Algae no image

Published on September 18th, 2008 | by Adam Shake

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Bill Gates invests in The Great Green Hope – Algae Fuel

Editor’s Note: This is a guest contribution from Adam Shake.

Bill Gates has his hands in the green again, but this time, it’s algae.  His Investment Firm, Cascades Investments LLC, along with the Rockefeller family’s venture capital firm Venrock, the WellcomeTrust, and Arch Venture Partners have invested a total of 100 million dollars in Sapphire Energy.

Sapphire Energy, a San Diego based company that launched in May of 2007, says that it’s goal “is to be the world’s leading producer of renewable petrochemical products.” The companies website goes on to say “Critically important, there is no ‘food vs. fuel’ tradeoff. The process is not dependent on crops or valuable farmland. It is highly water efficient, delivering 10 to 100 times more energy per acre than cropland biofuels.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sapphire is working towards a 10,000-barrel-a-day algae-based oil facility, and can now concentrate on production and engineering problems. Meanwhile, Gates’s involvement may signal a broader interest in alternative biofuels.”

Does all this Investment and Media attention mean that people are finally starting to realize that there is money to be made with alternative fuel sources?  Could we be on the verge of lessening our fossil fuel addiction?

Investment companies are in the business of making money, and any time they can make money and a positive statement at the same time, it’s a double bonus for them. By “investing” in this “Green Crude” technology, they are helping finance the infrastructure  that will give companies like Sapphire Energy, the ability to lower their start-up costs and facilitate the business of creating the fuel and getting it to market. This scenario makes the investment company money, the energy company money, helps weaken our addiction to oil and helps the environment all at the same time.

As always, keep up the good fight, and Alter the Eco!

Sources: Sapphire Energy, Cnet,

Image Credit: Barnaby Jeans




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About the Author

Adam Shake works in Washington D.C. and spends most of his recreational time hiking and kayaking in Virginia and West Virginia with his wife Laura and their 6 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Katahdin. Adam is dedicated to the Environment and maintains a website at www.twilightearth.com



  • Mamoru

    And with each revision of production design the land and water needed will increase per 1000 barrels. :-)

    I wonder if I’ll be required to upgrade my car or worse yet my car will run slower? :-)

    OM

  • Mamoru

    And with each revision of production design the land and water needed will increase per 1000 barrels. :-)

    I wonder if I’ll be required to upgrade my car or worse yet my car will run slower? :-)

    OM

  • Roman

    I cannot imagine the major investors not giving John Kanzius’s prospects of converting salt water into fuel a second look. I have seen this simple device (as seen on CBS 60 minutes) along with his radio-wave device that actually destroys cancerous tumors – it’s amazing, yet John must seek research aid from a variety of sources. Learn more about this man and the academic and clinical researchers behind him: http://www.johnkanzius.com http://www.thekanziusmachine.com It is amazing and worth learning more about NOW !

  • Roman

    I cannot imagine the major investors not giving John Kanzius’s prospects of converting salt water into fuel a second look. I have seen this simple device (as seen on CBS 60 minutes) along with his radio-wave device that actually destroys cancerous tumors – it’s amazing, yet John must seek research aid from a variety of sources. Learn more about this man and the academic and clinical researchers behind him: http://www.johnkanzius.com http://www.thekanziusmachine.com It is amazing and worth learning more about NOW !

  • mary anne

    oh my gawd! I am envious that I am not Bill Gates, but I am sick of computers and the internet, I am tired of paying for new versions of everything and constantly retraining, I am tired of having my boundaries invaded, to put everything on the internet. So far, the promises about my life being better because of computers, just hasn’t happened, in fact, it has ruined my eyesight and back, and destroyed my family relationships. I am real sure, that I will be accussed of heresy for this statement. Computers and techies are responsible for our sucky economy. I don’t believe that Bill Gates is equal too or greater than the Pope. I hope his involvement with energy doesn’t lead to the disasters of the computer industry.

  • mary anne

    oh my gawd! I am envious that I am not Bill Gates, but I am sick of computers and the internet, I am tired of paying for new versions of everything and constantly retraining, I am tired of having my boundaries invaded, to put everything on the internet. So far, the promises about my life being better because of computers, just hasn’t happened, in fact, it has ruined my eyesight and back, and destroyed my family relationships. I am real sure, that I will be accussed of heresy for this statement. Computers and techies are responsible for our sucky economy. I don’t believe that Bill Gates is equal too or greater than the Pope. I hope his involvement with energy doesn’t lead to the disasters of the computer industry.

  • Jay Tee

    @ Mamoron,

    desert land can be used, even salt pan. Brackish water can be used and reused. Try to get over your jealousy of Bill Gates, and recognize that making fuel from algae is a good thing.

