Company doubles CO2 uptake in algae strains

By Nicholas Zeman | July 15, 2009
Posted on August 18, 2009

Using a non-transgenic biotechnology platform, Aurora Biofuels, headquartered in Alameda, Calif., said it has optimized particular algae strains to more than double their uptake of carbon dioxide, an essential element for oil expression.

Because it is hard to quantify the results of research and development work, Aurora could not put a dollar amount on current oil producing costs at a per gallon basis. "Projections for scaling up production once industrial size processing is reached are around $1.75 per gallon," a spokesman for the company said.

Optimized algae have been producing oil in Aurora Biofuels' outdoor pilot ponds for several months, providing strong evidence that these strains will remain robust at the industrial scale and remove more carbon emissions than previously thought possible.

"This is a major breakthrough showing that one can take algae with improved productivity from the research lab to the field. What Aurora scientists have achieved is an impressive milestone on the path to large-scale commercial algae production," said Kris Niyogi, a member of the company's scientific advisory board and professor of algal biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The company is currently investigating three different locations for its demonstration stage algae cultivation sites, but could not disclose specifics in a conversation today with Biodiesel Magazine. "We can say that we expect to be cultivating and harvesting algae oil at a 50-acre site by the second quarter of 2010," the Aurora spokesman said.

Aurora's pilot scale cultivation site is located in Florida, and the company has been shipping oil from this location to its lab headquarters in California for biodiesel processing. According to Aurora, it is using a fairly standard biodiesel process to assure that the oils produced are capable of making fuel meeting ASTM standards-and the company said so far results have been positive. Aurora does not plan on branching out into to the biodiesel production business, but instead it intends to sell algae oil to fuel producers and into the oleochemical and surfactant industries, once it's commercially available.
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