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09/26/2012

Algae Biomass Summit: producers say commercialization is close - Biodiesel Magazine

By Tom Bryan - Sept. 25, 2012 Small American companies are directing the global algae industry’s commercialization approach. With Big Oil, Big Food and big money behind them, U.S. algae startups continue to scale up, build out, and tap into the infrastructure of willing industrial hosts from Iowa to Indonesia. The take-away message from the opening session at the 2012 Algae Biomass Summit in Denver was that algae production is very close to commercial deployment, but shoring up government support mechanisms for algae-derived products—and removing regulatory barriers that hinder algae cultivation—threaten to keep the industry from going big in the near term. Presentations at the 6th annual ABS began Monday afternoon following preconference tours of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the MillerCoors Brewery, both in nearby Golden, Colo. NREL’s Phil Piekos and Dana Christensen welcomed the nearly 800 ABS attendees before Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., addressed the audience. Udall emphasized the need for greater domestic energy security, saying the U.S. Department of Defense is the largest user of fossil fuels in the world, consuming more than 320,000 barrels of fossil fuels every 24 hours at an expense of about $30 million per day. “Developing renewable fuels is a strategic and tactical necessity,” Udall said, pointing to the rising costs of procuring, shipping and protecting America’s fuel supplies globally. “No one understands the true cost of fuel more than our combat personnel on the ground in the darkest corners of the world.” Udall, Pienkos and others lauded Algae Biomass Organization Executive Director Mary Rosenthal for her courage and perseverance during her ongoing battle with cancer. “You’re an inspiration to all of us,” said Pienkos before Rosenthal momentarily addressed the audience. Jim Lane, editor of Biofuels Digest, led a panel discussion with representatives of five algae production companies including Sapphire Energy, BioProcess Algae, Cellena, Heliae and Algenol biofuels. Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs for Sapphire Energy, reported that his firm continues to pursue an integrated approach that includes algal cultivation, harvest and extraction. “We’re making tremendous progress,” Zenk said, explaining that Sapphire has harvested 31 million gallons of algae to date and is beginning to prove out algae’s crop-like cultivation characteristics. “We’re proving that you can grow this like a crop,” he said. “We’ve had a full year of continuous harvests.” BioProcess Algae’s Tim Burns said his company’s story is “all about co-location” and going after what he called the “insatiable demand” markets: high-value feed ingredients, first, and advanced biofuels later. Burns touted the strategic partnership BioProcess Algae has with its host industrial partner, Green Plains Renewable Energy, a corn ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa. Suggesting that BioProcess Algae is approaching commercial-scale readiness, Burns said the company will have salable product coming off its facility in November. “People ask me what the next six months will look like and I tell them, ‘Like the next six years,’” said Burns, alluding to the readiness of BioProcess Algae’s technology and its aggressive market development and build-out strategy.­ Read More