Baseload, Bioenergy, Hydropower

What’s Up with the Algae Biofuels Industry?

Algae, algae, algae —  biofuels made from and by the littleist creatures in the advanced bioeconomy is back in focus this week, as the DOE puts $18 million in funding into the marlet aimed at stimulating sub-$5 per gallon algae biofuels by 2019.

What are the current generation of algae technologies and companies up to? What are they making, and how are they making out, exactly? Here’s our company by company guide to 31 of the players on the scene — project developers and technology suppliers.

AlgaEnergy

AlgaEnergy is a technology-based company specialized in the field of microalgae biotechnology aiming to develop novel products derived from microalgae -nutritional, cosmetics and energetic, among others.

In February 2014, we repoirted that Spanish company AlgaEnergy plans to develop a 1 million liter biomass-powered facility to demonstrate its technology at scale for further market development in North and South America. The company will begin operating its $9.6 million facility in Arcos de la Frontera, starting with 350,000 liters and eventually ramping up to 1 million liters as is planned for Mexico.

AlgaEnergy is currently marketing products targeting the sectors of aquaculture, agriculture, food, feed, natural pigments, cosmetics, and technology and engineering, via the selling of turnkey plants. In the near future, AlgaEnergy will have developed new products for the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors, whilst at the same time, it is intensifying its researches and developments across the whole value chain towards the cost reduction, under profitability and sustainability criteria, of third generation biofuels to be used for road transport and aviation.

Algasol

Algasol Renewables has “transitioned from a technology company, owning the most coveted patent and cost efficient (CAPEX, OPEX and productivity) on algae growth systems towards becoming one of the largest algal biomass manufacturers through its daughter companies, Algasol Bangladesh Ltd and Algae Biomass Bangladesh Ltd,” the company proclaims.

Algasol announced this week that a patent for its floating PhotoBioReactor (PBR), based on density difference, has been issued in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The company’s photobioreactor technology “breaks the cost barrier and allows microalgae production to be economically viable” now, the company says. On average, Algasol notes, the “technology lowers CAPEX by 90% when compared to other growth systems, and is deployable both on land (in ponds) and in the oceans. To give you an example, 1 ha (10,000m2) of Algasol PBRs is as low as $52,500, including harvesting valves and internal aeration.”

In May, Algasol and PT Elnusa TBK announced the signing of a joint-endeavour for growing large volumes of algae biomass and sequestering larger quantities of CO2 with Algasol’s patented floating PBR technology in Indonesian territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ.

The patent has previusly been allowed in the US and Vietname among other nations.

Algatechnologies

Algatechologies is a rapidly growing biotechnology company, specializing in the commercial cultivation of microalgae. Founded in 1998, Algatechnologies is a world leader in the production and supply of AstaPure – a premium natural astaxanthin – one of the world’s most powerful antioxidants sourced from the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis.

In January 2014, natural algae astaxanthin manufacturers Fuji Chemical Industry Co, Algatechnologies Ltd, and Cyanotech Corporation announced that they will form the “Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association,” a trade organization dedicated to educating the public and dietary supplement industry about the health benefits of Natural Astaxanthin and the major differences between sources.

These three founding members will welcome other algae-based astaxanthin producers to the Association in the near future. The association is being formed in response to the petrochemical derived synthetic astaxanthin, which is now being marketed.

Algenol

Algenol is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels.

Algenol’s patented technology enables the production of the four most important fuels (ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) for around $1.30 per gallon each using proprietary algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and saltwater at production levels of 8,000 total gallons of liquid fuel per acre per year. Algenol’s technology produces high yields and relies on Algenol’s patented photobioreactors and proprietary downstream separation techniques for low-cost fuel production.  These “novel, low-cost techniques have the added benefit of consuming carbon dioxide from industrial sources, not using farmland or food crops and being able to provide freshwater,” the company says.

“This year, 2015,” says CEO and founder Paul Woods, “is the year we announce our first commercial facility, to be located in the United States.  This first facility will provide the basis for rapid expansion around the world in suitable locations.”

In February, Algenol announced that it has closed on a new $25 million investment from BioFields, a Mexican business group devoted to the development of renewable and clean energy projects. This new investment follows a previous investment of $40 million from BioFields in 2014 — in all, BioFields has invested $65M in Algenol.

