March 10, 2011

VG Energy could make viable biofuel from algae

VG Energy, a renewable energy company, has released a report claiming that the company's proprietary technology could produce biofuels derived from algae at costs competitive with crude oil prices.

The study found that the biodiesel could be produced at $94 (€67.9) per barrel.

'The introduction of VG Energy's additives offers the ability to knock down the cost of algal oil production by almost a factor of 10 as a result of productivity improvements. If oil secretion currently observed in the lab can be fully demonstrated in larger scale growth systems, there is a potential for further decreasing costs by another factor of roughly two. These represent dramatic changes in the economics of algae technology, and are truly game changing. A lot of work remains to be done to establish the robustness of the VG Energy's lab results, but these preliminary economic analyses show that the promise of the technology warrants further investment and investigation,' the report states.

When added to algae cultures in a laboratory setting, these additives have been found to increase extractable lipid production by more than 300%.

According to John Sheehan, the author of the study: 'What they have stumbled on indirectly through a fairly unrelated field of research is the possibility that you really can turn on lipid production in algae. For the last five years of the research at the National Renewable Energy Lab, we were entirely focused on exactly this question.'

In addition, VG Energy's technology encourages algae to release fats outside of its cell walls, meaning there is the opportunity to recycle the algal biomass without destructively extracting the oil. Sheehan believes that a 75% biomass recycle rate is possible, contributing to greatly reduced production cost projections.

'VG Energy has made a really interesting discovery but a lot of work remains to turn this into a viable commercial process,' he says.

Source: Energy Boom





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