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GreenFuel experimented with growing algae in tubes and bags at its Arizona pilot farm. While most of its competitors are sticking to these methods, GreenFuels has developed a closely-guarded greenhouse technologies which grows algae at higher yields and an automated system to harvest the crop. It will be debutting this setup at a commercial scale plant in Spain, to be complete in 2011.  (Source: PetroAlgae)
Algae company's harvest will make biodiesel, nutritious livestock feed

Many in the alternative fuels industry agree that algae is where the mid-range future of the biodiesel industry lies.  While fuels such as ethanol and cellulosic ethanol may prevail in the short term, algae is seen as the final stepping stone before full synthetic gasoline production.  This value is due to algae's ability to grow rich long chain hydrocarbons.  When algae is genetically engineered, it can produce large amounts of oil that is essentially diesel grade. 

The big question with algae tech is not whether it will arrive, but when it will arrive.  DailyTech had previously followed Cambridge, Mass. based GreenFuel Technologies' effort to bring its specially bred algae to the market.  The company, founded by MIT graduates, had built a pilot farm in Arizona, previously.  By growing algae in tubes, it found that algae would get optimal sun exposure.  Its only problem was that it grew too much algae, blocking out light, and eventually killing part of the crop.

Now GreenFuel is taking its experience and has become the first algae company to announce a profitable business deal and the construction of a commercial scale growth facility.   Spain's Aurantia, a leading alternative energy investment firm, has agreed to pay GreenFuels $92M to build a 100 hectacre (250 acre) algae farm.  The farm will produce 25,000 tons of biomass yearly.

GreenFuel, which recently celebrated its 7th anniversary, already has a 100 square-meter prototype greenhouse operating at the site in Spain.  GreenFuel ditched the growing tubes, opting for a top-secret tubeless proprietary growing process, one which includes automated harvesting.  Thus far the company has declined to reveal the secretive workings of this new design.

It has, however, announced its intention to scale the production up quickly.  It plans to have a 1,000 square-meter installation online by the end of the year.  The full farm is scheduled to be completed by 2011. 

The plant will take carbon dioxide emissions from the nearby Holcim cement plant near Jerez, Spain and use it to increase algae yields.  This will cut down on Holcim cement plant near Jerez, Spain, almost 10 percent of the factory's output.  This will help the factory meet tougher emissions standards.

The developers are in the process of selecting which strains of algae to grow.  Certain strains are optimized for biodiesel production; bred to produce extra oil.  Other strains produce extra nutrients like protein and make for more nutritious animal feed.

CEO Simon Upfill-Brown acknowledges that the field is full of overly optimistic visions, but insists his company is firmly grounded in reality and a series of successful trials.  He states, "Some people are making clearly outrageous claims. We're at the stage where we can say we are pretty comfortable and very optimistic that we're getting all the way there in phases."

One trouble spot for the upcoming farm is falling gas prices.  With gas low, it may be harder for the farm's biodiesel production to be economically competitive.  This was cited as the resaon for rival Imperium Renewables' delay of its plan to launch a smaller algae farm in Hawaii.


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By Spoelie on 10/21/2008 11:41:39 AM , Rating: 3
Actually it's the other way around, gasoline needs more refining and has a higher production cost than diesel.

As for the price, diesel is usually higher because of higher demand (generators, home heating, transportation industry like ships and trucks, cars in non-US markets, ... run mostly on diesel) and higher (environmental) taxes.


By bobsmith1492 on 10/21/2008 12:23:36 PM , Rating: 1
Still, if more refinery capacity is allocated to gas than diesel, less diesel is available, driving price up...

Which would, naturally, cause refineries to produce more diesel, decreasing the price until a balance is achieved.

So then why does diesel cost more?

It's probably taxed more because of how allegedly dirty it is, not to mention the latest permitted sulfur regulations drove up refining costs.


RE: Diesel prices are somewhat higher than gasoline...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 12:32:12 PM , Rating: 3
I think your both wrong they don't NOT refine part of a barrel of crude. It isn't like they take the gas part of the crude and just chunk the rest out. If a barrel is refined it is refined into all parts from tar > diesel > gas > propane.

I could be wrong, but that is my understanding.


RE: Diesel prices are somewhat higher than gasoline...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 12:47:53 PM , Rating: 3
More specifically crude oil can only make so much gas, and so much diesel and they are exclusive.

A barrel of crude refines into roughly 9.1 gallons of diesel and 19.5 gallons of gas (barring some mixes and such). It is not like they can choose to put 10 gallons of gas into diesel or vice versa, they are completely different hydrocarbon fuels. So going in, at any given # of barrels refined there will be less supply of diesel, and if demand is the same for both, diesel will always cost more.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/no...


