Taking Algae Biofuel to the Next Level: Solazyme Gets $45 Million in Funding to Reach Commercial Scale

According to reports, algae biofuel company Solazyme has raised $45.4 million dollars in Series C funding to take their unique algae diesel process to the commercial scale.

Major partners in this round of funding include Braemar Energy Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners, who were joined by return backers The Roda Group and Harris & Harris Group.

Solazyme’s novel biofuel production method involves growing 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 and reduces batch processing time from weeks to days.

Even with these advances it has two obvious issues: questionable amounts of carbon are 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.

In recent months Solazyme has made some significant advancements including the certification of their proprietary Soladiesel(RD)™ fuel to the strict American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-975 specifications — meaning it is essentially indistinguishable to normal diesel fuel.

Although Solazyme’s process sounds promising, it hasn’t been clear when Solazyme’s algal diesel will reach commercialization. Other companies have already begun commercial production of algae biodiesel, beating Solazyme to the punch.

With this influx of cash, I’ll be curious to see if Solazyme can finally deliver, and, if so, how their process compares to other algal biodiesel out there when looking at the environmental benefits.

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Source: earth2tech.com (via Biofuels Digest)

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.