    And no, you won’t need to upgrade your car, as has been consistently reported for years.

    @ Romoron,

    The energy required to ‘burn’ the salt water exceeds the energy the energy produced by burning, as has been reported consistently.

    You Obama fools, how do you even manage to accomplish breathing? That must be hard to understand too.

  • Jay Tee

    @ Mamoron,

    desert land can be used, even salt pan. Brackish water can be used and reused. Try to get over your jealousy of Bill Gates, and recognize that making fuel from algae is a good thing.

    And no, you won’t need to upgrade your car, as has been consistently reported for years.

    @ Romoron,

    The energy required to ‘burn’ the salt water exceeds the energy the energy produced by burning, as has been reported consistently.

    You Obama fools, how do you even manage to accomplish breathing? That must be hard to understand too.

  • ChuckL

    Perhaps Bill Gates sees this investment as a way to return the money that he effectively stole with his violations of the anti trust laws. He should have been jailed for these.

    He will get richer, but, unlike his destruction of innovation in the computer industry, this time we may also benefit.

  • ChuckL

    Perhaps Bill Gates sees this investment as a way to return the money that he effectively stole with his violations of the anti trust laws. He should have been jailed for these.

    He will get richer, but, unlike his destruction of innovation in the computer industry, this time we may also benefit.

  • elle

    how do i get him to invest in our bio fuel from NIPAH PALM. Pls help I need investors

  • elle

    how do i get him to invest in our bio fuel from NIPAH PALM. Pls help I need investors

  • Prof.Hans-Jürgen Franke &

    ETHANOL-PRODUCTION WITH BLUE-GREEN-ALGAE

    A SOLUTION AFTER PEAK-OIL AND OIL-CRASH

    University of Hawai’i Professor Pengchen “Patrick” Fu developed an innovative technology, to produce high amounts of ethanol with modified cyanobacterias, as a new feedstock for ethanol, without entering in conflict with the food and feed-production .

    Fu has developed strains of cyanobacteria — one of the components of pond scum — that feed on atmospheric carbon dioxide, and produce ethanol as a waste product.

    He has done it both in his laboratory under fluorescent light and with sunlight on the roof of his building. Sunlight works better, he said.

    It has a lot of appeal and potential. Turning waste into something useful is a good thing. And the blue-green-algae needs only sun and wast- recycled from the sugar-cane-industry, to grow and to produce directly more and more ethanol. With this solution, the sugarcane-based ethanol-industry in Brazil and other tropical regions will get a second way, to produce more biocombustible for the worldmarket.

    The technique may need adjusting to increase how much ethanol it yields, but it may be a new technology-challenge in the near future.

    The process was patented by Fu and UH in January, but there’s still plenty of work to do to bring it to a commercial level. The team of Fu foundet just the start-up LA WAHIE BIOTECH INC. with headquarter in Hawaii and branch-office in Brazil.

    PLAN FOR AN EXPERIMENTAL ETHANOL PLANT

    Fu figures his team is two to three years from being able to build a full-scale

    ethanol plant, and they are looking for investors or industry-partners (jointventure).

    He is fine-tuning his research to find different strains of blue-green algae that will produce even more ethanol, and that are more tolerant of high levels of ethanol. The system permits, to “harvest” continuously ethanol – using a membrane-system- and to pump than the blue-green-algae-solution in the Photo-Bio-Reactor again.

    Fu started out in chemical engineering, and then began the study of biology. He has studied in China, Australia, Japan and the United States, and came to UH in 2002 after a stint as scientist for a private company in California.

    He is working also with NASA on the potential of cyanobacteria in future lunar and Mars colonization, and is also proceeding to take his ethanol technology into the marketplace. A business plan using his system, under the name La Wahie Biotech, won third place — and a $5,000 award — in the Business Plan Competition at UH’s Shidler College of Business.

    Daniel Dean and Donavan Kealoha, both UH law and business students, are Fu’s partners. So they are in the process of turning the business plan into an operating business.

    The production of ethanol for fuel is one of the nation’s and the world’s major initiatives, partly because its production takes as much carbon out of the atmosphere as it dumps into the atmosphere. That’s different from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which take stored carbon out of the ground and release it into the atmosphere, for a net increase in greenhouse gas.

    Most current and planned ethanol production methods depend on farming, and in the case of corn and sugar, take food crops and divert them into energy.

    Fu said crop-based ethanol production is slow and resource-costly. He decided to work with cyanobacteria, some of which convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into their own food and release oxygen as a waste product.

