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Solazyme Opens up on the Stock Market Today (SZYM)

Solazyme, an algal oil company that is using fermentation methods to grow its algae (ie feeding it sugar), has opened up today on the stockmarket with a strong outlook. Already, its looking like they will set a record for the industry with Solazyme worth around $227 million. Why has this algae company down so well where otheres haven’t? Biofuels Digest points to this:

Solazyme also defied the conventional wisdom that algae is a phantom feedstock by delivering more than 450,000 gallons under a series of government fuel contracts, and commencing delivery to a wide array of bio-based product partners for fragrances, skincare, food products, fuels and bio-based chemicals. Among their diverse set of offtake partners – the US Navy, Dow Chemical and L’Oreal.

As Digest contributor Peter Brown remarked, “The key of course is that Solazyme produced, not much, but enough for a proof of concept. A number of companies have come to the table with no actual production figures, and that puts them squarely in the DotCom scenario. This can only be good for the industry and other biofuels companies should take heed.”

In the aftermarket, the company can be expected to reap the benefits of a relatively strong commitment to communications and outreach – dating back to, say, the Soladiesel-powered car seen at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2008 for the debut of the documentary “Fields of Fuel,” and continuing today, with the company having 9,000 followers on Twitter, by far the largest company following we are aware of.

I think they hit the nail on the head. Solazyme has had a strong history of producing products in a wide variety of sectors (from biofuels to cosmetics). The only other thing I would add is that OriginOil, an algae biofuel technology company, has had some recent commercial successes (as well as having over 14,000 followers on Twitter, username: OriginOil).

Check out Solazyme at http://www.Solazyme.com And OriginOil at http://www.OriginOil.com

Read the rest of the Biofuels Digest article here: http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2011/05/27/solazyme-ipo-nets-up-to-227m/

RAND study rebuffed by Navy, Algal Biomass Organization

A recent RAND study claims that the the military basically shouldn’t waste their time with new alternative energy sources like algae camelina. From a NYT article:

The United States would derive no meaningful military benefit from increased use of alternative fuels to power its jets, ships and other weapons systems, according to a government-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation scheduled for release Tuesday.

The report also argued that most alternative-fuel technologies were unproven, too expensive or too far from commercial scale to meet the military’s needs over the next decade.

However, not everyone agrees with this assessment, including the U.S. Navy. From the same article:

RAND’s conclusions drew swift criticism from some branches of the military — particularly the Navy, which has been leading the foray into advanced algae-based fuels.

“Unfortunately, we were not engaged by the authors of this report,” said Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Navy. “We don’t believe they adequately engaged the market,” he said, adding, “This is not up to RAND’s standards.”

The Mary Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Algal Biomass Organization, also issued a statement blasting this study.

Today, the RAND Corporation published a study and accompanying press release calling into question the effectiveness of renewable fuels for military use.

The report can be found here: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG969.pdf

A copy of the press release can be found here: http://www.rand.org/news/press/2011/01/25.html

“It is our understanding that researchers at RAND did not reach out to any of the leading algae companies. Given that most of the cutting edge algae-fuels research is taking place today in the private sector where companies rightly protect their intellectual property, and given that the industry has made significant progress in the past three years, we believe the report is likely based on outdated information. In our opinion, basing sweeping policy recommendations on such data is misguided if not reckless.

The positioning of the entire US algae industry as a “research topic” is patently false. We have more than 100 companies, academic institutions and national laboratories working to develop the algae-to-fuels industry. Algae-derived fuels have already been tested and/or used in motor vehicles and commercial aircraft, and last fall’s successful test of a Navy Riverine Command boat showed that algae fuels are ready for use. It is unclear to us whether or not any actual “green” CTL fuels have been produced or tested.

We believe algae commercialization is far closer than RAND suggests. A 2010 report by Greentech Media Research projected annual US production of 6 billion gallons of algae fuel by 2022. On the contrary, the RAND report calls the potential for commercial production of CTL fuels over the next decade “very limited.”

We will continue to work on behalf of the US algae industry to inform policymakers of the true potential of algae-based fuels as a long term, viable source of renewable fuels for the military.”

No, HYGROelectricity, Not HYDROelectricity

Yep, you read that right, hygroelectricity. If you type that anywhere, it will try to correct you with hydroelectricity. Even the all-knowing Google machine insists that all my searches for “hygroelectric” are wrong and offer “hydroelectric” as what I should have typed.

