Could We Grow 100,000 Gallons of Oil per Acre? Yes, Says Vertigro Algae Biofuel [Video]

  • Published on April 25th, 2008 by
 

I happened across this video on algae biofuel today: a company I’ve never heard of, Valcent Products, claims they can grow algae to produce oil yields of 100,000 gallons per acre. That’s the upper range of estimates I’ve seen for algae production—an absolutely phenomenal amount of oil—which Valcent attributes to their ‘high density vertical bioreactor’ system. Check it out (more video after the jump):

If you want to hear more from Glen Kertz, CEO of Valcent Products, see him discuss the details of the Vertigro system:

http://www.valcent.net/i/misc/Vertigro/Vertigro.mov






About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.

  • causeiambetta

    This is the GREATEST news i’ve heard on bio-energy ever!

    EVER! awesome stuff! I’ve never even thought outside the box with algae like this. just wow

  • causeiambetta

    This is the GREATEST news i’ve heard on bio-energy ever!

    EVER! awesome stuff! I’ve never even thought outside the box with algae like this. just wow

  • John Hickman

    For turbo diesel/biodiesel vehicles to rapidly penetrate the US market in the next 2 to 10 years, the 30% higher MPG on diesel/biodiesel must not be offset by a 20% to 30% premium for biodiesel over gasoline. Question: What is the retail price per gallon now for algal biodiesel from Valcent? What does Valcent forecast it to be in 2 years? Can $3.00 per gallon retail for algal biodiesel be reached soon, if not today?

  • John Hickman

    For turbo diesel/biodiesel vehicles to rapidly penetrate the US market in the next 2 to 10 years, the 30% higher MPG on diesel/biodiesel must not be offset by a 20% to 30% premium for biodiesel over gasoline. Question: What is the retail price per gallon now for algal biodiesel from Valcent? What does Valcent forecast it to be in 2 years? Can $3.00 per gallon retail for algal biodiesel be reached soon, if not today?

  • John Hickman

    For turbo diesel/biodiesel vehicles to rapidly penetrate the US market in the next 2 to 10 years, the 30% higher MPG on diesel/biodiesel must not be offset by a 20% to 30% premium for biodiesel over gasoline. Question: What is the retail price per gallon now for algal biodiesel from Valcent? What does Valcent forecast it to be in 2 years? Can $3.00 per gallon retail for algal biodiesel be reached soon, if not today?

  • Kyle

    This is awesome. It’s by far the best news on gas 2.0 all year.

  • Kyle

    This is awesome. It’s by far the best news on gas 2.0 all year.

  • Kyle

    This is awesome. It’s by far the best news on gas 2.0 all year.

  • Just Watching

    Sounds to good to be true.

    How long will it take to produce that much oil on one acre? Show me!

  • Just Watching

    Sounds to good to be true.

    How long will it take to produce that much oil on one acre? Show me!

  • Just Watching

    What do we have to feed this algae?

  • Just Watching

    What do we have to feed this algae?

  • @2 John Hickman: I haven’t seen any details from Valcent about the cost of their biodiesel, but the word on the street is that algae-based biodiesel is currently “prohibitively expensive.”

    That being said, I don’t know how it couldn’t be cost-effective with those kinds of yields.

    See also: http://gas2.org/2008/03/29/first-algae-biodiesel-plant-goes-online-april-1-2008/

  • @2 John Hickman: I haven’t seen any details from Valcent about the cost of their biodiesel, but the word on the street is that algae-based biodiesel is currently “prohibitively expensive.”

    That being said, I don’t know how it couldn’t be cost-effective with those kinds of yields.

    See also: http://gas2.org/2008/03/29/first-algae-biodiesel-plant-goes-online-april-1-2008/

  • @2 John Hickman: I haven’t seen any details from Valcent about the cost of their biodiesel, but the word on the street is that algae-based biodiesel is currently “prohibitively expensive.”

    That being said, I don’t know how it couldn’t be cost-effective with those kinds of yields.

