ExxonMobil, Synthetic Genomics, Scale up Algae Biofuel
by Bradley J. Fikes (San Diego Union Tribune) Advancing work under a collaboration established a decade ago, ExxonMobil and La Jolla’s Synthetic Genomics said they will begin outdoor growth of naturally occurring algae for biofuel.
The research could lead to the technical ability to make 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel a day by 2025, the companies said Tuesday. The fuel would provide lower net emissions of greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.
But whether the economics will favor biofuels over fossil fuels is a separate question. The fracking revolution has enabled U.S. oil production to soar, causing oil prices to plummet.
ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics are planning for the long term, said Rob Brown, head of the phototrophic team at Synthetic Genomics.
But to produce biofuel at scale, algae must consistently produce high yields with rapid growth, and production must take place at far larger scales than has been achieved to date in laboratories. The ExxonMobil collaboration aims to translate basic research into this industrial-scale production, Brown said.
“Our goal is to advance our algae biofuels research to outdoor testing, creating a perfect stepping stone from our lab to the greenhouse to the outdoors to lay the foundation for algae biofuel production at a scale that is economically cost competitive with petroleum-based products,” he said. READ MORE