Monday, March 10, 2008

Biofuel - Biodiesel and Ethanol - From Algae

Biofuel options seem to change daily. Solazyme has scaled up a process of making a variety of biofuels using algae to convert sugars.

The big question that I don’t hear tech reporters asking is “what is the energy balance?” How much energy goes into the system to produce a btu of fuel? Because Solazyme uses sugars, and sugars come from food stocks, this process will cause the same sorts of eco-damage from tilling new soil, and replacing food crops. Check out recent post here.

From Technology Review:

Solazyme, a startup based in South San Francisco, CA, has developed a new way to convert biomass into fuel using algae, and the method could lead to less expensive biofuels. The company recently demonstrated its algae-based fuel in a diesel car, and in January, it announced a development and testing agreement with Chevron. Late last year, the company received a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a substitute for crude oil based on algae.

The new process combines genetically modified strains of algae with an uncommon approach to growing algae to reduce the cost of making fuel. Rather than growing algae in ponds or enclosed in plastic tubes that are exposed to the sun, as other companies are trying to do, Solazyme grows the organisms in the dark, inside huge stainless-steel containers. The company’s researchers feed algae sugar, which the organisms then convert into various types of oil. The oil can be extracted and further processed to make a range of fuels, including diesel and jet fuel, as well as other products.

The company uses different strains of algae to produce different types of oil. Some algae produce triglycerides such as those produced by soybeans and other oil-rich crops. Others produce a mix of hydrocarbons similar to light crude petroleum.

More at: Technology Review

Related Posts: Biodiesel Derived From Algae

Via: Sustainable Design Update