuels industry is breaking through at commercial scale.”

Coleman continued, “The one year extension will allow those projects coming online to continue development while Congress acts more broadly to reform the U.S. tax code to allow new players in the energy space to compete on a level playing field with oil and gas. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration and the next Congress to ensure that we continue to grow the next generation of biofuels right here in the United States.”

Growth_Energy_logo-1In addition to the Cellulosic Producer Tax Credit, the package included the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit. Tom Buis CEO of Growth Energy noted that by extending the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit to retailers through 2013, “Congress has also taken a critical step to bring E15 to the marketplace, “providing a choice and savings to the consumer. Furthermore, this provision will help decrease our addiction to foreign oil and help the renewable fuels industry break through the blend wall.”

“However,” added Buis, ” by only extending them for one year, Congress failed to provide the necessary certainty for investors and businesses to plan for the long term, which is imperative for continued stability and growth.”

Despite extension of one-year only, there were still some achievements with the second generation biofuel producer tax credit and the special allowance for second generation biofuel plant property. The Act, says the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), will incentivize both cellulosic and algae biofuel production with the renewal of the $1.01 per gallon tax credit for producers, accelerated depreciation for newly constructed facilities during 2013 and modifying these credits to include algae. Continue reading

Solazyme Project in Iowa Achieves Milestone

Solazyme has confirmed they have completed several initial fermentation runs at ADM’s facility in Clinton, Iowa. According to the company, the runs achieved commercial scale production metrics, exhibited linear scalability of its process from laboratory scale, and demonstrated the ability to run at this scale without contamination. The fermentation process is one of the critical steps needed to convert feedstock to biofuels, biochemicals or biomaterials.

The fermentation tests were conducted in approximately 500,000-liter vessels, which are about four times the scale of the vessels in Solazyme’s Peoria facility. Solazyme is initially targeting annual production of 20,000 metric tons of oil starting in early 2014 at the ADM facility, with targeted expansion to 100,000 metric tons.

Solazyme said in a press statement that the achievements in Clinton were comparable to the fermentation equipment being installed in the Solazyme Bunge Renewable Oils facility in Brazil. The facility is targeted to begin production before the end of 2013 and will have a nameplate capacity of 100,000 metric tons.

“Working with ADM’s world class fermentation team to achieve commercial scale operations at the ADM facility shortly after announcing the partnership exhibits our ability to rapidly and successfully scale in large commercial fermentation facilities,” said Peter Licari, CTO, Solazyme. “Solazyme is currently developing commercial facilities in the US, France and Brazil, and with these runs we have now achieved linear scale-up of over 70,000-fold from our labs.”

ISU Researchers Growing Algae in Poultry Houses

A research project conducted by several Iowa State University (ISU) researchers is studying the feasibility of growing algae in poultry houses. Poultry manure generates ammonia, a health and safety concern for both animals and workers. Ammonia can burn the eyes, but if released into the atmosphere, could also cause acid rain. But if Honwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU he will turn a challenge into an opportunity.

Juhyon Kang, graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition is joining Xin in the research and are working together, according to an article in the Iowa State Daily, to design and develop a bioreactor that will filter  ammonia out of the exhaust air. The gas will then be repurposed to grow algae in a controlled environment.

“We want to improve the environmental stewardship of the poultry operation,” Xin said. “It would be a perfect match if we could remove ammonia from the exhaust air in poultry houses and use it to grow algae.”

Algae can be used to create a myriad of products including biofuel, biojet fuel, biomaterials, biochemicals and animal feed. Algae thrives on gases that for humans, can negatively affect health such as carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Kang said tests have shown that up to 96 percent of the ammonia is removed from the [air] exhaust. She is currently working on scaling up the algal bioreactor ro commercial scale while other team members study optimal algae growth conditions, analyze algae to produce feed and exploring optimum amounts of ammonia concentration for the algae to grow.

Xin added, “Algae can serve as a feedstock for biorenewable energy or [an additive] for animal feed. It’s a win-win situation; you kill two birds with one stone.”

Algae. Tec Facility Continues to Attract Attention

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly recently visited Alage.Tec facility in Shoalhaven (Australia). The plant is proving out technology that produces low cost, high grade algae-based biofuels. While on site, Dr. Kelly was briefed about the technology by company representatives.

One element with great promise is the fact that algae “eat” carbon to grow. In Israel and China, for example, the carbon-hungry algae are being used to abate emissions from coal-fired power stations that are a similar size to the ones used in Australia.

“This region is fast becoming a flagship for renewable energy in Australia,” said Dr. Kelly during his visit. “We have already seen over $1 billion being invested in renewable energy projects in Eden-Monaro and the lower Shoalhaven region – that includes wind and wave energy, solar, biomass and geothermal.”

Dr. Kelly continued, “To have a company like Algae.Tec here in Bomaderry, which recently signed a collaboration agreement with Lufthansa to produce aviation biofuels and also with Holcim Lanka, is a wonderful boon. The possibilities of this technology are extremely exciting. Their algae technology has almost no impact on the environment and could potentially eliminate emissions from coal-fired power stations.”