    Other scientists also are researching using cyanobacteria to make ethanol, using different strains, but Fu’s technique is unique, he said. He inserted genetic material into one type of freshwater cyanobacterium, causing it to produce ethanol as its waste product. It works, and is an amazingly efficient system.

    The technology is fairly simple. It involves a photobioreactor, which is a

    fancy term for a clear glass or plastic container full of something alive, in which light promotes a biological reaction. Carbon dioxide gas is bubbled through the green mixture of water and cyanobacteria. The liquid is then passed through a specialized membrane that removes the

    ethanol, allowing the water, nutrients and cyanobacteria to return to the

    photobioreactor.

    Solar energy drives the conversion of the carbon dioxide into ethanol. The partner of Prof. Fu in Brazil in the branch-office of La Wahie Biotech Inc. in Aracaju – Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – is developing a low-cost photo-bio-reactor-system. Prof. Franke want´s soon creat a pilot-project with Prof. Fu in Brazil.

    The benefit over other techniques of producing ethanol is that this is simple and quick—taking days rather than the months required to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol.

    La Wahie Biotech Inc. believes it can be done for significantly less than the cost of gasoline and also less than the cost of ethanol produced through conventional methods.

    Also, this system is not a net producer of carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide released into the environment when ethanol is burned has been withdrawn from the environment during ethanol production. To get the carbon dioxide it needs, the system could even pull the gas out of the emissions of power plants or other carbon dioxide producers. That would prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, where it has been implicated as a

    major cause of global warming.

    Honolulo – Hawaii/USA and Aracaju – Sergipe/Brasil – 15/09/2008

    Prof. Pengcheng Fu – E-Mail: pengchen2008@gmail.com

    Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – E-Mail: lawahiebiotech.brasil@gmail.com

    Tel.: 00-55-79-3243-2209

  • Prof.Hans-Jürgen Franke & Prof. Pengcheng Fu

    ETHANOL-PRODUCTION WITH BLUE-GREEN-ALGAE

    A SOLUTION AFTER PEAK-OIL AND OIL-CRASH

    University of Hawai’i Professor Pengchen “Patrick” Fu developed an innovative technology, to produce high amounts of ethanol with modified cyanobacterias, as a new feedstock for ethanol, without entering in conflict with the food and feed-production .

    Fu has developed strains of cyanobacteria — one of the components of pond scum — that feed on atmospheric carbon dioxide, and produce ethanol as a waste product.

    He has done it both in his laboratory under fluorescent light and with sunlight on the roof of his building. Sunlight works better, he said.

    It has a lot of appeal and potential. Turning waste into something useful is a good thing. And the blue-green-algae needs only sun and wast- recycled from the sugar-cane-industry, to grow and to produce directly more and more ethanol. With this solution, the sugarcane-based ethanol-industry in Brazil and other tropical regions will get a second way, to produce more biocombustible for the worldmarket.

    The technique may need adjusting to increase how much ethanol it yields, but it may be a new technology-challenge in the near future.

    The process was patented by Fu and UH in January, but there’s still plenty of work to do to bring it to a commercial level. The team of Fu foundet just the start-up LA WAHIE BIOTECH INC. with headquarter in Hawaii and branch-office in Brazil.

    PLAN FOR AN EXPERIMENTAL ETHANOL PLANT

    Fu figures his team is two to three years from being able to build a full-scale

    ethanol plant, and they are looking for investors or industry-partners (jointventure).

    He is fine-tuning his research to find different strains of blue-green algae that will produce even more ethanol, and that are more tolerant of high levels of ethanol. The system permits, to “harvest” continuously ethanol – using a membrane-system- and to pump than the blue-green-algae-solution in the Photo-Bio-Reactor again.

    Fu started out in chemical engineering, and then began the study of biology. He has studied in China, Australia, Japan and the United States, and came to UH in 2002 after a stint as scientist for a private company in California.

    He is working also with NASA on the potential of cyanobacteria in future lunar and Mars colonization, and is also proceeding to take his ethanol technology into the marketplace. A business plan using his system, under the name La Wahie Biotech, won third place — and a $5,000 award — in the Business Plan Competition at UH’s Shidler College of Business.

    Daniel Dean and Donavan Kealoha, both UH law and business students, are Fu’s partners. So they are in the process of turning the business plan into an operating business.

    The production of ethanol for fuel is one of the nation’s and the world’s major initiatives, partly because its production takes as much carbon out of the atmosphere as it dumps into the atmosphere. That’s different from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which take stored carbon out of the ground and release it into the atmosphere, for a net increase in greenhouse gas.

    Most current and planned ethanol production methods depend on farming, and in the case of corn and sugar, take food crops and divert them into energy.

