Transformative Technologies 2010 nominees: Microalgae, cyanobacteria, lemna, and plankton

June 7, 2010 |

Sapphire Energy's proposed 1 Mgy demonstration plant in Columbus, NM

Nominations: Microalgae, cyanobacteria, lemna, and plankton
To vote in Transformative Technologies 2010, visit here.

Algaeventure Systems

In Ohio, Algaeventure Systems  was founded in 2008 with a mission to take the cost barriers out of growing and processing algae.  They recently discovered and developed a disruptive technology, nicknamed HDD, for harvesting, dewatering and drying, that reduces by 99% the cost of getting algae out of water and dry (the consensus, single most difficult, barrier to cost effective fuel from algae).

Algenol Biofuels and Dow Chemical will construct a $50 million pilot algae biofuels plant in Freeport. The plant will be located with Dow’s existing chemicals complex, and will supply CO2 as well as land for the pilot algae facility. Dow said that it was interested in Algenol’s ability to sue algae to produce ethanol, which could be used as a base for making ethylene, which is in turn a feedstock for many types of chemicals. The plant is designed to produce 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year at a target price of between $1.00 and $1.25 per gallon, according to CEO Paul Woods, who added that groundbreaking is expected to commence this year. Traditionally, chemical companies have been using natural gas as an ethylene feedstock.

Ames National Lab project
Nanofarming: a partnership between Ames National Laboratory, Iowa State University, and Catilin to use microscopic materials to harvest fatty acids from microalgae without destroying the cells.

Aurora Biofuels
Aurora burst onto the scene in June 2008 with the announcement that it had raised $20 million in series A financing from Oak Investment Partners, Noventi and Gabriel Venture Partners. Aurora plans to use technology developed by Berkeley professor Tasios Melis for an open-pond algae production system, and will produce biodiesel from algae. The company says that its process reduces the cost of biodiesel production by half, compared to current methods. Aurora Biofuels said it has raised an additional $15 million in a recent funding round led by Oak Investment Partners, with the continued support of Gabriel Venture Partners and Noventi Ventures.

Murdoch University, U of Adelaide project
Scientists in a algal fuel project which includes Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide said that they are have proven that it is possible to grow large amounts of algal biomass in open saline ponds, and have done so consistently and without contamination. The group said that they have achieved production rates of  50 tonnes of algal biomass per hectare per year, or 13 grams per square meter per day, and said that they were achieving a 50 percent of higher oil content, and expected to do better at a new pilot scale facility. The project is supported by $1.89 million Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Idaho Sustainable Energy
Idaho Sustainable Energy, LLC (ISE), is a company formed to develop the Algae Biomass Biorefinery Integration Complex, comprised of a consortium of technology providers in United Biorefineries Corp (UBC), utilizing existing infrastructure with acquired land and supporting construction in Glenns Ferry, Idaho. The project will acquire existing and adjacent properties in rural Glenns Ferry, which includes the former Idahoan Potato facility. The project will also sequester CO2 from the Black Hills Energy Cogeneration Power Plant on site (see attached letter of Agreement) and utilize waste heat from this source.

Kumho Petrochemical
386,000 gallon, $17.6M pilot project by 2011- partnership with Biosystems – project in South Jeolla. 28.5 Mgy, $176 million algae-to-ethanol plant will be constructed at Yeosu.

National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB)
In California, Jose Olivares updated Xconomy’s Bruce Bigelow on progress at the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB). Olivares said that the consortium of more than 20 companies and universities is primarily focused on increasing algae production rates to more than 20 grams per square meter per day, and developing cost-effective water and oil extraction systems. By contrast, a typical US soy farm develops an average of 1 gram of soybeans per square meter per day. The consortium has a three-year budget of $69 million from the DOE and cost-shares from the institutions.

National Technological University (Argentina)
Developing an algal fuel solution that offers a 5:1 net energy return on energy invested. The project is utilizing seawater from a Mar de Plata industrial cooling process and is projected to yield 856 gallons of algal oil per acre (8000 liters per hectare). The project, which commenced in 2008, is using flocculation and centrifuges for algae extraction and said it was using an undisclosed algal strain adapted for local conditions.

In May, Australia’s MBD Energy became the company’s first algae-producing customer. Anglo American, one of the world’s largest mining companies, is a cornerstone investor in MBD Energy. The parties recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding on a multi-phase commercialization program relating to OriginOil’s Quantum Fracturing and Single-Step Extraction systems.

