It’s been a big week for biofuel breakthroughs and new partnerships. While photographing the algae biodiesel cars outside Fields of Fuel yesterday, insiders I spoke with alluded to big news: I just learned that Chevron will be backing Solazyme to produce algae biodiesel (East Bay Business Times):
Chevron Corp. is accelerating its research into biofuel derived from algae. On Tuesday, Solazyme Inc. of South San Francisco announced an agreement with the Chevron subsidiary Chevron Technology Ventures to develop and test biodiesel feedstock made from algae.
The partnership will almost certainly rev up Solazyme’s production and research process, as will GM’s backing of Coskata ethanol. But I still have no information on how the algae will be grown. I’m getting the sense that this is almost cellulosic + algae = biodiesel, since these guys are talking about getting sugar from corn stover, switchgrass, wood chips, and sugarcane, then feeding it to algae to boost production. Take a look at this video from the film:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/q0oFv4n707w" width="425" height="355" wmode="transparent" /]
Sounds great, but the story has been frustratingly slow to divulge details. The only answer I’ve gotten to many questions (where does the sugar come from? how much water does the process use? how do you decouple photosynthesis? how much will it cost? etc.) comes from CNN:
For the time being, algae-based biodiesel remains prohibitively expensive, so the challenge for any company hoping to market it will be to lower the cost to within range of standard fuels. Wolfson said he believes Solazyme has already come a long way toward its goal of pushing the cost as low as $45 to $50 a barrel.
‘We have a high degree of confidence we can be to a commercial scale and commercial economics in two to three years,’ he said.
I’ll try and meet up with Wolfson and Dillon (founders of Solazyme) by Thursday to find out more about this process and the announcement.