Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin Find that Growth and Harvesting, Not Oil Recovery, Are the Remaining Economic Bottlenecks for Algae as Alternative Fuel
Austin, TX – July 25, 2011
According to a newly published energy return on investment (EROI) study from researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, the crux of algae’s case as an economically feasible oil feedstock and energy source rests not in its processing, but in the ability to grow it affordably and harvest it from ponds.
“Under the conditions modeled with new processing technologies, the cost to lyse cells and separate algal oil from water and biomass can be just one percent of the total production cost of algal oil,” said Dr. Peter Kipp, vice president at OpenAlgae. “New technologies are also driving down the cost of harvesting dilute algae.”
The research was funded by OpenAlgae and published in BioEnergy Research (“Energy Return on Energy Investment for Algal Biocrude: Results for a Research Production Facility,” by C. Beal, R. Hebner, M. Webber, R. Ruoff, and A. Seibert). An abstract of the research is available at http://budurl.com/BealReport. Copies of the full paper can be requested by emailing [email protected].
Because algae growth need not compete with food crops for land, and because it can be harvested continuously throughout the year, algae shows promise as being the most prolific and consistent oil and biomass producer. The researchers detail the benefits of using waste inputs to reduce growing costs and improve energy returns significantly, but algae growth strategies have not yet achieved high enough productivities to generate oils that can compete in fuel markets.
OpenAlgae has developed concentration, electromechanical cell lysis and solvent-less oil recovery technologies for renewable oil platforms that are poised to replace conventional extraction and separation techniques. Importantly, OpenAlgae’s techniques separate oil and biomass without solvent, potentially opening new higher value markets for de-oiled biomass than anaerobic digestion.
“This research confirms what we’ve been hearing from algae growers,” said OpenAlgae CEO Hoyt Thomas. “Enormous effort is going into improving productivities of algae, both through the use of waste streams and through improved biology to achieve higher cell densities. The last hurdle on the processing side is harvesting; higher density algae cultures will also be harvested more cost effectively. OpenAlgae’s oil recovery technologies offer radically improved economics and opportunities over traditional separation methods like solvent extraction, because there are no waste streams.”
About OpenAlgae, LLC
OpenAlgae, LLC is developing algae-specific processing technologies to enhance the economics of oil production from algae. The company’s algae concentration, electromechanical cell lysis and solvent-less oil recovery technologies were developed in conjunction with The University of Texas at Austin and are designed to help emerging biofuel platforms achieve cost parity with petroleum. OpenAlgae was named one of the rising venture Energy & Clean Technology companies at the 2010 Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship Energy & Clean Technology Venture Forum in Houston. For more information, visit www.openalgae.com or email [email protected].