|The Soladiesel test car.|
Solazyme, Inc., a synthetic biology company formed in 2003 to pursue biofuels from microalgae, is introducing Soladiesel, its first algal biodiesel, which has undergone road testing in a blend by powering a Mercedes-Benz sedan for long distances under typical driving conditions. Solazyme also announced that it has signed a feedstock development and testing agreement with Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA.
Solazyme is currently producing thousands of gallons of algal oil for use in producing algal biodiesel via conventional transesterification or algal renewable diesel via refinery-based hydrotreatment.
The company also has a research project underway for the production of algal biocrude oil. The biocrude or biopetroleum will be designed to match the composition of light sweet crude oil. The biopetroleum would be fully compatible with the infrastructure that refines, distributes retails and consumes petroleum products—not just automobile fuels but aviation fuel and chemicals as well.
Biopetroleum will require an industrial-scale biofermentation process that can produce pure, long-chain hydrocarbons efficiently. The company is receiving funding from NIST on this project. (Earlier post.)
Solazyme’s technology platform consists of several integrated methods and techniques: directed evolution; high-throughput robotic screening; proprietary techniques; and metabolic engineering.
In October 2007, Chevron and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) entered into a collaborative research and development agreement to identify and develop algae strains that can be economically harvested and processed into finished transportation fuels, such as jet fuel. Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA, is funding that initiative. (Earlier post.)
The more conventional algal biodiesel fueling the demonstration car is derived from Solazyme’s proprietary process for manufacturing high-value, functionally-tailored oils from algae.
Soladiesel exceeds both the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) biodiesel standard D6751 and EN 14214, the European standard. The car demonstrating Solazyme’s biofuel at Sundance is running on its original, factory-standard diesel engine with no modifications, and is powered by the highest blend of biodiesel that engine manufacturers currently certify. By operating in the typical sub-freezing temperatures for the area in January, it also illustrates how Soladiesel provides better temperature properties than any traditional biodiesel.
In June 2007, Solazyme and Imperium Renewables entered into a biodiesel feedstock development agreement in which Solazyme will generate algal oil for Imperium’s biodiesel production process. Under the agreement, Solazyme will grow its proprietary strains of microalgae, extract the oil, and deliver it to Imperium. Imperium will convert the feedstock oil using its proprietary technology into biodiesel fuel in its Seattle plant. (Earlier post.)