The promise of liquid fuels from algae

Liquid fuels market: growing, not going away

  • Transportation requires liquid fuel
  • Extensive liquid fuels infrastructure is already in place
  • Fossil fuel supply is finite

Liquid fuels will continue to be the primary source of transportation fuel. The infrastructure is extensive and will continue to be utilized in the foreseeable future. The fossil fuel supply is finite, and alternatives are needed. When considering renewable alternatives for liquid fuels, algae hold significant promise.

  • Algae have the highest oil content when compared to vegetable oil sources.
  • Algae and derived products do not compete with the food supply.
  • Congress has mandated 15 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2020.
  • The mandate has spurred hundreds of millions of dollars in investment by ExxonMobil, Shell and others to grow algae.

Open any business publication and you are likely to find an article about fuel-from-algae commercialization, and the major oil companies are jumping in.

Algae grow fast and consume CO2, and have significantly higher renewable fuel-per-acre yields than corn-based ethanol. And, there is a significant step that must be made between growing algae and utilizing it as a feedstock. Algae in natural form are nearly all water, and it is energy-intensive to separate biomass from water. Extruders that work for oil seeds don’t work on microscopic algae. Using solvents to break open algae is costly, is difficult to scale, and presents environmental hazards.

How do we extract the energy value of algae effectively while minimizing these costs? The solution lies in the heart of our innovation: electromechanical lysing.

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