World’s largest oil refinery adds Algenol algae demonstration project

January 26, 2015 |

algenol-algaeReliance Industries taps Algenol, completes algae production system; producing algae from CO2 recycled from industrial processes; could later demonstrate the fuels production capabilities of Algenol’s advanced fuel producing algae and systems. 

In India, Algenol and Reliance Industries have successfully deployed India’s first Algenol algae production platform. The demonstration module is located near the Reliance Jamnagar Refinery, the world’s largest oil refinery with a nameplate capacity of 668,000 barrels per day at a 7500 acre complex in Gujarat state at the western extreme of India.

The demonstration has completed several production cycles of Algenol’s wildtype host algae, but ultimately could demonstrate the fuels production capabilities of Algenol’s advanced fuel producing algae and systems. The Algenol fuel production process is designed to convert 1 tonne of CO2 into 144 gallons of fuel while recycling CO2 from industrial processes and converting 85% of the CO2 used into ethanol, gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. The advanced fuel producing algae technology is successfully operating at Algenol’s Fort Myers, Florida headquarters.

Algenol Demonstration Project in India

The Algenol Demonstration Project in India

Construction of the system was completed in November of 2014 by Algenol and Reliance engineers and biologists. Shake-down runs and systems tests have been completed and several successful batches of algae have been grown. At this time, day-to-day operations of the project are managed solely by Reliance Industries Ltd., after Algenol provided training and operational support. The effort is proof that Algenol’s technology can be co-located with and successfully managed by a partner.


The greenhouse gas story and the EPA’s approval

Earlier this month, Algenol announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved fuels made from Algenol’s process as an advanced biofuel, meeting the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Fuels produced from Algenol are now eligible for a Renewable Identification Number under the D-5 classification. The EPA’s approval of Algenol’s patented Direct to Ethanol pathway covers its bio-crude co-product under an already existing pathway. As part of this approval, the EPA determined that ethanol produced from the Algenol process resulted in an approximate 69% reduction in greenhouse gases.

The scale and steps forward

As Algenol CEO Paul Woods explained to The Digest, “This first demo block in India is 400 PBR, just like [we originally built in ] Florida, and then we will progress from there to scale up bigger and bigger over time. In Florida, we have now the 4000 PBR block, and we had a 400 block before that.

“What we wanted to demonstrate, is that we could design, build and operate in India, and train the people to actually operate it on their own. I think we accomplished that.  It got inoculated in November, and now several cycles have been run.  Our people handed it over to the Reliance crew Dec 23, 2014. In addition, the Reliance crew trained here in Florida for over a month.”
Why not the fuel-producing algae?
“We also had to import the wild type algae into India,” said Woods, ” and that permission took a long time. We are now applying for full importation of the fuel producing algae.”
What’s the progress in Florida? “The full commercial module has started up here in Ft Myers,< Woods explained, “and we will continue to expand the size of it over the next 2 months until finished in March.”

The Algenol backstory


Algenol is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels. The company’s 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. 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.

The Reliance relationship

The relationship between Reliance Industries and Algenol is not new, as Reliance has been a strategic investor in Algenol’s technology since June 2011. Algenol’s technology recycles carbon dioxide into fuels through its direct-to-ethanol process which results in not only ethanol but gasoline diesel and jet fuel. India is the world’s third largest producer of CO2 and the facility’s ethanol and renewable crude oil production could help meet critical demand for energy in the country as well as help to reduce green house emissions from carbon dioxide. Algenol’s fuel production process requires saltwater rather than freshwater – a key advantage for India – which has incurred serious droughts in the past and faces significant demand for fresh water. The project is currently using saltwater from the Arabian Sea.

Reliance has invested a total of $116 million in algae (Rs6.2 billion). $93.5 million (Rs5.0 billion) in Algenol, as part of its strategic partnership.

The company’s key production milestone

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 $1.30 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.

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 facility will be “below $10 per annual gallon of capacity,” according to the company.

Reaction from Algenol

“The project is designed to demonstrate how robust the Algenol system is in India, and how the two companies will more broadly integrate refinery operations with Algenol’s platform in the future,” says Paul Woods, Founder and CEO of Algenol. “The deployment of our technology in India is a critical milestone. The initial project start-up and smooth transition begins to prove the viability of our technology in varying environments across the globe and the ability of partners to operate our production systems without Algenol’s day-to-day involvement.”

More about Algenol via our 2015 5-Minute Guide


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