By FITCamaro on 10/21/2008 1:46:47 PM , Rating: 3
Interesting. So lets do an analysis here:

$80 a barrel
2.60 for gas (regular)
2.90 for diesel
18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gas
24.4 cents per gallon federal tax on diesel
16 cents per gallon state tax (SC) on gas and diesel

$77.09 would be the total cost of the gas and diesel from one barrel.

$6.70 in taxes on gas
$3.68 in taxes on diesel

$77.09 - $6.70 - $3.68 = $66.71

So on an $80 barrel of oil the oil companies, make around $13. Now from that they have to pay shipping costs, refining costs, payroll, payroll taxes, and corporate taxes(over 30% alone). Yes they're just greedy SOBs...


RE: Diesel prices are somewhat higher than gasoline...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 1:57:11 PM , Rating: 3
Not quiet they do produce and sell several other goods such as asphalt tar, propane, kerosene, JetA ... And they are in the top 100 (if not top 10) every year so they aren't doing too bad. Hey and most of them are probably in the top 5% of income tax returns that pay 95% of the taxes so I guess we should be happy.

Won't be too long and we can milk some more forced charity out of em too if the Dems get their way.


By FITCamaro on 10/21/2008 2:30:14 PM , Rating: 2
Yes but I'm just talking about the sale of fuel for automotive consumption. Which is all you hear about from the Democrats about how evil these companies are.

I'm not saying that they don't make a lot of money. They deal in insanely huge volumes. If you make a penny per unit but sell 50 billion units you're still making money hand over fist. But to the Democrats they want to make it half a penny because how dare they make that much money.


By bhieb on 10/21/2008 2:40:08 PM , Rating: 5
True and I agree 100%. Not just these companies though all wealthy are evil. Hence the sliding scale for income tax, it is what I like to call "forced charity". Assuming the country needs x$ to run and you cannot get enough from the poor/middle class, why not rape the rich they have extra.

Just wait till they succeed and there are no jobs because there are no employers. Good old socialism reminds me of my favorite movie line.

"Everyones special Dash. That's just another way of saying no one is" - Incredibles

Just a friendly reminder from Disney that true 100% equality would result in nothing special. No one to be the boss/employer, no one to be the worker.


By SectionEight on 10/22/2008 9:29:21 AM , Rating: 2
The sum of those products' selling costs does not equal the price of a barrel of crude oil, especially at $140 a barrel. Ever care to look at the stocks of petroleum related companies during the summer? The integrated companies (produce and refine crude) were up a bit. The ones that only produce and then sell it on the open market skyrocketed. The companies that only refined had lost up 75% of their value. The integrated oil companies make so much profit because a) they are huge, and b) they buy and sell crude on the open market just like everyone else. If a well they own from the 90s still produces crude that is profitable at $10 a barrel, why refine it and make ~8-10% profit when you can sell it on the open market for $140 a barrel?


By FITCamaro on 10/21/2008 5:22:25 PM , Rating: 3
Please tell me what oil fields any US oil company owns.


By rcsinfo on 10/21/2008 2:07:32 PM , Rating: 2
Actually a modern refinery can do exactly that. The process of converting heavy hydrocarbons into light is called "cracking".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluid_catalytic_crack...


RE: Diesel prices are somewhat higher than gasoline...
By bhieb on 10/21/2008 2:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
Aw, good to know. Makes sense though.


By rcsinfo on 10/21/2008 2:41:35 PM , Rating: 2
If you are interested in the whole process, the show "Modern Marvels" did a really great episode on gasoline. Its worth checking out if you can find the episode.


By bhieb on 10/21/2008 4:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
LOL I think I have that recorded, and have just not watched it. Wonder how much on average though they "steal" from say gas to make diesel or vice versa. My guess is that they breakdown the less profitable stuff as needed into either/or depending on demand.


By JediJeb on 10/21/2008 4:51:13 PM , Rating: 1
I believe you can also use catalyst to "crack" the diesel and increase your gasoline yield. All you are doing is breaking down the heavier molecules into the smaller ones of gasoline. ( for example. Of the straight chain hydrocarbons you can take one 30 carbon length hydrocarbon found in diesel and make three 10 carbon length hydrocarbons found in gasoline.)

So if the demand for gasoline is higher and you produce more of it, there is less diesel and heating oil for those markets driving the price up. This is what they are talking about when the say they are switching the refineries over to heating oil production in the winter. They are doing less "cracking" and improving the kerosene range yield. If they do not use the catalyst then they are doing a simple distillation of the crude which will give unaltered percentages of each fraction from the crude.


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