Blue Marble Energy and Bionavitas Announce Partnership to Produce Industrial Biochemicals from Microalgae
9 October 2009
|BME’s AGATE process. Click to enlarge.|
Blue Marble Energy Corp.(BME), a company using unique bacterial consortia to produce specialty biochemicals from the anaerobic fermentation of a range of biomass feedstocks, and Bionavitas, an algae producer, formed a partnership in which Blue Marble Energy will produce high-margin biochemicals from microalgae supplied by Bionavitas. Blue Marble CEO Kelly Ogilvie announced the partnership at the 3rd Annual Algal Biomass Summit in San Diego.
Blue Marble Energy’s proprietary AGATE (Acid, Gas and Ammonia Targeted Extraction) system uses different bacterial consortia (“cassettes”) in an anaerobic fermentation process to produce a variety of biochemicals, including short-chain esters, amides and green anhydrous ammonia. It also generates renewable natural gas as a product.
Ogilvie says that while fuels production from algae may ultimately prove viable, right now the focus on higher-margin biochemicals provides a more sustainable economic base for the business. As an example, propyl-propionate, one of BME’s specialty chemicals, currently sells for some $816 per gallon.
When you look at what’s happening in the biofuels space, I think one of the failures of generation one was focusing on low-margin commodities. The future, I think, is going to be an integrated biorefinery, with products up and down the value spectrum—chemicals all the way to fuels, and that’s the way it makes sense... The focus on fuels without the chemicals is missing the point, and missing the model that has worked for over 200 years, and that’s the oil companies.
—Kelly Ogilvie, speaking at the Algae Biomass Summit
|“We’re not squishing algae, we’re feeding algae to the bacteria to produce our target chemicals.”|
BME utilizes natural strains of bacteria, avoiding for the moment the cost barriers of genetic engineering as well as the longer pathways to commercialization. BME plans to scale from a 1 ton per day demo facility in Seattle, Washington, to a 33 ton per day (1,000 ton per month) pilot facility in Odessa, WA. Currently, BME can produce ethyl-butyrate for about $0.02/gram ($20/kg) at its demo facility, according to Ogilvie.
In July, BME closed a series A financing round, with the lead investor, Rajiv Shah, joining the board.
Bionavitas, based in Redmond, Washington, has developed Light Immersion Technology that enables the rapid production of algae for environmental remediation, manufacturing health and nutraceutical products, and producing biofuels.
Light Immersion Technology can be used to grow algae to remediate selenium, zinc, lead, cadmium, boron, mercury, and other undesirable elements and compounds from industrial waste streams. Blue Marble can then process the generated algae biomass into specialty biochemicals.
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