Forget the summer of love. This is truly turning into the summer of algae.
More advanced than it appears.The renewable energy and law blog of Stoel Rives LLP, a big law firm in the western U.S, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency will count algae as an advanced biofuel under Renewable Fuel Standard rules being developed. The EPA is said to be encouraged by recent interest in algae by heavyweights such as Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical.
California-based alternative fuel company Sapphire Energy is already producing gasoline from algae that meets current standards and expects to produce by 2011 one million gallons (3.8 million liters) of biodiesel and jet fuel per year.
“Fuel from algae is not just a laboratory experiment or something to speculate on for years to come,” said Sapphire vice president Brian Goodall.
What does this bode for other high-profile algae-to-energy companies?
“We think it’s good for algae, and good for us,” said Tim Zenk, VP of Corporate Affairs for Sapphire Energy. “The research collaboration announced today sends a loud and clear message that drop-in-replacement liquid transportation fuel produced from algae, above all other biologic choices, is the most viable option to replace crude oil.
The race to bring pond scum to fuel tanks has acquired high stakes in recent years, with venture capitalists, federal agencies and legacy oil companies pouring millions of dollars into the technology. Today ExxonMobil and startup Synthetic Genomics announced one of the biggest deals yet: more than $600 million for a 5-6-year algae biofuels development program, including more than $300 million to be invested into the startup.
Exxon is joining a biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc., to research and develop next-generation biofuels produced from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide by photosynthetic pond scum.
In Florida, Biofuels Digest released its list of current investors backing the Hottest 20 Companies in Bioenergy.
A notable and recent example of the important influence of academia is the influence of local researchers in forming the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, which aims to turn San Diego into the ‘Houston of algae fuel production.’
America is waking up to the reality of peak oil and climate change. In California there are very different responses to the crisis: some pin their hopes on new technology, while others advocate a radical change of lifestyle.
Sapphire gained instant attention when it raised a stunning $100 million, and participated in the initial algae-based jet test with Continental last December. The combination were factors in propelling Sapphire to a #2 ranking in last December’s 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy list.
Algenol Biofuels, with its just-announced plans to build an algae fuel demo plant in partnership with Dow Chemical, isn’t the only startup taking the demise of a well-funded algae fuel company — GreenFuel Technologies — in stride.