10 tendenze sulle alghe

Jim Lane | February 25, 2014 – Biofuels Digest

Algae has been touted as the ultimate platform for fuels, chemicals, nutraceuticals, proteins — even cancer therapies.
There’s been a rate of progress that would impress any devotee of Moore’s Law — and a series of wacky claims that would impress any devotee of P.T. Barnun.

So, what are the real trends?
We’ve traveled several years now since the “Summer of Algae” when it seemed like half the venture capitalists in life sciences were forming algae ventures, or thinking about them. Since then — a cluster of research projects and proto-companies have been tackling the real-world challenges of yield, harvesting, dewatering and application development.

In today’s Digest, we’ve identified the Top 10 Trends that should be commanding your attention.

1. Big Oil, L’il algae

Sapphire Energy Hot 50_4

This past week, algae observers were startled to learn that Reliance Industrial Investments, the Indian oil holding company, placed a $2.4M purchase order for Algae.Tec algae production technology as a follow-up to an initial investment of A$1.5M by Reliance, with additional investments of AU$1.2 million over the next 2 years. The purchase order for Algae.Tec modules will be supplied and completed over approximately the next nine months. The Algae.Tec  solution is less than one tenth the land footprint of pond growth options, while its enclosed module system is designed to deliver the highest yield of algae per hectare, and solves the problem of food-producing land being turned over for biofuel production.

Overall, it’s Reliance’s third algae investment. A Credit Suisse report on the company, (see page eight of the report, downloadable here), revealed last year that Reliance has invested a total of $116 million (Rs6.2 billion). $93.5 million (Rs5.0 billion) in Algenol and 22.5 million (Rs1.2 billion) in Aurora Algae.

But there’s more algae activity stirring in the world of Big Oil. In November, Sapphire Energy and Phillips 66 announced a strategic joint development agreement to work together to collect and analyze data from co-processing of algae and conventional crude oil into fuels, and to complete fuel certifications to ready Sapphire Energy’s renewable crude oil for wide-scale oil refining.

Under the agreement the companies will expand Sapphire Energy’s current testing programs to further validate that Green Crude can be refined in traditional refineries and meet all of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) certification requirements under the Clean Air Act.  This includes determining the optimal operating conditions for processing algae crude oil into American Society for Testing and Materials-certified diesel, gasoline and jet fuel.  Once the study is finished, the companies will work together to complete the EPA certification process to register a new fuel product entering the market. Sapphire Energy is now producing crude oil daily from algae biomass cultivated and harvested at the company’s Green Crude Farm, located in Columbus, N.M.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget the Synthetic Genomics-ExxonMobil relationship, which debuted in spectacular fashion with a $500M initial spending target in 2009. Last year, SGI announced a new co-funded research agreement with ExxonMobil to develop algae biofuels. The new agreement is a basic science research program that focuses on developing algal strains with significantly improved production characteristics by employing synthetic genomic science and technology. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. Last year, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson told PBS, “We’ve come to understand some limits of that technology, or limits as we understand it today, which doesn’t mean it’s limited forever. The venture is “probably further” than 25 years away from successfully developing fuels.”

The last public update on ExxonMobil’s algae efforts was here.

2. Making Mo’ Better


Algae is renowned for its production potential — after all, the mass can double in as little as 24 hours — meaning that it could dwarf the productivity of terrestrial plants. But translating potential into industrail scale “business as usual” hasn’t been a joyride.

Hence it was big news when, last March, Algenol confirmed that the company had exceeded production rates of 9,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year — and company CEO Paul Woods said that ” I fully expect our talented scientific team to achieve sustained production rates above 10,000 by the end of this year.” Just last September, in the opening plenary session at the Algae Biomass Summit, Woods 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.


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