[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Solazyme and Amyris receive Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge awards
October 16, 2014
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the 5 winners of the 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, including biotechnology companies Amyris and Solazyme, Inc. Solazyme received the award for Greener Synthetic Pathways for its tailored oils produced from microalgal fermentation. Amyris received the Small Business award for its renewable hydrocarbon farnesane for use as diesel and jet fuel.
Amyris has engineered yeast to make the hydrocarbon farnesene via fermentation instead of ethanol. Farnesene is a building block hydrocarbon that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel without certain drawbacks of first-generation biofuels. A recent lifecycle analysis estimated an 82% reduction in GHG emissions for farnesane, compared with the EPA baseline fossil diesel—including indirect effects.
DOE will award up to $25M to reduce costs of algal biofuels to less than $5/gge by 2019
September 30, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $25 million in funding to reduce the cost of algal biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. (Earlier post.)
The release of the new funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001162) occurred on the first full program day for the Algae Biomass Summit in San Diego, at which algae entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, producers and end-users are gathering to share developments, as well as to explore the ongoing challenges of technology, financing and commercialization. DOE Assistant Secretary EERE David Danielson, the opening keynote speaker for the summit, said that the agency is “all in” on algae fuels.
German researchers boost algal hydrogen production five-fold using metabolic engineering approach
September 25, 2014
Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Chemical Energy Conversion and Coal Research and from the research group Photobiotechnology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have discovered a way of increasing the efficiency of hydrogen production in microalgae by a factor of five by using a combined metabolic engineering approach. An open access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
The genetic modifications resulting in the enhanced light-driven hydrogen production opens new avenues for the design of H2-producing organisms, which might lead to the design of an economically competitive hydrogen producing organism, the researchers suggest.
DOE to award up to $25M in funding for work on cost-effective algal biofuels
September 23, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $25 million in funding to support the development of cost-effective algal biofuels. (Earlier post.) The Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB) FOA (DE-FOA-0001162) seeks the development of alternative pathways to overcome two of the key barriers to commercializing algal biofuels: the high cost of producing algal biomass and the low yield of target biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks produced from algae.
The goal is to improve DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) 2019 projected cost of algal biofuels from mature technology of about $8 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) to less than $5 gge through creation of valuable products alongside fuels and achieving increased biomass productivity that leads to higher feedstock yields.
DOE to issue funding solicitation for algal biofuels and bioproducts; targeting <$5 gge by 2019
August 20, 2014
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (DE-FOA-0001162) entitled “Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB)”. The TABB FOA seeks to reduce the cost of algal biofuels.
BETO’s 2019 projected state of technology (SOT) for the cost of algal biofuels is modeled at about $8 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) based on a lipid extraction pathway without valuable co-products. The TABB FOA will support work at bench and process development scales to develop valuable co-products, crop protection, and CO2 utilization strategies. BETO expects the TABB FOA to result in modeled mature algal biofuel costs of less than $5 gge by 2019.
Joule first to gain US EPA clearance for commercial use of modified cyanobacteria for fuel production
July 01, 2014
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has favorably reviewed Joule’s Microbial Commercial Activity Notice (MCAN) for the company’s first commercial ethanol-producing catalyst (a modified Synechococcus cyanobacterium). This clears the catalyst for commercial use at the company’s demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico.
This also marks the first time that EPA has allowed the commercial use of a modified cyanobacterium (although not of other modified microorganisms such as S. cerevisiae, E. coli, T. reesei, etc.). (The full list of EPA notifications under the Toxic Substances Control Act—TSCA—is available here.)
Audi testing finds e-ethanol and e-diesel produced by Joule often perform better than conventional counterparts
February 03, 2014
|Audi investigating its e-fuels in an optical research engine using laser-induced fluorescence. Click to enlarge.|
Audi testing of synthetic ethanol (Audi e-ethanol = Joule Sunflow-E) and synthetic diesel (Audi e-diesel = Joule Sunflow-D), produced in partnership with Joule (earlier post) in a pressure chamber and optical research engine has shown that the Audi e-fuels often perform better than their conventional counterparts.
