Mascoma vs PetroAlgae: Who's the Best?

August 12, 2011 |

Background: This is a first round, East Regional match-up between #3 seed Mascoma and #14 seed PetroAlgae, in the 2011 Transformative Technologies tourney, from Biofuels Digest.

The winner gets: Most votes advances to the second-round (round of 32), and a shot at the Biofuels Sweet Sixteen.

The loser: Goes home.

Laurels: Mascoma is the 12th ranked company in the 2010-11 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy poll. PetroAlgae currently holds down #28.

The match-up: Two companies on the cusp of commercialization – looking for $$. Mascoma has one of the most pampered, adored, well-financed set of micro-critters in history, chasing consolidated bioprocessing. That’s a bug that both liberates sugars from cellulose, and ferments them, in one-step.

PetroAlgae – pivoted early in its commercialization run from microalgae to lemna (duckweed) – making protein for animal feed, and a slurry of carbs and lipids that it is seeking to upgrade to fuels at an economically efficient rate.

Looking at Mascoma

Developing: Its first commercial facility in Kinross, Michigan.

Technology: The unique technology developed by Mascoma Corporation uses yeast and bacteria that are engineered to produce large quantities of the enzymes necessary to break down the cellulose and ferment the resulting sugars into ethanol.  Combining these two steps (enzymatic digestion and fermentation) significantly reduces costs by eliminating the need for enzyme produced in a separate refinery.  This process, called Consolidated Bioprocessing or “CBP”, will ultimately enable the conversion of the solar energy contained in plants to ethanol in just a few days.

Looking at PetroAlgae

Developing: At an early-stage in developing projects in Surinam and Chile.

Technology: PetroAlgae is a renewable energy company currently licensing and deploying the leading biomass production platform to address existing and growing unmet needs in the global energy and agriculture markets. It’s proprietary technology, consisting of light and environmental management systems, allows our customer licensees to grow aquatic microorganisms at a rate that consistently exceeds natural growth rates. This enables the commercial-scale production of two end-products: a fuel feedstock, which they refer to as biocrude, and protein products. The fuel feedstock is intended to be used principally in existing refineries, resulting in renewable fuels which are functionally compatible with the petroleum-based fuels they would replace. The high productivity afforded by our technology leads to fuel feedstock which should increase the profitability of the refineries without the requirement for any government subsidies

PetroAlgae addresses the production of renewable fuels through photosynthesis and we have a currently commercially viable system to address the commodity fuel and food markets based on this approach.  Many companies are focusing their efforts on the higher value but smaller specialty chemical or nutraceutical markets which do not require the same volumes of biomass to be economic. Some of our competitors are using genetically modified or selectively-bred organisms that are designed to encourage certain properties (such as high lipid production). Microorganisms that produce high concentrations of lipids produce lower amounts of protein and carbohydrates. PetroAlgae’s approach uses indigenous species exclusively and promotes optimal growth. The resultant organisms produce a high proportion of valuable protein that is part of the success of our business model.

 

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