Algenol: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide 

January 7, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoCompany description:

Algenol is a global, industrial biotechnology company that is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels.

Algenol’s patented technology enables the production of the four most important fuels (ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) for around $1.30 per gallon each using proprietary algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and saltwater at production levels of 8,000 total gallons of liquid fuel per acre per year. Algenol’s technology produces high yields and relies on Algenol’s patented photobioreactors and proprietary downstream separation techniques for low-cost fuel production.  These novel, low-cost techniques have the added benefit of consuming carbon dioxide from industrial sources, not using farmland or food crops and being able to provide freshwater.

Since its founding in 2006, Algenol’s scientists and engineers have invented and patented a broad array of new technologies for producing advanced renewable transportation fuels. The Company’s technology is a unique two-step process that first produces ethanol directly from the algae and then converts the spent algae biomass to biodiesel, gasoline and jet fuel.

Rankings

50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #3, 2014-15

Biofuels Digest Awards

2014: Yield Improvement — Algenol

There’s nothing like cracking the 10,000 gallon per acre barrier en route to nabbing The Digest’s yield improvement award, as Algenol announced in September at the Algae Biomass Summit. Now, that’s peak production of 10,400 gallons per acre —  continuous production is in the 8000 gallon per acre range.

2010: Public private partnership (county) of the Year ALGENOL – Lee County, FL

The Situation

Reliance has invested a total of $116 million in algae (Rs6.2 billion). $93.5 million (Rs5.0 billion) in Algenol and 22.5 million (Rs1.2 billion) in Aurora Algae.

Though neither Reliance, Algenol nor Aurora Algae have agreed to go on the record and comment on the state of relations, sources at Algenol have confirmed that Reliance in 2014 renewed its investment in the Florida-based company — though the timing and extent of support was not clear.

In September 2013, 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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Major Investors:

Privately held

Technology:

The DIRECT TO ETHANOL technology uses the power of the sun, carbon dioxide, seawater and hybrid algae to produce ethanol and other green chemicals.

Feedstocks:

Algenol hybrid algae use carbon dioxide as a feedstock.  The efficiency of carbon dioxide conversion to ethanol is quite high.

Past Milestones

In the first quarter of 2011, Algenol completed the construction of its 49,000 sq. ft. research facility located in Lee County.  This allowed Algenol to consolidate all its US operations that consist of engineering, aquaculture, physiology, analytical chemistry and molecular biology.

Construction on the 36 acre outdoor Integrated Biorefinery has begun in Fort Myers Florida (Lee County).

Algenol completed the acquisition of Cyano-Biofuels located in Berlin, Germany. The acquisition significantly increased Algenol’s research and development capacity and strengthened its access to European expertise in biotechnology and algal research.

Future Milestones

Algenol has completed a first stage of its DOE-partnered Biorefinery.  At full scale, the facility would consist of 17 acres filled with photobioreactors, and will produce 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year.

The company expected to announce a commercial project by Q4 2014, but we have not yet had firm news from South Florida.

Business Model:

Algenol intends to either license its DIRECT TO ETHANOL technology or contribute the technology for equity in production ventures with strategic partners.

Competitive Edge(s):

The low-cost, low-carbon-footprint DIRECT TO ETHANOL process can produce ethanol with operating cost around $1.30 per gallon. This operating cost assumes the purchase of carbon dioxide feedstock for $30 per metric tonne. As the DIRECT TO ETHANOL process yields nearly 4 units of energy for every unit of energy input, the energy costs for the process are modest. Capital costs to construct a DIRECT TO ETHANOL facility will be below $10 per annual gallon of capacity.

Website:  Algenol’s website is here.

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