Founded in 2006, Algenol converts CO2 from industrial emitters into transportation fuels through its game-changing DIRECT TO ETHANOL process. The Company is working aggressively to commercialize this unique technology and scale production of its products. Algenol has recently commenced initial operations of a pilot commercial module at its Florida development campus, which builds on the successful launch of a demonstration project in India.

Algae Systems

Algae Systems LLC completed demonstration of a new biofuel production approach in early-August jointly with Japans IHI Corporation. The process is based on the conversion of algae and wastewater to energy and clean water. A demonstration plant, located in Daphne Alabama, combines wastewater with algae to produce the worlds first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both bio-fuel and drinking water.

Algae.Tec

In March, following successful algae growth trials, Algae.Tec commenced the expansion of its development and manufacturing facilities in Cumming, Georgia and the building of an initial small scale plant for the production of algae for the nutraceutical market. On completion, scheduled to be within 6 months, it is expected that this initial plant will produce algae at the rate of 50,000 kilos of algae per year and generate revenues of $1 million per year. It is planned that this initial production will be increased in stages to achieve a total production capacity up to 2,000,000 kilos per year.

The Company’s algae development and manufacturing centre in Cumming, GA. is an ideal location for implementing this initial plant, taking advantage of the significant resources already in place and the readily accessible market. Incremental expansions of algae production capacity in Cumming will be funded by generated cash flow and equity, and will be followed by plants in different geographic locations including Australia.

Alltech Algae

Last June, Alltech commenced construction on an algae production plant on the same premises as Alltech Sao Pedro, the largest yeast plant for animal nutrition in the world. This new $63 million investment in Brazil will generate more than 200 direct and indirect jobs, and it will increase Alltech’s Latin America production by 58 percent.

Alltech produces heterotrophic algae, grown in closed stainless steel fermenters. This production practice allows for total control of the process, ensuring traceability, consistency and strict contamination control.

In 2011, Alltech Algae cut the ribbon on its new $200 million plant in Winchester, Kentucky.  The plant was acquired in 2010 from Martek Bioscience Corporation for approximately $14 million and has been renovated in the past few months to begin in April as what Alltech calls one of the largest algae production sites in the world.

The primary focus of the facility will be the development of products derived from algae. “Our concentration is in algal technology for animal and aquaculture feeds,” the company told The Digest.

Aquafuel

Aquafuel’s algae fuel was used to power the world’s first electric Grand Prix series showcasing zero emission technologies. Formula E’s sustainability manger Julia Pallé told BusinessGreen the championship organizers have signed a deal with U.K. startup Aquafuel to supply generators powered by glycerine, a byproduct of biodiesel that also can be produced from saltwater algae. Organizers had hoped to have 10 teams compete in 10 “ePrix” in the first season, but planned events in Rio and Mexico City have fallen through.

Working with the UK’s leading fuel company Greenergy, Aquafuel has developed new technology for the combustion of glycerine in standard diesel generators. Located in the paddock, these generators will be used at all ePrix with the sole purpose of ensuring the Formula E cars are charged quickly, safely, fairly and without producing CO2 emissions.

Using a single generator, all 40 cars can be charged from flat to full in 50 minutes and with automated precise power controls, can be relied upon to ensure no car is given additional power.

Aurora Algae

Aurora Algae is a producer of high-performance, premium algae-based products for the functional food and beverage, dietary supplement, and pharmaceutical markets. The Company has developed the industry’s first commercial-scale photosynthetic platform for sustainable, algae-based product development. Aurora Algae’s proprietary algae strains and production system uses marginal land, seawater and captured carbon pollution from industrial emitters, resulting in more capitally efficient and more environmentally sustainable algae farming, harvesting and processing.

In June 2014, the company began a deep investigation of South Texasas a location for the first commercial plant, and the portfolio was further sharpened, essentially to put fuels on the back burner for some time to come, and focus on omega-3 and omega-7 fatty acids as a first commercial project.

