Thurmond: Algae will be mainstream by 2020

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 09, 2009
Web exclusive posted March 17, 2009, at 3:31 p.m. CST

With algae-based biodiesel pilot and demonstration projects due to be launched in 2010, Houston-based biofuels analyst Will Thurmond predicts the first large-scale algae production destined for the U.S. Department of Defense will begin in 2011 and the first commercial-scale algae biodiesel production will start the following year. "It will be expensive at first," Thurmond said during a recent webinar summarizing his soon-to-be published algae report, which is titled "Algae 2020: Next Generation Biofuels Markets and Commercialization Outlook" and is due out in late March.

"There is a lot of hype around algae," Thurmond admitted, but after discussion with experts and surveys of many companies, he projects algae production to begin scaling up to commercial levels between 2013 and 2015, with the cost dropping and market share rising and, by 2020, "I expect algae will become a mainstream commodity for biodiesel, bio crude and ethanol."

Given its yield potential, algae is being seriously considered by the U.S. Department of Defense, he said in a review of market factors. "If Saudi Arabia stopped selling petroleum to the United States, the U.S. military, which is the largest single consumer of petroleum in the world, would be impacted." A second major market driver is the European Union where more than 50 percent of all vehicles run on diesel. That compares with the United States where passenger vehicles overwhelming use gasoline, although the trucking and shipping industries rely upon diesel.

The detailed report, which includes market information, a technology review and case studies of several algae companies, will be available in late March at
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