Solazyme Makes First Algae Diesel to Meet Strict US Standard

Solazyme LogoSolazyme announced today that they have produced the first 100% algae-based renewable diesel to meet the strict American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-975 specifications.

Called Soladiesel(RD)™, it is the world’s first 100% algal diesel blend to meet these standards.

The company has road-tested Soladiesel(RD)™ in a factory standard 2005 diesel Jeep Liberty with results that indicate identical usability and engine wear to that of petroleum diesel.

Soladiesel(RD)™ has lower particulate emissions than petroleum-based diesel and also meets the ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) standards.

Solazyme’s certification is a very important step in the commercialization of algae-based diesel. Many industries that depend on diesel fuel have been skeptical about what kind of damage alternative fuels such as biodiesel could cause to their expensive-to-repair rigs.

Technically, Soladiesel(RD)™ is not biodiesel — as was pointed out to me by Solazyme’s Chief Technology Officer, Harrison Dillon. According to Mr. Dillon, Soladiesel(RD)™ is chemically indistinguishable from petroleum diesel, which is why it has passed the same ASTM standards used for petroleum diesel and not the ASTM D6751 specifications used for biodiesel.

With the ASTM D-975 certification comes a needed step in putting the minds of truckers and related folks at ease.

We’ve covered Solazyme in detail before, but it still isn’t clear if their algal biodiesel process is nearing commercialization — leaving many unanswered questions. This in contrast to other algae-based biodiesel companies, such as PetroSun, which have apparently already started commercial production of algal biodiesel. This is what Mr.Dillon had to say about Solazyme’s future:

“As far as the road to commercialization: we currently do produce at scale, but expect that our product will be fully commercialized in 2-3 years.”

Solazyme’s novel algae biodiesel method grows algae in the absence of light. In nature, algae use light to make sugar and then make oil from that sugar. Solazyme skips the light part and just feeds their algae sugar to get them to make oil.

As noted in previous posts, this method achieves a 1000-fold increase in productivity, but has two obvious problems: no carbon is sequestered in the growing process, and it requires a source of sugar. That source is currently sugarcane, but Solazyme says cellulosic feedstocks could also be used at some future date.

View Solazyme’s press release here.

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Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.