Meanwhile, Texas’ aquaculture and shrimp farming center, near Brownsville, could use the lift. As Granvil Treece wrote in the 2014 guide to the Texas Aquaculture Industry:

“Over the last 21 years, the Texas marine shrimp industry has produced 94.5 million pounds of shrimp with a farm-gate value of $244.3M, contributing an estimated $1.466B to the state’s economy. However, the farm-gate price has been low since 2004, recovered somewhat in 2007 and 2008, but farm-gate prices are still  limiting interest in shrimp farming with low prices being experienced.”

Bioamin

Bioamin is a Mexican biotechnology enterprise dedicated to the investigation, development and production of suytainable agriculture products.

In May 2014, we reported that Bioamin was experimenting with biodiesel production from fresh water microalgaes, saying that doing so is more energetically efficient as well as cheaper than other alternatives while also being less harmful to the environment. The company is using an ultrasound process to extract the oil from the plants.

BioProcess Algae

BioProcess Algae LLC is based in Omaha, Neb. and is currently running a demonstration plant at the Green Plains Inc. ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa. Grower Harvester bioreactors installed in Shenandoah are tied directly into the plant’s CO2 exhaust gas and have been operating continuously since inoculation in October 2009. The company serves five markets: Animal Feed, Nutraceuticals, Fish Feed, Chemicals and Fuel.

Right now the company has completed its “Phase III” system that broke ground in February 2012 and is operating as a small commercial facility — but we haven’t seen firm dates and plans for the very large installments that the technology is capable of and to which the parent companies ultimately aspire. So, we’re in wait-and-see mode. If you know much about Green Plains, they’re not, shall we say, a “science project” company, so you can count on the technology not getting scaled until the partners are confident that the fundamental economics have been optimized. We’ve never actually seen Green Plains staff picking up nickels in parking lots, but if there’s a nickel in a bottle of CO2 or hiding underneath a biofilm, they’re going to find it.

Long-time CEO Tim Burns gave up the day-to-day oversight of the company, taking a board seat role — and the company is now essentially managed out of Omaha, Nebraska where Green Plains is headquartered.

Cellana

Cellana’s patented ALDUO system enables economic, sustainable, and consistent production of photosynthetic, non-GMO algae at industrial scale. Cellana intends to construct and operate commercial facilities to produce these products as integrated algae-based biorefineries. To date, over $100 million has been invested in developing Cellana’s algae strains, patented and proprietary production technologies, and its Kona Demonstration Facility.

Last summer, the US Department of Energy announced $3.5 million for a Cellana algae project aimed at accelerating the development of sustainable, affordable algal biofuels. Cellana was selected to develop a fully integrated, high-yield algae feedstock production system by integrating the most advanced strain improvement, cultivation, and processing technologies into their operations at their Kona Demonstration Facility.

Why significant? This is the first major grant award for algae to a multi-product biorefinery with Omega-3s as the high-value co-product.  (ATP3 maybe counts, but it wasn’t direct to Cellana.)  One observer noted, “DOE has come a long way in broadening their perspectives on how one can scale to achieve both commercial quantities of biofuels and profits simultaneously, rather than one at a time.

Cyanotech

Cyanotech Corporation produces BioAstin Natural Astaxanthin and Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica—all natural, functional nutrients that leverage our experience and reputation for quality, building nutritional brands which promote health and well-being. Cyanotech’s spirulina, FDA reviewed and accepted as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use as a food ingredient, augments energy and immune response. BioAstin’s benefits derive from its superior antioxidant activity and from its ability to fight free radical damage and combat ongoing oxidative stress, enhancing skin, muscle and joint health.

Last month, Cyanotech reported that its new Astaxanthin extraction system has been installed at Cyanotech’s production facility at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and is in operation. After harvest, the microalgae biomass historically had been shipped to the US mainland and New Zealand where the Astaxanthin has been extracted and readied for final product form before being shipped back to Hawaii. This process added several weeks to production time and significant costs.

Earthrise Nutritionals

Earthrise’s farm is the world’s largest Spirulina farm, and together with our sister company’s farm in China, DIC group is the largest Spirulina producer in the world. The Farm is located in the Sonoran Desert of southeastern California far from highways, airports and cities. Our Spirulina is grown under controlled without the use of pesticides and herbicides .