    See also: http://gas2.org/2008/03/29/first-algae-biodiesel-plant-goes-online-april-1-2008/

  • Posts Related to Algae Biofuels:

    First Heavy-Duty Diesel Powered By Algae Biodiesel, Solazyme’s “Soladiesel”

    http://gas2.org/2008/04/17/first-heavy-duty-diesel-powered-by-algae-biodiesel-solazymes-soladiesel/

    Algae Could Be Major Hydrogen Fuel Source

    http://gas2.org/2008/04/01/algae-could-be-major-hydrogen-fuel-source/

    First Algae Biodiesel Plant Goes Online: April 1, 2008

    (Link Above)

  • Posts Related to Algae Biofuels:

    First Heavy-Duty Diesel Powered By Algae Biodiesel, Solazyme’s “Soladiesel”

    http://gas2.org/2008/04/17/first-heavy-duty-diesel-powered-by-algae-biodiesel-solazymes-soladiesel/

    Algae Could Be Major Hydrogen Fuel Source

    http://gas2.org/2008/04/01/algae-could-be-major-hydrogen-fuel-source/

    First Algae Biodiesel Plant Goes Online: April 1, 2008

    (Link Above)

  • Pingback: First Algae Biodiesel Plant Goes Online: April 1, 2008 : Gas 2.0()

  • 1/10th the area of New Mexico to supply the entire US! Algae loves CO2 and sunlight!

  • 1/10th the area of New Mexico to supply the entire US! Algae loves CO2 and sunlight!

  • 1/10th the area of New Mexico to supply the entire US! Algae loves CO2 and sunlight!

  • Hi-

    In 2005 Valcent was making skin care products. One of the links from their 2005 press release,

    http://www.valcentproducts.com

    looks like a porn site.

    All of the coverage of Valcent has been through rose colored glasses. Someone needs to ask what the balance of energy input vs output is. Also when the Valcent website claims that they make fuel from ” only light, water and air”, someone needs to ask some serious questions.

    While I would love it if these guys were legit, there are too many unasked questions and fast-and-loose “facts” for my taste.

  • Hi-

    In 2005 Valcent was making skin care products. One of the links from their 2005 press release,

    http://www.valcentproducts.com

    looks like a porn site.

    All of the coverage of Valcent has been through rose colored glasses. Someone needs to ask what the balance of energy input vs output is. Also when the Valcent website claims that they make fuel from ” only light, water and air”, someone needs to ask some serious questions.

    While I would love it if these guys were legit, there are too many unasked questions and fast-and-loose “facts” for my taste.

  • Hi-

    In 2005 Valcent was making skin care products. One of the links from their 2005 press release,

    http://www.valcentproducts.com

    looks like a porn site.

    All of the coverage of Valcent has been through rose colored glasses. Someone needs to ask what the balance of energy input vs output is. Also when the Valcent website claims that they make fuel from ” only light, water and air”, someone needs to ask some serious questions.

    While I would love it if these guys were legit, there are too many unasked questions and fast-and-loose “facts” for my taste.

  • Jared

    Valcent claims a capacity of 100,000 gallons of oil per acre based on the assumption that the algae they grow contains fifty percent lipids (fat molecules) by weight. This creature as yet does not exist, but if it did, it would need a highly controlled environment such as Valcent has constructed. They’ve built the house -hurrah! -but the special guest has not (and may not) arrive. I don’t precisely know the challenges of developing such an organism, but buying a hen doesn’t guarantee you’ll have eggs. As with all of these optimistic articles, companies bury critical “buzz kill” facts under the carpet only because they seek investors. We all wish them success, but the fight is won only after the fact–on paper doesn’t count.

  • Jared

    Valcent claims a capacity of 100,000 gallons of oil per acre based on the assumption that the algae they grow contains fifty percent lipids (fat molecules) by weight. This creature as yet does not exist, but if it did, it would need a highly controlled environment such as Valcent has constructed. They’ve built the house -hurrah! -but the special guest has not (and may not) arrive. I don’t precisely know the challenges of developing such an organism, but buying a hen doesn’t guarantee you’ll have eggs. As with all of these optimistic articles, companies bury critical “buzz kill” facts under the carpet only because they seek investors. We all wish them success, but the fight is won only after the fact–on paper doesn’t count.

  • Jared

    Valcent claims a capacity of 100,000 gallons of oil per acre based on the assumption that the algae they grow contains fifty percent lipids (fat molecules) by weight. This creature as yet does not exist, but if it did, it would need a highly controlled environment such as Valcent has constructed. They’ve built the house -hurrah! -but the special guest has not (and may not) arrive. I don’t precisely know the challenges of developing such an organism, but buying a hen doesn’t guarantee you’ll have eggs. As with all of these optimistic articles, companies bury critical “buzz kill” facts under the carpet only because they seek investors. We all wish them success, but the fight is won only after the fact–on paper doesn’t count.

