Category: Biodiesel

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — announced the relaunching of the Congressional Algae Caucus last week. This caucus aims to provide a forum to foster Congressional awareness of the enormous potential now being uncovered in tiny algae plant cells.

Representative Salmon commented: “In my own state we are already seeing the economic development that is possible from a thriving algae sector, from jobs to research and development. High tech jobs will help grow our economy and through this caucus, I hope to draw attention to the great economic and environmental benefits of algae production.”

Representative Peters stated, “My hope is that the Algae Caucus is a place for bipartisan discussion on how to diversify our energy policy, while also informing members of Congress about the jobs and partnerships the algae industry is creating, including at the University of California San Diego with the new California Center for Algae Biotechnology.”

Additional members of the bipartisan Congressional Algae Caucus include: Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Tom Latham (R-IA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN) , Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Hats off to them!

The algae biofuels market is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2015. Algae also offers additional applications in the food, green chemicals and plastics industries. Algae grows faster and requires fewer resources than other biologically based feedstocks.

My favorite application for algae is its use to clean up wastewater and then used the converted and harvested biomass as an energy source. But there are some really great new developments in algae biofuels that deserve special mention.

For example, the Green Crude Farm in New Mexico is now operational, refining algae into crude oil for transportation. Sapphire Energy raised about $300 million in public and private backing for the project.  Its Series C round was reported to be one of the largest venture capital deals in 2012.

The commercial success of its algae-based crude has enabled Sapphire to pay off the entire $54.5 million in federal loan guarantees the comapny obtained in 2009 from the Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by the USDA Rural Development-Cooperative Service. “The investments being made in low-carbon biofuel production are paying off and moving technologies forward, which will produce savings at the pump for consumers, and spur sustainable, new-wealth creation here in the United States, and make our land more productive,” says Doug O’Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Commercial airlines are also now testing and running on fuels that include Solazyme’s algae-based fuel. Solazyme is reportedly the first publicly-traded algae company (Nasdaq: SZYM). The company has signed a $120 million loan agreement with joint venture partner Bunge for a loan from the Brazilian National Development Bank. That loan will be used It will  be used to develop the first commercial-scale renewable oil production facility in Brazil.

The high yield per acre (up to 5,000 gallons of renewable oil per year on a single acre) and minimal environmental impact of algae biofuels make them one of the most viable and attractive biofuels on the market today.

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Biodiesel from waste oils

Biodiesel has been billed as America’s first renewable advanced biofuel. It is biodegradable as well as renewable!  It also burns cleaner than hydrocarbon diesel – that’s good news for those of us who hate the smell of hydrocarbon diesel!

In 2011, the U.S. produced 1.07 billion gallons of biodiesel.

What particularly interests people like me is that waste oils and greases can be used to generate biodiesel!

Used oils and greases generally cost less than virgin feedstocks. Lower feedstock prices are extremely important to the biodiesel industry, where feedstock prices typically comprise some 75 to 80% of total production costs.

Research and development of technologies continues to foster generation of biodiesel from diverse sources of waste oils and greases such as agricultural wastes, restaurant and food processing wastes.

As US EPA Region 9 reports:

“Although both virgin oils and used cooking oils are used to make biodiesel, used cooking oil diverts waste from landfills and sewer pipes and converts it into an energy source. In metropolitan areas where restaurants, cafés, and cafeterias are abundant, waste cooking oil can be harvested from restaurants as an “urban crop” instead of using virgin soybean oil.

How much waste cooking oil is out there?

Large amounts! Hotels and restaurants in the United States generate 3 billion gallons of waste cooking oil per year. This amount could fill tanker trucks arranged bumper-to-bumper from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and back!”

Any diesel vehicle can be run on biodiesel!

This is a vast potential energy source, and developing this alternate energy source will help us all get rid of waste oil and grease problems, as well! That’s a win-win situation!

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