A wholly owned subsidiary of DIC, Earthrise Nutritionals, based in Irvine, California, is a Spirulina production and sales company with an annual yield of approximately 500 tons. The company’s outdoor algae cultivation facility, which covers a total area of 180,000 square meters, is the world’s largest. Earthrise is the only company in the continental United States to succeed in the mass cultivation of algae outdoors.

This August is the scheduled completion date of a new extraction plantfor Linablue, Spirulina-derived natural blue food coloring. Construction of the plant, which is located on the site of subsidiary Earthrise Nutritionals, LLC, the DIC Group’s U.S. Spirulina* production base, began in May 2014. After commissioning, commercial production is expected to begin in September. The new facility gives the parent DIC Group “the world’s largest and most stable supply of the highest-grade Spirulina natural blue food coloring.”

Euglena

The company aims to “research, develop, produce and market microalgae with a strong focus on euglena. Euglena is a single celled organism (microalgae) that can photosynthesize using its chloroplasts and extensive research has been conducted for its effective use. Euglena, which contains most of the nutrients required for human survival, is expected to be used effectively in functional foods and cosmetics.”

In June 2014, we reported that Izuzu Motors has teamed with Euglena Co. to develop a new kind of drop-in fuels from algae, with the technology expected to be on the market by 2018. Euglena has already been developing jet fuel from algae with ANA Airlines.

Evodos

Evodos is the developer and manufacturer of “Dynamic Settlers,”fast rotating equipment to separate fine particles from one or more liquids. The working principle of these Dynamic Settlers is Evodos proprietary separation technology, called Spiral Plate Technology. Applications range from highly diluted soft particles like algae to abrasive mixtures like saturated drilling fluids from the oil industry. Evodos equipment is sold either directly or through dealers. The company is based in Raamsdonksveer, The Netherlands.

In April 2013, Heliae announced a partnership with Evodos to offer its proprietary Spiral Plate Technology to North America. With this deal in place, Heliae has a license to distribute the Evodos technology with a focus on the North American markets. Heliae will be including Evodos harvesting technology in its new commercial facility scheduled for completion in Q3 2013, but will begin distribution for Evodos immediately. The Evodos harvesting process delivers a dewatered live algae paste that is over 98 percent free of extracellular water and extremely stable for product development.

Fermentalg

In May, Fermentalg announced that it has passed the symbolic mark of one tonne of DHA-rich (Omega 3) oil produced using its patented technology for growing microalgae in a predominantly heterotrophic, mixotrophic environment.

The oil was produced at an industrial site adapted to the technology in 2 runs during the first days of April 2015. Fermentalg was also able to reduce the length of the batch production cycle by 10% to further improve its yield performance. All told, over two tonnes of dry biomass were produced, which contain around a tonne of DHA-rich oil that is currently being extracted bringing oil production to date to well over the tonne mark. This success confirms Fermentalg’s robust technology and capacity to meet the industrial challenges of mass production (scale-up).

Fuji Chemical

In January 2014, natural algae astaxanthin manufacturers Fuji Chemical Industry Co, Algatechnologies Ltd, and Cyanotech Corporation announced that they will form the “Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association,” a trade organization dedicated to educating the public and dietary supplement industry about the health benefits of Natural Astaxanthin and the major differences between sources.

These three founding members will welcome other algae-based astaxanthin producers to the Association in the near future. The association is being formed in response to the petrochemical derived synthetic astaxanthin, which is now being marketed.

Green Star Products

During the fourth quarter of 2014, Green Star Products signed a contract to build a large proprietary demonstration Hybrid Algae Production System (HAPS) facility for a third party to produce commercial quality algae.

This contract is very specific for GSPI to build and operate the HAPS system. However, the algae strains to be cultivated will be provided by another third party and the final algae biomass commercial product will be delivered to the original client for analysis and utilization. The facility is a premium showcase algae pond system located near South Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This project is strictly a commercial research demonstration unit funded by the client using Green Star technology. The HAPS presently under construction by GSPI is approximately 70,000 liters capacity of algae growth media.

Heliae

LastAugust, The Digest reported that CFO Craig Johnson becameinterim chief executive officer of Heliae, and highlighted the product mix for The Digest.

