PetroSun has announced it will begin operation of its commercial algae-to-biofuels facility on April 1st, 2008.
The facility, located in Rio Hondo Texas, will produce an estimated 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million lbs. of biomass per year off a series of saltwater ponds spanning 1,100 acres. Twenty of those acres will be reserved for the experimental production of a renewable JP8 jet-fuel.
Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., CEO of PetroSun, had this to say:
“Our business model has been focused on proving the commercial feasibility of the firms’ algae-to-biofuels technology during the past eighteen months. Whether we have arrived at this point in time by a superior technological approach, sheer luck or a redneck can-do attitude, the fact remains that microalgae can outperform the current feedstocks utilized for conversion to biodiesel and ethanol, yet do not impact the consumable food markets or fresh water resources.”
Microalgae have garnered considerable attention, since acre-by-acre microalgae can produce 30-100 times the oil yield of soybeans on marginal land and in brackish water. The biomass left-over from oil-pressing can either be fed to cattle as a protein supplement, or fermented into ethanol.
The big problem has been figuring out how to collect and press the algae, and in the case of open ponds, to prevent contamination by invasive species. PetroSun seems to have figured it out, and this may be the first algae biofuel plant to get off the ground.