Roger Stroud, executive chairman of Algae.Tec noted that that the biofuels technology being used in Shoalhaven is the same technology that will be used by the company to produce aviation and other transportation fuels.

“We currently have feasibility studies underway with interested parties in Texas, Brazil, China, Sri Lanka and Germany, as well as another site in New South Wales,” said Stroud. “The Shoalhaven facility has already had VIP visits from some of the world’s largest companies wanting to see how the technology delivers sustainable low cost fuel, carbon capture, and energy security.”

Transforming Marine Algae into a Biofuel Crop

Are marine algae just as good as fresh water algae in producing biofuels? Yes, according to biologists at University of California San Diego. In a research study published in Algal Research, scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes. The same process, say the researchers, could be used to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from salt water algae.

Researchers say this discovery is important because it expands the kinds of environments in which algae can be conceivably grown for biofuels. For example, algal biofuels could be produced in the ocean, in brackish water of tidelands, or on agricultural land where crops can no longer grow due to the high salt content of the soil.

“What our research shows is that we can achieve in marine species exactly what we’ve already done in fresh water species,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research project. “There are about 10 million acres of land across the United States where crops can no longer be grown that could be used to produce algae for biofuels. Marine species of algae tend to tolerate a range of salt environments, but many fresh water species don’t do the reverse. They don’t tolerate any salt in the environment.”

“The algal community has worked on fresh water species of algae for 40 years,” added Mayfield, who also directs the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. “We know how to grow them, manipulate them genetically, express recombinant proteins—all of the things required to make biofuels viable. It was always assumed that we could do the same thing in marine species, but there was always some debate in the community as to whether that could really be done.”

The timing of the research was fortuitous – in October, the National Academy of Sciences committee published a report concluding that the production of algal biofuels might be limited by fresh water. “But now we’ve done it,” said Mayfield. “What this means is that you can use ocean water to grow the algae that will be used to produce biofuels. And once you can use ocean water, you are no longer limited by the constraints associated with fresh water. Ocean water is simply not a limited resource on this planet.”

In addition to expanding this research, the scientists would like to determine whether whole algae, post-oil extraction, could be sued as a feed additive to improve animal feeds.

DoShort Review – Sustainable Transport Fuels

What do you do when you’ve got a frustrating case of insomnia? You read books about energy. Okay, maybe not something you would do but it always keeps me good and entertained. Last night I read the DoShort, “Sustainable Transport Fuels Business Brief,” by David Thorpe in less than two hours. That is part of the sell – learn about a topic in 90 minutes or less. This is a brillant concept lads.

So what did I learn? I got a briefing on research, development and deployment of sustainable fuels around the world. The DoShort kicked off with a brief overview of the history of transportation fuels, relevant legislation, and the role of emissions reduction in determining the sustainable viability of a future fuel.

Next were a series of briefs on various types of fuels beginning with biofuels. The discussion included current technologies and technologies to watch, feedstocks, infrastructure, partnerships, pros and cons and opportunities and challenges. This same type of format was used in the brief sections about electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles, fuel cells, and a fuel I’d never heard of called hydrazine hydrate. There is even a concept car developed by Daihatsu. Who knew?

Much of the brief was focused on biofuels, since today they are the primary source of alternative fuels for the transportation sector (when specifically discussing fleets, the leading fuel is propane autogas). Here was an interesting tidbit I picked up: according to the IEA Bioenergy Implementing Agreement there are at least 67 local, regional or global initiatives to develop sustainability criteria and standards for biofuels.  (And if you’ve been reading this blog for the past six years you notice that biofuels, and currently the Renewable Fuels Standard, are constantly under attack). The most significant initiatives are: The Global Bioenergy Partnership, The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, International Organization for Standardization, and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification System.

While I have encyclopedic volumes of energy info stuck in my head, I got most of it reading many good, but dense books that took hours. What I’ve also known is that most people don’t have the time, nor interest, in reading all of these books. That’s why I do it for you and why I now consider these DoShorts such a winner – the reader of “Sustainable Transport Fuels Business Brief ” can sit down at a meeting and can impress the boss with a working knowledge of transportation fuels, in 90 minutes or less.

Algae Can Draw Energy from Other Plants

Bielfeld University Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse has a class he won’t forget. His biological research team has made what they consider to be a groundbreaking discovery – the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii not only engages in photosynthesis, but is also able to draw energy from other plants. The team believes this could have a major impact on the future of bioenergy.  Findings were released in the online journal, Nature Communications.

According to Kruse, it was believed that only worms, bacteria and fungi could digest vegetable cellulose and use it as a source of carbon for their growth and survival. In contrast, plants engage in photosynthesis of carbon dioxide, water and light. Yet through a series of experiments, Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse and his team cultivated the microscopically small green alga species in a low carbon dioxide environment and observed that when faced with such a shortage, these single-cell plants drew energy from neighboring vegetable cellulose instead.