“We call them GP1, GP2, and GP3,” Johnson told the Digest. “GP1 is astaxanthin, which we are already working on and producing in Gilbert. Our [astaxanthin] JV in Japan [with Sincere Corporation] is still moving forward, we are working through design and development at this time; everything is on track. We are doing some further refining for the scale-up of the nutraceutical process, and we expect we’ll be in commercial operation by year-end.

“GP2 is our Volaris technology. We’re focusing on AgScience opportunities there. Right now, we’ve got two products identified, a biostimulant and a plant protection product. The first one, the biostimulant, enhances the germination and makes the plant stronger. The other is for protection as it grows. There’s huge customer demand, based in the need to move away from chemicals to organic growth stimulants.

“With Volaris, we are working through the scale-up, it’s more about optimization, making sure we are coming up with the right size and dimension. Normal things with a scale-up. There aren’t any 90-degree turns. Pricing varies pretty widely. Right now [with Volaris], we’re more in demonstration mode than active commercial production.

“GP3 is food and feed additives. Our first product is MAA product. “We’re still looking at which reactor we’ll use with the MAA product — Volaris or tank reactors. We haven’t landed on which is the right platform. This sector is in the earliest stage of the technology, of the three. We’ve had limited success with tanks so far.

In May, Heliae announced ground breaking at an expansion project at its ten acre production plant in Gilbert, Arizona. Heliae had invested nearly $3 million in the design and construction of a new large enclosed photo bioreactor, which will further increase the company’s algal production capabilities. Construction began in May, 2015 and is expected to be operational this month.

In July 2014, Heliae announced a joint venture with top Japanese waste management and recycling company, Sincere Corporation, to develop a commercial algae production facility in Saga City, Japan. The joint venture has been named Alvita Corporation, and will combine Sincere Corporation’s operational skill, distribution networks and knowledge of the Japanese market with Heliae’s proprietary algae production technology to supply natural astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant with broad health benefits, to the growing health and wellness market in the region. Late in 2014, Heliae shipped to Saga City a complete pilot-sized test facility to carry out initial site assessment tests to assess our plans for the new facility. The test facility consists of 6 open pond reactors housed inside a locally built greenhouse (see figures, below). Along with the reactors, a fully functioning laboratory was shipped for analysis of culture growth parameters.

IHI NeoG Algae

In January 2014, we reported that IHI NeoG Algae said it has cut the price of algae production by half to $4.8 per liter in part thanks to improvements in breeding. Through breed improvement and automation, the company is working to bring the production cost down to 96 cents per liter. The algae species was developed by Gene & Gene Technology and is being grown in IHI’s pond.

Missing Link Technology

Last October, Missing Link Technology was awarded patents for its deep water growth, harvesting, oils extraction, and biocrude extraction integrated suite of solutions.

1) MicGro Deep Water Reactor/Process: A engineered system of a series of one to ten foot deep water bioreactors configured in a stirred tank followed by a plug flow process flow design that generates algae biomass growth rates on an exponentially superior basis.

2) Shepherd Harvester: Harvesting process that eliminates the requirement to pump large volumes of water / hydraulic transport and concentrates mature algae cells to increase harvesting potential.

3) Alginator: A high pressure / high shear continuous system designed for extracting DHA/Omega oils from algae by employing rapid non-equilibrium decompression which harnessing the energy from within the algae cells to rupture and capture the oils for market.  Design maximizes oil extraction while being the low-cost low-energy solution.

4) Algaefaction: Hydrothermal Liquefaction is a continuous process that converts algae biomass directly into crude oil by utilizing a combination of pressure ranges, temperature ranges and a proprietary catalyst suitable for meeting our transportation fuel needs.

Muradel

Taking in algae, biomass and organic waste streams,Muradel is using Green2Black, a suite of state of the art harvesting, extraction and sub-critical water reactor technologies, to produce “green crude” – green environmentally, but black in color like its fossil crude equivalent.

“The feedstocks do not compete with the food chain and have no or low fresh water requirements. And Green2Black is an efficient closed-loop process that recycles its waste products,” Muradel’s team points out.

According to the company, “Green2Black is commercially scalable, ready to serve the growing demand in Australia and globally for renewable “drop-in” transportation fuels which are compatible with existing fuel infrastructure.” Last November, Muradel launched its integrated demonstration plant to convert algae into green crude in Whyalla. The $10.7 million plant will produce 30,000 liters per year and represents the company’s first step toward an 80 million liter per year commercial scale plant.