But no, hygroelectricity is a real word that has real life implications for regions with high humidity. Check it out:

But scientists are now developing a different approach to using the electricity in our atmosphere as a renewable energy source: pulling energy right out of thin air! OK, not thin air, but humid air. Contrary to earlier beliefs, the tiny water droplets in our atmosphere hold an electrical charge— a shocking development!

In addition, scientists working on this project theorize that putting hydroelectric panels in areas that experience a lot of thunderstorms could take enough charge out of the air to avoid damage from lightening.

Pretty cool to say the least. If you do a Google New Archive search for “Hygroelectricity”, results will only go back to August 19, 2010 with this article as one of the first to bring attention to this potential power source.

Hopefully further information and research will come along soon.

A Billion Dollar Win and a Half a Million Dollar Loss for the Algae Industry

Biofuels Digest covers two major announcements this week in the algae field, a promising story and a cautionary tale. Essentially, Martek is being acquired by DSM for over $1 billion, one of the largest infusions of cash into a company working with algae. OriginOil CEO Riggs Eckelberry posted on his blog that this was the ‘first billion dollar algae transaction.’

Conversely, BioCentric Energy’s many financial problems, including not being able to pay almost $500,000 in debt, led to its demise.

Here is Biofuel Digest’s take on what these two events:

The Wild, Wild Wet period in the development of the algal bio-based products industry is coming to a close, and winners and losers are beginning to emerge. Could there be any more stark contrast of the Tale of Two Cities type (“it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”) than the announcements regarding DSM, Martek and BioCentric?

One extraordinary winner: Martek, which has parlayed its development of a vital nutraceutical made from algal biomass into a billion-dollar business.

One extraordinary loser: BioCentric Energy, which had raised hopes with a promising series of announcements in the development of a closed-loop photobioreactor system, but appears to have all-but-collapsed in a series of major financial misjudgments for which the consequences may create some difficult personal consequences for individuals, and clearly wrought havoc on suppliers and employees for a good portion of 2010.

This should provide a cautionary tale to everyone who is looking into investing into an algae company. You can either strike it big or you can lose big. The algae industry is very young and the companies are even younger. That means that before the company has fully matured, you can (sadly) expect more algae ventures to fold.

The good news is that those employees in the case of BioCentric Energy should be able to find employment elsewhere. The algae research field as a whole is growing and the market isn’t flooded with those with backgrounds in algae biofuel production.

Additionally, as in any industry where most of the companies are considered startups, it is expected that some companies with succeed and others with fail. The hope is that in this process, the industry will continue to mature. With major success by companies like OriginOil and Solazyme, the overall trend is moving the algae industry towards maturity.

For more in this story, visit http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2010/12/23/a-tale-of-two-algaes-dsm-to-acquire-martek-biocentric-energy-collapses-amidst-irs-bad-check-labor-crises/

Cornell joins Algae Consortium to Develop a Commercial Scale Algae-to-Fuel Facility

Researchers from Cornell University have joined several other respected organizations to develop a facility that could produce algae based fuels at commercial scales and costs.

Cornell University researchers have joined Kailua Kona, Hawaii-based algal biofuel research company Cellana, along with Duke University, San Francisco State University, the University of Hawaii and the University of Southern Mississippi on a $9 million DOE-backed mission to develop a commercial-scale algae-to-fuel facility by 2015.

The goal for the consortium is to develop a 100-acre commercial-scale facility to produce fuels and animal feeds from microalgae. Charles Greene, a Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, who is a principal investigator on the project, is working with Jeff Tester, a professor of sustainable energy systems in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and associate director of the Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, to analyze the economics, energy costs and carbon footprint of the project. “In the ideal sense, all biofuels should approach carbon neutrality,” says Greene.

The rest of the article can be found here: http://www.algaeindustrymagazine.com/cellana-algae-consortium-adds-another-partner/

Texas College Adds Class Devoted to Algae and Its Uses (aka Biofuel)

The National Algae Association is teaming up with Lone Star College – Montgomery to conduct research with algae. They are conducting research using a PBR system which basically is an enclosed tube system in which algae is grown.

The cool thing about this partnership, in addition to the standard research that will be taking place, is the fact that they will also be offering a class on algae.