Joule’s Helioculture platform uses engineered microorganisms directly and continuously to convert sunlight and waste CO2 into infrastructure-ready fuels, including ethanol and hydrocarbons (n-alkanes) that serve as the essential chemical building blocks for diesel.
PNNL team develops continuous flow process for rapid production of green crude from algae; licensed for commercialization
December 18, 2013
|Process flow for liquid fuels from algae by hydrothermal processing. Elliott et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a continuous-flow process that produces useful crude oil less than one hour after receiving harvested algae. The research was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology. (Earlier post.)
The system runs at around 350 °C (662 °F) at a pressure of around 3,000 psi (20.7 MPa), and combines hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) and catalytic hydrothermal gasification. HTL converts wet algae slurries into an upgradeable biocrude. Catalytic hydrothermal gasification is applied for HTL byproduct water cleanup and fuel gas production from water soluble organics, allowing the water to be considered for recycle of nutrients to the algae growth ponds. The combined process yields high conversion of algae to liquid hydrocarbon and gas products, along with low levels of organic contamination in the byproduct water.
Venter: algae biofuels require “real scientific breakthroughs”; biofuels need a carbon tax to be viable
December 11, 2013
During his keynote and subsequent question-and-answer session at the BIO Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in San Diego this week, Dr. Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, J. Craig Venter Institute and Founder and CEO, Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) tangentially provided a brief update on the status of SGI’s research work with ExxonMobil into algae biofuels, as well as some general observations on the prospects for algae biofuels.
“As far as I know, the same experiment has been done over and over again for the last 50 years. To my knowledge, not one single group has achieved higher lipid levels than you can get out of natural occurring algae. For it to be economically viable we need at least five times that rate. … In my view, we need some real scientific breakthroughs that change what algae can do,” said Dr. Venter.
Sapphire Energy and Phillips 66 parter on co-processing of algae crude oil with conventional crude
December 10, 2013
San Diego-based Sapphire Energy, Inc., one of the world leaders in algae-based “Green Crude” oil production, and Phillips 66, an integrated energy manufacturing and logistics company, have entered a strategic joint development agreement aimed at taking production of algae crude oil a significant step toward commercialization.
The companies will work together to collect and to analyze data from co-processing of algae and conventional crude oil into fuels. The goal is to complete fuel certifications to ready Sapphire Energy’s renewable crude oil for wide-scale oil refining.
BAL scientists engineer yeast to produce ethanol from brown seaweed; brown seaweed biorefinery
December 03, 2013
An international team of researchers from Bio Architecture Labs, a synthetic biology and enzyme design company focused on the production of biofuels and biochemicals from macroalgae (seaweed) (earlier post), reports the development of a synthetic yeast platform based on Saccharomyces cerevisiae that can efficiently produce ethanol from brown seaweed; the paper is published in the journal Nature.
In January 2012, BAL scientists reported the engineering a strain of Eschericia coli that could break down and then ferment alginate—one of the most abundant sugars in brown algae, but a sugar that industrial microbes can’t metabolize—into ethanol. That paper was featured on the cover of the journal Science. (Earlier post.)
Scripps Oceanography researchers increase lipids yields in microalgae without compromising growth; potential boon for economical algal biofuels
November 22, 2013
Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego report in an open access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that disrupting lipid catabolism is a practical approach to increase lipid yields in microalgae without affecting growth or biomass. This is turn, could greatly improve the economics of algal biofuel production.
In their study, they developed transgenic strains of the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana through targeted metabolic engineering that show increased lipid accumulation, biomass, and lipid yields. Two engineered strains exhibited wild-type–like growth and increased lipid content under both continuous light and alternating light/dark conditions.