Murdel’s technology, Green2Black, uses microalgae produced on site, plant biomass, and organic waste in an energy-efficient subcritical water reactor that converts the feedstock to crude oil in minutes. The demonstration plant was partially funded through a $4.4 million grant from Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Additional in-kind and financial support came from the Whyalla City Council, the South Australian Government through BioSA, and Muradel’s shareholders. The plant is the first of its kind in Australia.

OriginClear

OriginClear’s water cleanup technology, called Electro Water Separation (EWS), is a high-speed, primarily chemical-free process that efficiently extracts insoluble inorganic and organic particulates from very large quantities of water. EWS focuses on the Total Suspended Solids (TSS) in the water, to maximize the clarity of effluent water for downstream operations. Some of the solids, such as petroleum and algae, are valuable products in themselves. EWS therefore delivers a dual value to operators.

In January, OriginOil announced that it is collaborating with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) of the U.S. Department of Energy. A proposed project focuses on development and implementation of novel approaches to improve efficiency in algal biofuel production.

Together, OriginOil and INL have submitted a proposal in response to a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) titled Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB). The TABB FOA seeks alternative pathways to overcome two of the key barriers to commercializing algal biofuels: the high cost of producing algal biomass and the low yield of target biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks produced from algae.

Last September, the company announced it would provide algae harvesting technology for the low-cost algae growth system from Algasol Renewables. The integrated system will launch at Algasol’s new facilities in Bangladesh — a unique, large-scale demonstration of micro-algae production for fish feed.  Initially, the site will cover 6.5 acres, and be capable of producing approximately 25 tonnes of micro-algae per month. Algasol recently launched a showcase site on the island of Mallorca, Spain. Algasol Renewables estimates that algae can be produced for feed using its proprietary technology at industry-low prices, and is negotiating agreements for micro-financing to help large numbers of small farmers in the low-lying delta region of Bangladesh roll out this complete growth and pelletizing system.

Pond Biofuels

Pond Biofuels converts raw smokestack emissions from heavy industry into algal biomass. Algal biomass has value. One tonne of algae can yield 100 litres or more of diesel, and the residual biomass can be used as a renewable coal substitute.

Last July, we reported that St Marys Cement is investing in an algae-based biodiesel system that will be implemented by Pond Biofuels to help reduce the facility’s greenhouse gas emissions. For every kilogram of algae produced, 2kg of CO2 are mitigated. Though the Pond system only uses a small amount of the 540,000 metric tons of CO2 produced every year, the 25,000 liter pilot plant at the facility can grow up to six generations of algae per day thanks to LED technology.

Qualitas Health

In November 2014, Qualitas Health announced the launch of the first consumer products based upon Almega PL, marking the company’s transition from research and development into successful commercialization of the company’s premium algal omega-3 oil.

Within the past 18 months, Qualitas Health completed research and development, performing clinical studies, protecting intellectual property, obtaining regulatory approvals, scale-up of algae growth and manufacturing, collaboration with consumer brands, logistics and sales. Through its completion of these benchmarks, Qualitas Health has emerged as the first company manufacturing omega-3 nutrition ingredients using phototropic algae technology to successfully commercialize.

The initial consumer products include: Almega PL, introduced by Dr. David Williams and sold by Healthy Directions, that contains EPA and polar lipids from Almega PL. This product is positioned as 100% vegetarian EPA omega-3 for mood and heart health. Healthy Directions is a direct-to-consumer nutritional supplement retailer and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Helen of Troy Limited . And Veggie Omega-3+ from Dr. Mark Merriman at Rejuvenation Science Labs, which is a blend of Almega PL, algal DHA and astaxanthin. Veggie Omega-3+ is positioned as a fully vegetarian LC-PUFA omega-3. 

