Last week's Algal Biomass Summit (ABO) held in Minneapolis, showcased a number of startup companies, working to create sophisticated facilities to manufacture mass amounts of biofuels and oils. Many innovative approaches to algae were presented, including proprietary lab-designed strains from open ponds to stainless vats and enclosed bioreactors
ABO's executive director Mary Rosenthal said attendance skyrocketed and, “the key difference this year, over past years, is that we're out of the lab now and we're into production. We're also seeing people here who want to hire, they have job opportunities available.”
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One of the best known algae companies, Solazyme, focuses on energy, but also provides oil for cosmetics, health sciences and fuel. The company has been awarded a contract to provide the U.S. Navy with 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel. “The test results have been fantastic,” said Solazyme president Harrison Dillon. “We've found our oil works identical to petroleum-based fuels and we were able to put it straight into the Navy's existing platform.”
Another leader in the industry, Sapphire Energy, has raised $200 million to fund “green crude” to replace conventional crude oil. The advantage of Sapphire's fuel is that cars and refineries could use it in the exact same manner they use crude now. The company hopes to be producing 18,000 barrels a day by 2018. At the conference, Sapphire Energy President Cynthia Warner said, “In the next three years we think the economics will show that green crude will be competitive with oil.”
Many other competitors showed up at the event with innovative approaches that will soon become important sources of renewable energy.