Algae on the horizon

By | May 14, 2008
Is algae ready for biodiesel? National Biodiesel Board member Solazyme Inc. says yes, and the U.S. Department of Defense is interested, in particular because of the claim that Solazyme's Soladiesel works well in cold weather.

The defense department recently requested a demonstration of Soladiesel, the branded version of algae-based biodiesel produced by San Francisco company Solazyme. Results of the demonstration were positive, according to Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson.

"The [Department of Defense's] requested testing of the Soladiesel fuel showed superior performance especially in terms of its cold temperature properties," Wolfson said. "Greater performance in cold temperatures means our biodiesel and other algae-based fuels could help the military in remote northern locations like Alaska and North Dakota, as well as in hot climates, while reducing dependence on petroleum."

Solazyme representatives said that Soladiesel exceeds both the requirements of the ASTM biodiesel standard D 6751 and the European Standard EN 14214, which ensure that biodiesel can safely run in any existing diesel engine. At the National Biodiesel Conference in Orlando, Fla., in early February, Solazyme demonstrated a Mercedes Benz running on algae-based biodiesel. Additionally, at the recent Defense Energy Support Center's Military Energy Conference in Arlington, Va., former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and undersecretary of the Navy, R. James Woolsey, drove a Ford F450 truck powered with B100 Soladiesel-brand fuel.

Several other U.S. companies are developing algae-based biodiesel. GreenFuel Technologies is using carbon dioxide from existing energy plants to grow algae. LiveFuels Inc. is looking at ways to grow algae in existing ponds located in remote areas with a high amount of heat and sun. Whatever the process, biodiesel is ready for algae to help diversify and increase its feedstocks.
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