Renewable Algal Energy

RAE has operated a two-acre demonstration site in Arizona for five years. Recently, RAE commissioned its patented harvester to demonstrate efficient algae harvesting without the use of chemicals. The harvester will support up to 100 acres of algae production in open ponds, and harvest 2,200 metric tons of dried algal biomass annually. RAE is working with a project developer to deploy RAE Technology at the first of multiple commodity-scale (5,000 acres) production sites in North America; such a site will have a total expected annual production capacity of more than 140,000 metric tons of dried algal biomass. Algal biomass from this future site will be used to sustainably produce algal oil for Neste Oil, and multiple other valuable co-products, including protein powder, omega-3s, and carotenoids. The natural carotenoid products include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin, for use in nutraceuticals. In addition, RAE’s algal biomass is an excellent source of high-quality protein, lipids and carotenoids for animal feed applications, which are especially interesting for aquaculture diets.

Last August, Renewable Algal Energy said that Q4 2014 is the target date for the first RAE commercial algal production systems, producing products for the nutraceutical, animal nutrition, and renewable fuels markets — adding that ABB will supply control systems, instrumentation, low voltage electrical equipment and variable speed drives that will help those integrated algal production systems operate efficiently and reliably.

In June 2014, RAE announced a contingent off-take agreement with Neste Oil, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel. This agreement will enable Neste Oil to purchase RAE’s crude algae oil on a commercial scale for use as a feedstock for producing renewable fuel, and is contingent on RAE’s future production capacity and on compliance with future biofuel legislation in the EU and US, among other factors. The agreement between RAE and Neste Oil is non-exclusive and allows each company to enter into additional agreements with other parties.

Sapphire Energy

Sapphire is a venture capital backed company founded in 2007 for the purpose of growing and processing micro-algae into products that serve very large and diverse markets where the unique attributes of algae provide valuable solutions. Sapphire’s world-leading technology uses sunlight, CO2, non-potable water, non-arable land, nutrients, and novel strains of algae in outdoor ponds to produce algae which we then convert into high-value oils, aquaculture and animal feeds, fuels and other valuable products.

Sapphire has three facilities across California and New Mexico. In 2010, the company began construction of the world’s first commercial demonstration algae-to-energy farm in Columbus, New Mexico, a project backed by a grant from the United States Department of Energy and a loan guarantee from the United States Department of Agriculture. Construction of Phase 1 was completed on-time and on-budget in 2012, and the company paid back the USDA loan guarantee in 2013.

It’s a different day at Sapphire, as the company has recently followed Solazyme and others from a focus on algae biofuels to a portfolio approach including algal oils for nutraceutical applications, protein and fuel.

But not entirely different, as the company had never definitively annoucned whether it was going to make fuels from lipid oils or from the whole algae biomass — which always left the question of what to do with all that protein.

Last July, Sapphire brought in Jamie Levine as CEO, a former Goldman exec who took the reins at Verenium in 2009 after Carlos Riva’s departure, and immediately cemented a reputation there as a consummate dealmaker.

Levine told the Digest last summer:  “I’m coming in with a supportive investor group, instead of [as with Verenium] long short hedge funds owning more than $100 million of the company’s debt and equity instruments. There’s been a thoughtful process on how to capitalize this company. What the two companies share is that they both have an incredible technology and platform and the question is: how do we get the most value for the company, the employees, the potential partners. I’m an MBA, not a tech guy, and I’m not going to find new places to build technology and new areas to take this platform. What’s the value here today, is the question. The Sinopec partnership is an example of what has to come. You can’t do great things alone, you have to work with others well, and find the right kinds of partnership. It’s about getting the right motivations for a partnership, which starts with recognizing that Sapphire has a lot of solutions to very big problems, and we have to find those partners for who we can solve that problem.

“So, who has a problem for which green crude is the solution? China is one geography of several where that could prove to be the case. It’s not just picking an illustrious name, but finding partners who really are invested.”

Schott

In May, SCHOTT North America announced that its new oval glass tubes for photobioreactors (PBRs) increased maximum dry biomass output per day by more than 22 percent in its latest study in partnership with Heliae, a technology-driven algae production company. For the first time, SCHOTT’s round glass tubes were retrofitted with oval tubes in Heliae’s Helix™ seed PBR. An indoor study over multiple cycles in several months found that the algae growth rate per volume increased by more than 45 percent, while the oval shape reduces the total internal volume of PBR tubes by 15 percent compared to standard circular tubes resulting in the overall output-increase stated above.