  • Jared

    I didn’t quite get my facts right above. Algae with a fifty percent lipid content and above have been cultured in laboratories, but each culture, as a living thing, has it’s own finicky requirements, and getting a particular strain to produce fifty percent lipid on a regular and continual basis is simply very tricky. It’s much more than simply finding the right strain, but also how to coax maximum lipid from it. The other cost constraint in algae is the oil separation process–more innovations and break throughs will be needed to bring costs down.

  • Jared

    I didn’t quite get my facts right above. Algae with a fifty percent lipid content and above have been cultured in laboratories, but each culture, as a living thing, has it’s own finicky requirements, and getting a particular strain to produce fifty percent lipid on a regular and continual basis is simply very tricky. It’s much more than simply finding the right strain, but also how to coax maximum lipid from it. The other cost constraint in algae is the oil separation process–more innovations and break throughs will be needed to bring costs down.

  • Jared

    I didn’t quite get my facts right above. Algae with a fifty percent lipid content and above have been cultured in laboratories, but each culture, as a living thing, has it’s own finicky requirements, and getting a particular strain to produce fifty percent lipid on a regular and continual basis is simply very tricky. It’s much more than simply finding the right strain, but also how to coax maximum lipid from it. The other cost constraint in algae is the oil separation process–more innovations and break throughs will be needed to bring costs down.

  • arthur

    this whole fuel situation leads itself to “snake oil” salesmen.

  • arthur

    this whole fuel situation leads itself to “snake oil” salesmen.

  • arthur

    this whole fuel situation leads itself to “snake oil” salesmen.

  • It’s about time I think this is where the world is coming to safe to make low cost production and no more crude from over seas. I hope the oil company’s don’t get involved or they will make sure the price will get higher. I know for one thing I am going to buy there stock while it is cheap and set on it and get rich.

  • The sunlight-biomass-lipids-oil/energy conversion equation and external energy//carbon footprint scenario to generate the same… would be something interesting to study.

    Shall immensely appreciate being enlightened on the same

    kumarfurnace@hotmail.com

  • The EIG is currently designing and experimenting with a revolutionary verticle growth design which entails genetic alterations as well as the algae ingesting coal powder as a feed stock. We expect excellent results and will post when available.

  • The EIG is currently designing and experimenting with a revolutionary verticle growth design which entails genetic alterations as well as the algae ingesting coal powder as a feed stock. We expect excellent results and will post when available.

  • DARRYL WEAVER

    TWO THOUGHTS:

    1. SOLAR ISOLATION!!!

    5KW/DAY/SQUARE METER TO 7W/DAY/SQUARE METER

    2. LIGHT TO CHEMICAL ENERGY CONVERSION RATE OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS PROCESS!!

    6% TO 10%

    100,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR EQUATES TO ABOUT

    12.5 BILLON BTUs PER ACRE YEAR OF ENERGY.(125,000 BTUS PER GALLON)

    3400 BTU’s PER KWH

    ANNUALLY, ABOUT 8.5 MILLION KWHs OF SOLAR ENERGY FALLS ON 1 ACRE OF THE EARTH’S SURFACE (THIS IS AT 6 KWH PER DAY) ABOUT THE SOLAR ISOLATION IN CENTRAL TEXAS. NOT WISCONSIN!!!

    THIS WORKS OUT TO 28.9 BILLON BTU’s OF AVAILABLE SOLAR ENERGY PER ACRE YEAR.

    TO MAKE THIS (100,000 GALLONS) HAPPEN, ENERGY CONVERSION (FROM SOLAR TO CHEMICAL) WOULD HAVE TO BE 45% OR SO.

    PLANTS (ALGAE) ARE ACTUALLY BETWEN 6% AND 10%

    IN OTHER WORDS 10,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? YES!!

    15,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? MAYBE!!

    20,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? WITH SOME GOOD LUCK!!!

    100,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? CAN’T HAPPEN!!

    I ALMOST CRIED WHEN I GOT THIS DATA FROM DR.’S BENNERMAN AND BECKMAN , BOTH WORKED ON THE NREL’S ACQUATIC STUDIES PROJECT IN THE 90’S.

    HEY BUT 15,000 PER ACRE YEAR IS STILL SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT!!!