Next spring, Kainer plans to have a greenhouse installed with a second PBR so the college can test whether the weather affects the process. The program also will use a computer system to measure growth rates and pH levels remotely.

The college also added a new general microbiology course (biology 2421) available in the spring that includes in-depth coverage of algae, including an examination of industrial applications and algae oil research.

“I think it brings us a lot of attention,” Coleman said. “Once we really get the PBRs going and producing … it’ll really put us in the public eye.”

The PBR features six 12-inch tubes, each 5 feet tall, that cumulatively hold 400 gallons.

You can check out the rest of the article here: http://www.hcnonline.com/courier/news/article_40113143-969a-5ea2-a519-19f60532a4bc.html

Washington University Researchers Discover Algae Strain that Produces 10x more Hydrogen than Nearest Competitor

Washington University Researcher Himadri Pakrasi and fellow scientists are studying strains of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) and have discovered a strain that can produce 10 times as much hydrogen as the nearest competitor.

Here is a little background on this discovery as well as the overall process of how algae produce hydrogen:

The soup is colored by a strain of blue-green bacteria that bubble off roughly 10 times the hydrogen gas produced by their nearest competitors—in part because of their unique genetic endowment but also in part because of tricks the scientists have played on their metabolism.

Hydrogen gas can be produced by microbes that have enzymes called hydrogenases that take two hydrogen ions and bind them together. Although the soup microbes have hydrogenases, most of the hydrogen they evolve is a byproduct instead of an exceptionally efficient nitrogenase, an enzyme that converts the nitrogen in air to a nitrogen-containing molecule the microbes can use.

The microbe’s gas-producing feat is described in December 14,2010 issue of the online journal Nature Communications.

Biohydrogen, like that bubbling up from the microbial soup, is one of the most appealing renewable energy fuels. Produced by splitting water with energy from the sun, it releases mostly water when it burns. It’s hard to get any cleaner than that.

The strain growing in the Roux bottles in the cabinet, called Cyanothece 51142 was originally found in the Gulf of Mexico by Louis A. Sherman of Purdue University, one of the article’s authors. Its genes were sequenced in 2008 at the Genome Sequencing Center at the School of Medicine.

Pretty awesome news and it will be interesting to see what this kind of research leads if/when it intersects with developments done by companies like OriginOil.

Exxon Mobil’s New Algae TV Advertisement

The other day, I became aware that Exxon Mobil was running an advertisement on television promoting their research into algae biofuels. I have yet to see it on TV but sure enough, when I searched for it on YouTube, an ad did come up.

For those who may be unaware, Exxon Mobil announced in July of 2009 that it was going to invest up to $600 million into algae biofuel research. This announcement represents the largest single investment any private company has sunk into algae research up until this point.

Basically the ad features one of Exxon’s biofuel scientists, Joe Weissman, as he explains how they are partnering with Synthetic Genomics to identify the best strains of algae to use as sources for fuel.

Here is the video:

When searching for this new video, I did stumble upon an older, less detailed version and wanted to include it here as well:

New Zealand’s Aquaflow looks to Partner with Leading Acoustic Cavitation Company

What is acoustic cavitation? Well, it is the use of sound waves to form microscopic bubbles in a liquid. These bubbles then implode, releasing energy and heat.

Why is an algae biofuel company like Aquaflow partnering with Impulse Devices, one of the leading high-pressure cavitation companies? Well, they believe that ID’s acoustic cavitation technology can help with algae growth.

From Aquaflow’s press release:

In addition, both companies are committed to long term wastewater remediation in man-made (oxidation pond) and natural (rivers and lakes) water sources. AC technology is also able to control algal growth and potentially improve water quality without producing toxic by-products.

“We are committed to making algae-derived fuels and chemicals a reality in the very near future. The ability to experiment and potentially apply the Impulse Devices’ technology may lead to faster advancement and the development of another pathway,” explains Gerritsen.

Dr Peter Nelson, VP Corporate Development at IDI, stated: “We are pleased to join forces with Aquaflow in order to explore the application of high-pressure AC to algae biomass processing. IDI is the world leader in pressurised AC and believes that by bringing its technology together with Aquaflow’s process, the energy cost of generating liquid bio-fuel can be substantially reduced.”

Check out the rest of the press release to get a better idea on what acoustic cavitation is and how the companies plan to work together.