Algenol: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

February 19, 2014 |

Company description:

Algenol LLC is a global, development stage, industrial biotechnology company that makes biofuels and high-value industrial chemicals cost-effectively from abundant, renewable resources. Algenol uses hybrid blue-green algae and specially designed photobioreactors as a sustainable, proprietary platform for making its products from carbon dioxide, sunlight, and saltwater. The Company’s first product is ethanol for the biofuel and ethylene markets that it produces with its patented DIRECT TO ETHANOL process

Rankings

50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #25, 2013-14

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.

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.

“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.”

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

The Situation

Last September, 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.

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.

Major Investors:

Privately held

Type of Technology(ies):

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.

Products:

First product will be transportation ethanol for the growing fuel market. Algenol also has a small but focused group working on the green chemistry.

Product Cost (if applicable – per US gallon):

At commercial scale, Algenol intends to have capital cost between $4.00-$6.00 /gallons and operating cost under $0.90/gallon.

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.

Algenol completed an approximately $90 million private financing with a major multinational petroleum corporation that has become a new strategic partner for Algenol.

Future Milestones

Algenol intends to complete its DOE Biorefinery in 2013.  At full scale, the facility will consist of 17 acres filled with photobioreactors, and will produce 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year.

The company expects to have a commercial project producing ethanol by the 4th quarter of 2014

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):

Algenol has pioneered the production of ethanol using cyanobacteria and has been issued several patents in the field.  Algenol’s unique photobioreactor and its energy efficient separations technology result in the DIRECT TO ETHANOL®  process having a net energy yield (energy out vs. energy in) of nearly 4 to 1.  This combination of factors leads to a target cost of production of ethanol below $1.00 per gallon.

In collaboration with Georgia Tech, Algenol has published its Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) in a peer-reviewed journal demonstrating an 80% reduction in its carbon footprint when compared to gasoline.

The company’s DIRECT TO ETHANOL® technology has a no harvest strategy.  Our hybrid algae acts as biocatalyst to fix carbon efficiently and produce our first molecule, ethanol.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances:

Algenol has several collaborations with world-class companies and universities:

•       Linde AG

•       Valero

•       BioFields

•       Georgia Tech

•       University of Colorado

•       Florida Gulf Coast University

Stage:  

Algenol is constructing its DOE  Biorefinery which will produce 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year and consumes 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide a day.

Website:  Algenol’s website is here.

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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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