Algenol: Renewable fuel at 75 cents below current market, as soon as 2014

October 2, 2013 |
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Hot technologies were on display at the 2013 Algae Biomass Summit

Bold price predictions, and a new technology system unveiled, from one of algae’s hottest of the hottest. 

Algenol CEO also indicates that dispute with Florida government is resolved, and focus is back on the Sunshine State for the first commercial plant.

In Florida, Algenol CEO Paul Woods announced at the Algae Biomass Summit that the company has switched reactor system and has reached a peak production of 10,400 gallons per acre and  continuous production in the 8000 gallon per acre range.

It was the first major update from Algenol since March, when the company said that it had exceeded production rates 9,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year. Woods said at the time that “I fully expect our talented scientific team to achieve sustained production rates above 10,000 by the end of this year.”

$1.18 per gallon production cost

With that, Woods said that his ethanol production cost, at scale, would be in the $1.18 per gallon range, and that with further development of the technology, Algenol is now able to produce diesel, jet fuel, renewable gasoline in addition to ethanol, via hydrothermal liquefaction technology.

Marketing: 75 cents below current market price

Woods said that his plan was to market his fuel, presumably referring to ethanol, at 75 cents per gallon below the current market price — noting that the fuel still had to pass through a series of regulatory approvals that he estimated would take approximately 6 months.

“This is no Disney movie, there’s no magic wand, I’ve been at this 29 years,” said Woods. “It’s not easy, it’s not quick, but it’s here.”

Algenol CEO Paul Woods, on stage at the Algae Biomass Summit with Sapphire Energy CEO C.J. Warner and Cellana CEO Martin Sabarsky, as Biomass magazine executive editor Tim Portz moderates

Algenol CEO Paul Woods, on stage at the Algae Biomass Summit with Sapphire Energy CEO C.J. Warner and Cellana CEO Martin Sabarsky, as Biomass magazine executive editor Tim Portz moderates

Switch to new vertical production system

Woods said that the decision to move away from his own horizontal reactor design in favor of the vertical reactor system now employed “was painful, but the old system just got us to 24000 or 3000 gallons per acre. Great results, but short of our original goal of 6000 gallons per acre.”

Woods said that the company’s Viper vertical system was a “real system, not some Glenn Kurtz job,” referring to a discredited Vertigro technology whose backers once claimed could produce more than 100,000 gallons per acre per year. “It looks like a big IV bag, and in some ways it is a big IV bag, but its cheap, and that’s the main thing.

“The productivity output is superior,” he told the delegates at the annual Algae meet-up. “This baby cranks it out.” He added that the new vertical design reaches full peak production within 4-5 days.

Focus back on Florida for first commercial plant

In related news, Woods also said that a dispute with the Florida state government has been resolved — one that had prompted Woods to tell NBC that he planned to switch a $500M advanced biofuels project to Texas, New Mexico or Arizona — among other possible sites. Woods noted that his current 30-acre R&D facility in Lee County, Florida now employs 120 workers with an average salary of $98,000 per year.

At last year’s Algae Biomass Summit, Woods had first revealed that the company, at its 4-acre, outdoor Process Development Unit in Lee County, Florida, had achieved continuous production of ethanol at the 7,000 gallon per acre level.

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