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DEMA consortium targeting direct production ethanol from algae at less than $2/gallon

The EU-funded project DEMA (Direct Ethanol from MicroAlgae) is working to produce bioethanol directly from cyanobacteria—a microalgae found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat, including in oceans, lakes and damp soil, and on rocks—for less than €0.40/liter (US$2.00/gallon).

The conversion of solar energy, H2O and CO2 into ethanol will be carried out by a metabolically engineered strain of the cyanobacterium, Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. The DEMA team will develop and demonstrate the technology.

The DEMA Project is carrying out research and development on the complete biofuel-production process at two levels.

  • In the first level, the performance of cyanobacteria will be substantially enhanced by a series of metabolic engineering strategies to directly transform CO2, H2O and sunlight into bioethanol at a concentration level of >1-2% (v/v).

  • In the second level the bioethanol is continuously extracted from the culture media via a membrane technology process exploiting existing EU expertise and technology.

This process design enables the economic and energy efficient production of ethanol at a reduced capital and operational expenditure. LCA (life cycle analysis) performance is excellent, the team says. The team will also study exploitation of the residual biomass for other energy-related applications to generate an even better total LCA.

The project brings together nine partners from both academia and industry from six EU countries. It is coordinated by the University of Limerick in Ireland and has received almost €5 million (US$6.6 million) from the EU under the energy strand of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project started work in December 2012 and completes its work in May 2017.



Well, that ain't the at-the-pump price. What is it with the overhead figured in? What about environmental concerns?


I doubt that cyanobacteria have any undesired effluents worth worrying about, other than biological oxygen demand if large amounts of dead ones were spilled.

Even at $3/gallon, this would be competitive with gasoline in many places.  At $2, it would be preferable.  The big question is how it takes its CO2 (concentrated, or will the atmosphere do?) and the other details of the bioreactor.


Here in the UK tax on petrol is around 60%, and it retails at around Euros 1.60, so there is plenty of margin even including taxes and the relatively small distribution overhead for this to be competitive if they can hit their price target.


Is taxing fuel and other forms of energy used for vehicles a bit outdated?

A simple $150 black box (already in production) can capture and transmit daily:

1. all in town Km driven
2. all secondary roads Km driven.
3. all highway Km driven
4. all parking (paying) places usage.
5. all over speeding, lane changing, incomplete stops done.
6. etc.

Vehicles insurances rates could be adjusted weekly or monthly?

Governments could tax every vehicle owner based on distances driven?

Improved model will render vehicle unusable when insurances and/or road/parking taxes have not been paid.

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