    Fu said crop-based ethanol production is slow and resource-costly. He decided to work with cyanobacteria, some of which convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into their own food and release oxygen as a waste product.

    Other scientists also are researching using cyanobacteria to make ethanol, using different strains, but Fu’s technique is unique, he said. He inserted genetic material into one type of freshwater cyanobacterium, causing it to produce ethanol as its waste product. It works, and is an amazingly efficient system.

    The technology is fairly simple. It involves a photobioreactor, which is a

    fancy term for a clear glass or plastic container full of something alive, in which light promotes a biological reaction. Carbon dioxide gas is bubbled through the green mixture of water and cyanobacteria. The liquid is then passed through a specialized membrane that removes the

    ethanol, allowing the water, nutrients and cyanobacteria to return to the

    photobioreactor.

    Solar energy drives the conversion of the carbon dioxide into ethanol. The partner of Prof. Fu in Brazil in the branch-office of La Wahie Biotech Inc. in Aracaju – Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – is developing a low-cost photo-bio-reactor-system. Prof. Franke want´s soon creat a pilot-project with Prof. Fu in Brazil.

    The benefit over other techniques of producing ethanol is that this is simple and quick—taking days rather than the months required to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol.

    La Wahie Biotech Inc. believes it can be done for significantly less than the cost of gasoline and also less than the cost of ethanol produced through conventional methods.

    Also, this system is not a net producer of carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide released into the environment when ethanol is burned has been withdrawn from the environment during ethanol production. To get the carbon dioxide it needs, the system could even pull the gas out of the emissions of power plants or other carbon dioxide producers. That would prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, where it has been implicated as a

    major cause of global warming.

    Honolulo – Hawaii/USA and Aracaju – Sergipe/Brasil – 15/09/2008

    Prof. Pengcheng Fu – E-Mail: pengchen2008@gmail.com

    Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – E-Mail: lawahiebiotech.brasil@gmail.com

    Tel.: 00-55-79-3243-2209

  • mary anne

    Great to hear from the Bioscientists. It would be wonderful if we could create a whole bunch of small efficient competitive companies, instead of having to accept what a few large corporations are willing to dish out. It would help the economy and customer service, if we could keep the jobs in the United States.

  • mary anne

    Great to hear from the Bioscientists. It would be wonderful if we could create a whole bunch of small efficient competitive companies, instead of having to accept what a few large corporations are willing to dish out. It would help the economy and customer service, if we could keep the jobs in the United States.

  • madmilker

    don’t forget about Valcent Products Inc.

  • madmilker

    don’t forget about Valcent Products Inc.

  • ChuckL

    Bill gates may be completely unethical and willing to break any anti trust law that gets in his way, but no one can call him stupid.

    You will note that he has decided to put his money into algae. could this possibly be because the energy density of fuel from algae is much higher than that from other sources?

    We could have alternative fuels quickly if we could force the government to stop picking the fuel and then granting subsidies to develop that particular fuel, and instead eliminated all subsidies and replaced them with a 5 year total tax moratorium of businesses that develop alternative fuels and other energy sources. Lets let the entrepreneurs choose the product based on business principles rather than dictating what they may consider.

  • ChuckL

    Bill gates may be completely unethical and willing to break any anti trust law that gets in his way, but no one can call him stupid.

    You will note that he has decided to put his money into algae. could this possibly be because the energy density of fuel from algae is much higher than that from other sources?

    We could have alternative fuels quickly if we could force the government to stop picking the fuel and then granting subsidies to develop that particular fuel, and instead eliminated all subsidies and replaced them with a 5 year total tax moratorium of businesses that develop alternative fuels and other energy sources. Lets let the entrepreneurs choose the product based on business principles rather than dictating what they may consider.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    Apropos the Sep. 25th posting by Drs. Franke and Fu, as Acting Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Hawaii I want to point out: (1) that the technology that is the basis of the UH patent application discussed has been licensed exclusively to a U.S. company, (2) that La Wahie Biotech has no rights to Dr. Fu’s technology for ethanol-production with blue/green algae, and (3) that Dr. Fu is no longer associated with our institution. UH and its exclusive licensee have filed for patent protection for the technology in the US, Europe and other countries around the world.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    Apropos the Sep. 25th posting by Drs. Franke and Fu, as Acting Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Hawaii I want to point out: (1) that the technology that is the basis of the UH patent application discussed has been licensed exclusively to a U.S. company, (2) that La Wahie Biotech has no rights to Dr. Fu’s technology for ethanol-production with blue/green algae, and (3) that Dr. Fu is no longer associated with our institution. UH and its exclusive licensee have filed for patent protection for the technology in the US, Europe and other countries around the world.

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