PetroAlgae applies leading-practice biochemistry when growing micro-organisms into micro-crops, and focuses on precisely managing exposure to light, greatly enhancing yield. Growth is in one-hectare open pond bioreactors and harvested daily producing two products—high value protein and biocrude. The biocrude is sent to existing refineries for conversion into renewable, drop-in fuels. PetroAlgae was most recently in the news with MOU with Indian Oil, a partnership with Foster Wheeler, and licensing in China and North Africa. The company’s model farm is 12,500 acres and produces 60 Mgy of fuel and as much or more value in proteins, according to company execs.

In Texas, Photon8 CEO Brad Bartilson said that his company’s “Traveling Wave Tube” photobioreactor technology can boost algal growth production rates by 500 percent, has slashed production costs associated with other PBR technologies, and has been genetically modifying its algae to double lipid production. Photon8 is presented at the Algae World Summit earlier this week in San Diego.

In Missouri, Phycal announced that it is moving out of the lab and into the BioResearch and Development Growth Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center, with a 2800 square foot facility. Phycal, which was co-founded by Dr. Richard Sayre, Director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Danforth Plant Science Center; Chief Scientist of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB); and Director of the Center for Advanced Biofuels Systems (CABS). The company is based in Ohio, where it is part of the Logos Energy Group, and is building a pilot project in Hawaii that will open this year.

Pond Biofuels

Directly connected to the raw stack gas of the cement plant located at St. Marys Ontario, Pond Biofuels is utilizing CO2 emissions to grow and harvest high value biomass from microalgae.

Scottish Bioenergy
The Glenturret Distillery in Perthshire announced that it would convert waste CO2 to biodiesel by growing algae as a biofuel feedstock. Scottish Bioenergy confirmed in a BBC report that it had constructed the first pilot-scale algae bioreactor at Perthshire in cooperation with the distillery, Shell, Edrington Group and the Scottish Environmental Technology Network.

Sapphire Energy
In September, Sapphire Energy will break ground on the world’s first integrated Green Crude production process. The system will demonstrate multiple technical breakthroughs in biology, open pond aquaculture, harvesting, wet extraction, and conversion technologies, as well as the art of integrating all of them into a common system. Sapphire Energy is constructing a 100-acre R&D, engineering, and pilot production facility. Ponds are already in place and Sapphire began growing “aggressively” as of November 2008, as well as continuing lab work at nearby New Mexico State University. Some notable firsts from Sapphire. The first gasoline produced from genetically modified algae, as well as drop-in, renewable diesel and drop-in renewable jet fuel. If green diesel from algae reaches it potential for epic scale, look for these samples to find a final home in the Smithsonian. Plans: a 1 Mgy demonstration-scale facility by 2014, 100 Mgy commercial scale by 2018, and 1 billion gallons per year by 2025.


Seambiotic, a leader in the development and production of algae biofuels, announced that Daniel Chinn has been appointed CEO. The company is currently in transition from the pilot plant stage to commercial scale algae cultivation and production. Seambiotic operates 1,000 square meters of ponds using flue gas from the nearby Israeli Electric Corporation power plant, and is located in Ashkelon. The project utilizes seawater that has been recovered from the electric turbine  cooling process.

Announced in March that it signed an R&D agreement with Unilever to develop oil derived from algae for use in soaps and other personal care products. The company utilizes a unique “grow in the dark” algae cultivation strategy, in which the algae is fed plant waste cellulosic and other cellulosic materials that contain sugars – the food is used in lieu of sunlight and CO2 to provide energy that algae convert into lipids. The company was selected by DOD to demonstrate commercial scale production of algae-derived F-76 Naval Distillate fuel for testing and fuel certification to demonstrate it meets all military specifications and functional requirements.

Solix recently commenced production of algal oil at its Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility, and said that full-scale commercial operation would commence later this summer. The Coyote Gulch farm is on two acres near  Durango, on Southern Ute tribal land. Solix said that it expects to reach a production rate of 3,000 gallons per acre per year by later this year at the facility.

UK Carbon Trust Algae Consortium

In the UK, the Carbon Trust awarded $12.19 million to a consortium of 11 universities for a three-year project to establish the UK as a center for algal biofuels research and development. The goal of the group is to develop a process for manufacturing up to 18 billion gallons of algal fuel by 2030. In the money on this round are: University of Coventry, London Queen Mary. University of Manchester, University of Newcastle, Critical Processes, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Scottish Association for Marine Science, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton, University of Swansea and Bangor University.

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