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Dow Planning to Build and Operate a Pilot-Scale Algae-to-Ethanol Biorefinery with Algenol Biofuels

The Dow Chemical Company plans to work with Algenol Biofuels, Inc. to build and operate a pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will produce ethanol, located at Dow’s Freeport, Texas site. Dow, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Membrane Technology & Research, Inc. are contributing science, expertise, and technology to the project.

Algenol submitted its formal request last week to obtain a grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for financial support to successfully conduct the pilot. Upon approval of the grant, Dow and the other collaborators will work with Algenol to demonstrate the technology at a level to sufficiently prove that it can be implemented on a commercial scale.

In addition to leasing the land for the pilot-scale facility, Dow plans to develop the advanced materials and specialty films for the photobioreactor system. In addition, Dow will also provide the technology and expertise related to water treatment solutions and will provide Algenol with access to a CO2 source for the biorefinery from a nearby Dow manufacturing facility.

The CO2 will be supplied to the algae in the photobioreactors and will serve as the carbon source for the ethanol produced. The result is a CO2 capture process which converts industrially derived CO2 into more sustainable fuels and chemicals.

Algenol’s Direct to Ethanol technology. The Direct to Ethanol process links sugar production to photosynthesis with naturally occuring enzymes within individual algae cells. Algenol metabolically enhances the algae to produce ethanol while being resistant to high temperature, high salinity (the process uses salt water), and high ethanol levels, which were previous barriers to ramping to commercial scale volumes.

Algenol’s prototype production strains can produce ethanol at a rate of 6,000 gallons/acre/year, and are expected to improve to 10,000 gallons/acre/year by the end of 2009. By comparison, corn produces around 400 gallons/acre/year. With further refinement, the algae cells have the potential to increase production rates to 20,000 gallons/acre/year in the future, Algenol claims.

Algenol’s process currently achieves an energy balance of more than 5 to 1 and a life cycle carbon footprint that is merely 20% of petroleum (i.e., an 80% reduction from petroleum).

Complementary to its Direct to Ethanol initiative, Algenol is building a CO2 to “x” or multi-carbon platform to leverage the technology to produce other high value carbon-based molecules such as plastics and polymers.



Sounds fascinating. Too bad Dow doesn't pony up the money that Algenol is seeking from the fed. They can probably afford it and probably should invest cash in this potentially lucrative business.

The problem with the nanny state is everybody starts to wait for the nanny to dish out the milk.


Or wait 30 years for the private sector greed mongers to NOT do anything because CDO/CDS deals were SO much more lucrative.


Ah, there's always North Korea, or Cuba to retreat to.

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