Last September, Schott and Algatech signed an extension of their R&D agreement covering thin-walled DURAN glass tubes glass tubes for Algatech’s algae production facility, that have “significantly improved cultivation efficiency in the yields of Algatech’s AstaPure natural astaxanthin.” A dedicated section of Algatech’s factory in the Arava Desert will serve as a beta site for advanced glass components developed by SCHOTT for implementation in PBRs.

Solazyme

Solazyme is a renewable oil and bioproducts company that transforms a range of low-cost plant-based sugars into high-value oils. Headquartered in South San Francisco, Solazyme’s renewable products can replace or enhance oils derived from the world’s three existing sources – petroleum, plants and animal fats. Initially, Solazyme is focused on commercializing its products into three target markets: (1) fuels and chemicals, (2) nutrition and (3) skin and personal care.

Bottom line, in February the Digest noted, “Moema’s delayed, the big volumes are now in 2016 or 2017, so Solazyme’s shifting to higher margin, lower-volume markets.” Though the big power and steam problem with Moema has since been resolved.

The stock went into freefall after this strategic shift, even after a signature partnership with Versalis was announced to commercialize Encapso dilling oils. Versalis said that its initial emphasis for Encapso will be oil and gas fields operated by its parent company Eni, which represent a significant amount of the world’s petroleum drilling activity. Encapso will be featured as part of the company’s recently launched Specialty Oilfield Chemicals product portfolio.

Those are timing issues for investors — and legitimate for their purposes, of course. But let’s focus on the larger story here — while significant ramp-up risk is out there for the long-term, investors have priced in almost zero revenue growth next year, at this stock price, if we take the Cowen & Company analysis which pegged a $4 target price to 15% growth. Which makes this an opportunity for those who see in the Eni deal the means of revenue growth that investors have discounted for the near-term.

This month, Natura Cosméticos and Solazyme announced that Natura is purchasing Solazyme’s high-performance AlgaPūr Microalgae Oil, which will be incorporated into Natura’s multiple product lines.The move follows one year of testing and product validation using Solazyme’s AlgaPūr oils, which offer “higher hydration levels, a silky but not greasy skin feel, mildness on the skin, neutral color and odor, and improved shelf life.” Natura and Solazyme have been working together for two years on several projects on joint efforts to develop new formulations with Solazyme’s microalgae oils. Specific purchase volumes were not disclosed by the partners.

In other news, in April we learned that Solazyme’s oils were instrumental in creating the world’s first algae-based, sustainable surfboard. Solazyme supplied its innovative algal oil to scientists at UC San Diego, who in turn used these sustainable oils to create an algae-based surfboard. The surfboard was publicly unveiled and presented to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer just before Earth Day.

Solix

Solix Biosystems, Inc. was founded in 2006 with a vision of realizing the full commercial potential of photosynthetic microalgae.  Headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado, Solix Biosystems has developed and deployed a robust algal growth system that is based on its proprietary extended-surface area closed photobioreactor panels.  The technology is applicable to a broad range of microalgae species.

The Company has operated its demonstration facility in southwestern Colorado for multiple years, confirming the technology’s reliability, industry leading volumetric productivity, and scalability.  Coupled with an experienced leadership team and committed international investors, the Company is now poised to exploit its technology in the development and production of multiple high-value specialty algal products for the nutrition, personal care and aquaculture markets.

In January 2014, formeer Calera president Austin Maguire was named as CEO.

Triton Algae (Triton Health & Nutrition)

Triton Health and Nutrition owns and develops the ”PhycoLogix Platform” which “improve animal and human health without the use of antibiotics or hormones, instead relying on highly effective natural proteins, activating mammal’s innate defense systems to prevent infection and reduce morbidity and mortality.”

After completing work on MAA, Triton began developing other biologic molecules to insert into the PhycoLogix Platform. Not only has Triton extended the platform to other proteins, but many additional types of complex molecules have been produced in this platform, including enzymes and metabolic products. These products are derived from multiple classes of proteins, including antibacterials, antioxidants, chelators, and calcium binders. Each of these proteins is valuable in multiple markets as well, spanning therapeutics, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics.

This article was originally published on Biofuels Digest and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Algae water. Credit: Shutterstock.