See it Now: When, how will Algenol’s $0.75/gallon gas savings find a station near you?

October 24, 2013 |

Algenol-imgTurns out, you might be the key to lower cost, microbial fuels. Yes, the microbial hotel known as You.

Meanwhile, check out a set of vids on a hot company aimed at relieving pain at the pump with a $1.27 per gallon cost structure.

“At my Costco,” says Algenol CEO Paul Woods, “we have guys lining up to save five cents on gasoline. What would saving 75 cents a gallon mean to you, or your business?”

Good question. It’s been so long since we’ve seen a $1.27 per gallon liquid transportation fuel that, when Algenol’s commercial-scale project opens for business in the near future, we might see the product hoarded, like $2 bills generally are when they appear in general circulation. Or a gallon jog will be donated by someone to the Smithsonian.

Everyone asks: exactly when will low-cost, energy-secure alternative fuels appear at the gas station?

You see, that’s where you come in. New technologies face the usual deployment challenges. Permitting, environmental review. Places where elected officials can either speed up the process, or slow it down.

The more you voice up your desire for domestically-produced, emissions-reducing fuels — the faster they will come. Because opinion in your district translates into action in the capital — and thereupon into lower prices.

For the formula-inclined: ∆ Shout –> ∆ Rate of Action –> ∆ $. That’s the refining process, if you will, of democracy. Call it the First Law of Politidynamics. The political heat of an issue is equal to the heat supplied by the electorate minus the inertia of Washington.

Algenol’s $1.27 fuel


Speaking of process —Well, you can ‘see it now’, the Algenol process that is, to borrow the title of the old Edward R. Murrow news magazine show from the 50s. A series of videos has lately appeared, as Algenol turns from the development of its technology to the stage once described by former Assistant Secretary of Energy Joe Romm as “deploy, deploy, deploy,” and a whole bunch of people who don’t know a thing about Algenol, and microbial fuels, are going to need to catch up in one big hurry.

A few preparatory remarks, though.

What will you see is nothing like the shattered landscape of an oil field or the lifeless canyons of distillation columns that form the modern petrochemical refinery. Since Algenol, as the name suggests, uses modern blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) to make liquid fuel, the modern refinery has the feeling of light, and life, and the quietness of nature going about its work.

But just because it’s not dirty, noisy or noxious doesn’t mean nothing is going on. In many ways, the front end of the Algenol process works likes a microbial dairy — the blue-green algae consume CO2 as they bathe in warm water, heated by Florida’s hot sun. They sweat out pure ethanol, which is recovered. Then the algae, following harvest, are then converted using relatively standard refining techniques into diesel, gasoline and jet fuel.

By-products? Algenol makes around 1.4 gallons of fresh water for every gallon of fuel.

The productivity gain

Now, these are modified microbes — optimized to produce at fast rates — a primary reason why Algenol has been able to generate a sustained production of 8,000 gallons of ethanol, per acre, per year — with peaks as high as 9,000.

That’s more than 16 times the productivity of corn, 9 times that of sugarcane — and, as you might surmise, as long as the accompanying plot of land has access to sunlight, water and CO2, you can place it anywhere. In the middle of a desert, if you like, and the logistics were in place. No need to use land that competes with, say, the food chain. Or even the Food Giant.

Now, if Algenol’s process churned out $4 per gallon fuel, there probably would be an extended conversation about subsidies and infrastructure — whether the world really needs alternative fuels that cost more than the incumbent, and who pays for the cost difference.

But at $1.27, the conversation, ahem, changes. Same as is happening for low-cost compressed natural gas — being adopted by fleets in increasing numbers around the United States and Canada, because the cost of natural gas has stayed so persistently low.

See it Now: The Algenol story

So — what does the Algenol technology look like? Nothing like an oil refinery — more like an army of inflatable rafts, suitable for a swimming pool near you, hung from the clothes line.

And you can see it now, in a series of 3-5 minute videos. Enjoy.

Intro to Algenol

How Does Algenol Do It
Algenol’s Environmental Benefits
Myths: What is true and what is not

How Algenol Complements Traditional Oil and Gas 

How Does Algenol Address Safety Concerns 
Algenol In a Political World

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Category: Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.