  • DARRYL WEAVER

    TWO THOUGHTS:

    1. SOLAR ISOLATION!!!

    5KW/DAY/SQUARE METER TO 7W/DAY/SQUARE METER

    2. LIGHT TO CHEMICAL ENERGY CONVERSION RATE OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS PROCESS!!

    6% TO 10%

    100,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR EQUATES TO ABOUT

    12.5 BILLON BTUs PER ACRE YEAR OF ENERGY.(125,000 BTUS PER GALLON)

    3400 BTU’s PER KWH

    ANNUALLY, ABOUT 8.5 MILLION KWHs OF SOLAR ENERGY FALLS ON 1 ACRE OF THE EARTH’S SURFACE (THIS IS AT 6 KWH PER DAY) ABOUT THE SOLAR ISOLATION IN CENTRAL TEXAS. NOT WISCONSIN!!!

    THIS WORKS OUT TO 28.9 BILLON BTU’s OF AVAILABLE SOLAR ENERGY PER ACRE YEAR.

    TO MAKE THIS (100,000 GALLONS) HAPPEN, ENERGY CONVERSION (FROM SOLAR TO CHEMICAL) WOULD HAVE TO BE 45% OR SO.

    PLANTS (ALGAE) ARE ACTUALLY BETWEN 6% AND 10%

    IN OTHER WORDS 10,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? YES!!

    15,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? MAYBE!!

    20,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? WITH SOME GOOD LUCK!!!

    100,000 GALLONS PER ACRE YEAR? CAN’T HAPPEN!!

    I ALMOST CRIED WHEN I GOT THIS DATA FROM DR.’S BENNERMAN AND BECKMAN , BOTH WORKED ON THE NREL’S ACQUATIC STUDIES PROJECT IN THE 90’S.

    HEY BUT 15,000 PER ACRE YEAR IS STILL SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT!!!

  • Roland Ilsen

    I would like to see your schedule for the process development and production growth.

  • Roland Ilsen

    I would like to see your schedule for the process development and production growth.

  • Roland Ilsen

    I would like to see your schedule for the process development and production growth.

  • Marcus Hicks

    Clayton. Their pilot facility in Texas was 6 acres in size and came in at a cost of around $2.5 million. If we assume they’re half right, and the system produces just 50,000 gallons of biodiesel per year per acre, then this pilot facility would be producing around 300,000 gallons of biodiesel per year. At a retail cost of $3.80/gallon for regular diesel, then these guys could sell their biodiesel for around $2.50/gallon and be earning around $750,000 p.a. In just 4 short years, then, this facility will have earned $3,000,000. Now I too want to see more info, but everything I’ve seen appears technically sound.

  • Marcus Hicks

    Clayton. Their pilot facility in Texas was 6 acres in size and came in at a cost of around $2.5 million. If we assume they’re half right, and the system produces just 50,000 gallons of biodiesel per year per acre, then this pilot facility would be producing around 300,000 gallons of biodiesel per year. At a retail cost of $3.80/gallon for regular diesel, then these guys could sell their biodiesel for around $2.50/gallon and be earning around $750,000 p.a. In just 4 short years, then, this facility will have earned $3,000,000. Now I too want to see more info, but everything I’ve seen appears technically sound.

  • Marcus Hicks

    Clayton. Their pilot facility in Texas was 6 acres in size and came in at a cost of around $2.5 million. If we assume they’re half right, and the system produces just 50,000 gallons of biodiesel per year per acre, then this pilot facility would be producing around 300,000 gallons of biodiesel per year. At a retail cost of $3.80/gallon for regular diesel, then these guys could sell their biodiesel for around $2.50/gallon and be earning around $750,000 p.a. In just 4 short years, then, this facility will have earned $3,000,000. Now I too want to see more info, but everything I’ve seen appears technically sound.

  • I hate to be the buzz kill, but this has been debunked at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n1/full/nbt0109-15.html

    The claimed production of 100,000 gallons per acre per year exceeds the total solar energy falling on an acre in a year (even at the equator). This means algae photosynthesis exceeds 100% efficiency (algae is closer to 2%-5% efficient at converting sunlight to energy-storing hydrocarbons like lipids).

  • I hate to be the buzz kill, but this has been debunked at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n1/full/nbt0109-15.html

    The claimed production of 100,000 gallons per acre per year exceeds the total solar energy falling on an acre in a year (even at the equator). This means algae photosynthesis exceeds 100% efficiency (algae is closer to 2%-5% efficient at converting sunlight to energy-storing hydrocarbons like lipids).

  • I hate to be the buzz kill, but this has been debunked at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n1/full/nbt0109-15.html

    The claimed production of 100,000 gallons per acre per year exceeds the total solar energy falling on an acre in a year (even at the equator). This means algae photosynthesis exceeds 100% efficiency (algae is closer to 2%-5% efficient at converting sunlight to energy-storing hydrocarbons like lipids).