So how does this work? Kruse explains that the alga secretes enzymes (so-called cellulose enzymes) that ‘digest’ the cellulose, breaking it down into smaller sugar components. These are then transported into the cells and transformed into a source of energy and abracadabra - the alga can continue to grow.

“This is the first time that such a behaviour has been confirmed in a vegetable organism,” noted Professor Kruse. ‘That algae can digest cellulose contradicts every previous textbook. To a certain extent, what we are seeing is plants eating plants.”

So does this trick happen with also forms of alga? Kruse says preliminary findings indicate this is in fact the case. And based on this hypothesis, this unique property of algae, the presence of celulose enzymes could be of interest for bioenergy production. There would no longer be a need for organic materials to feed the fungi that are currently used to extract the enzymes needed to break down the cellulose.

Propel & Solazyme Deliver Algae-Based Fuel

Propel Fuels is believed to be the first in the nation to sell consumers algae-based fuel at the pump compliments of Solazyme Inc. The two companies have joined together to offer Solazyme’s algae-based Soladiesel®BD in the Bay Area. The month long pilot program provides the biofuels industry the first opportunity to test consumer response to the advanced biofuel.

According to a statement from Propel, Solazyme’s high quality algae-based SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including cold temperature operating performance. The fuel is compatible with existing diesel engines and Propel is guaranteeing the fuel’s performance. The algae-based fuel will be sold at the same price as conventional diesel fuels and will be available exclusively at Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose (N. First St.), Berkeley, and Oakland.

“Propel is committed to providing our customers with access to the highest quality, most sustainable, domestically produced fuels, so we’re proud to introduce the next generation of fuels to the retail market,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. “Propel’s growing station network provides the critical link between these future fuels and today’s consumer fuel tanks, giving our customers a chance to make history.”

Solazyme’s technology platform converts plant sugars into oils in a few days. Testing undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that, in a 20 percent blend, SoladieselBD significantly outperforms ultra-low sulfur diesel in total hydrocarbons (THC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter tailpipe emissions. This includes an approximate 30 percent reduction in particulates, a 20 percent reduction in CO and an approximate 10 percent reduction in THC.

“Solazyme’s revolutionary algae-based technology platform has supplied our development partners and customers with advanced biofuels that meet or exceed some of the world’s most stringent fuels specifications and requirements, “ added Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme.  “We’ve successfully demonstrated our land-based fuels in fleet vehicles and corporate busses, and are excited about this pilot program with Propel because it enables us to make these fuels available to the public.”

Quick Cook Method Turns Algae Into Oil

Researchers from University of Michigan have developed a way to “pressure cook” algae for as little as one minute and transform up to 65 percent of the algae into biocrude. Phil Savage, a professor of chemical engineering at U of M, said the research team is trying to mimic the process nature uses when creating crude oil, and his algae of choice is green marine micro-alga.

To make their one-minute biocrude, Savage and Julia Faeth, a doctoral student in Savage’s lab, filled a steel pipe connector with 1.5 milliliters of wet algae, capped it and plunged it into 1,100-degree Fahrenheit sand. The small volume ensured that the algae was heated through. Previously the team heated the algae from 10 to 90 minutes and saw the best results when treating the algae for 10 to 40 minutes at 570 degrees. A small batch of algae can reach this temperature in one minute.

Savage and Faeth aren’t sure why the one-minute results so much better until they do more experiments. “My guess is that the reactions that produce biocrude are actually must faster than previously thought,” Savage surmised. Yet Faeth suggests that the fast heating might boost the biocrude by keeping unwanted reactions at bay. “For example, the biocrude might decompose into substances that dissolve in water, and the fast heating rates might discourage that reaction,” Faeth said.

Continue reading

Sapphire Energy & ISB Further Develop Algal Biofuels

Sapphire Energy and Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), have formed a strategic partnership to further the development of algae biofuels. The two companies will focus on applying systems biology solutions to algae with the goal of significantly increasing oil yield and improving resistance to crop predators and environmental factors.

Nitin Baliga, director of Integrative Biology at ISB, said of the partnership, “Sapphire is dealing with one of the most complicated problems known to humans: how to make fuel from a renewable resource. Together, we have complementary expertise that will allow us to understand, reverse engineer and rationally alter the gene networks for fuel production in algae.”

According to Alex Aravanis, Sapphire Energy’s chief science officer, said that the company has developed “the premier biotechnology platform” for producing and harvesting algae.  “By working with ISB to apply their systems biology approach, we’re able to more rapidly identify genes and regulatory pathways that can increase yield and move us toward our goal of making Green Crude a market viable, crude oil alternative.”

The companies hope to reverse engineer the gene networks in algae and create strategies that will significantly improve the yield of green oil and crop protection. They also hope to significantly reduce the time to market.

Most recently, Sapphire began operating the first phase of its 300-acre commercial demonstration Green Crude Farm, also known as an Integrated Algal Bio-Refinery, in Columbus, New Mexico, in partnership with the US Department of Energy. Once in full production, The Green Crude Farm is expected to produce approximately 100 barrels of Green Crude per day, and be completed the end of 2014.