Buffalo, New York, USA
January 01
Traveling through the universe.....just tarrying on this planet savoring life. I get the "Last Word" sometimes in "The Indian American' and relish the privilege to have a few Op-eds published in "News India Times". Niche 'n nice!


AUGUST 4, 2009 10:35PM

ExxonMobil Fuels Algae-Based Oil

Rate: 11 Flag

325_379a_F1 ExxonMobil  will pay SGI to make biofuels from algae.  

Following many years of the nebulous promise of biofuels, the floodgates have officially been opened by a decision taken by ExxonMobil. The world’s second largest company announced that it will spend up to $600 million over 5 to 6 years to produce biofuels from algae. Half the money will go to Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), run by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter. Another $300 million will be spent on in-house research to scaleup and refine the fuel. The size of the investment signifies the seriousness of intent and is a tremendous boost to biofuels.

Biofuel from algae has been variously labeled as algal fuel, oilgae, algaeoleum.What are algae? Remember the seaweed in your sushi? Well those are the largest and most complex marine form of the red algae. The simplest ones are single celled and they can make their own food using sunlight via the chloroplast (responsible for the green color in plants).

 Memories flood in of the slimy greenies or brackish water samples that we eagerly collected as giddy, young and avid Botanists at Lady Brabournbe College, Kolkata . Dr. Dipti Mukherjee (Head, Botany) would hobble (she had one leg in braces-polio) from microscope to microscope, in her perfumed silk sarees and with her authoritative but melodramatic voice create an aura of mysterious discovery and pronounce: “This is Spirogyra or Volvox or even “Well done girls this is Euglena!”(Completely different from the algae) andDo you see the lovely Diatoms?!!! “Raise the magnification girls and you can see the beautiful patterns”. We hid our smiles to turn the lenses from 10X to 100X or higher and were enchanted to observe colored moving pictures such as the ones shown. Who would have thought that the mess collected from the dirty drains had such beauty? Those who have loved Kolkata will understand the pining for all that cannot be seen by the eye. I was hooked by their perfection and feel lucky now that Algae were considered plants in 1973! 

spirogyra1DiatomsEuglenavolvox2Spirogyra                   Diatom                     Euglena                   Volvox

 The Aquatic Species Program was launched in 1978, by President Jimmy Carter. It looked into the production of energy using algae. The production of biofuels from algae helps stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the present level rather than reducing it to a more “healthy” level.  Research was stopped in 1996 by the Clinton administration. Even up to 2008, such fuels were thought to be too expensive to replace other commercially available fuels. Today's biggest obstacles are re-engineering algae to produce more hydrocarbons, to make molecules that more closely resemble refined gasoline as well as scaling up the whole process.

 The race to market has already begun.....

LS9, which uses engineered Escherichia coli instead of algae to make fuel, hopes to open a large-scale production facility in Brazil by 2013.

AuroraBiofuels in Alameda, California, expects to have a commercial algae biodiesel facility online in 2012.

Algenol plans to begin selling fuel from its facility in Mexico later this year.

Its an exciting time to be alive..................!


Robert F. Service ExxonMobil Fuels Venter's Efforts To Run Vehicles on Algae-Based Oil Science 24 July 2009:Vol. 325. no. 5939, p. 379






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Had to report on "The News of the Week" in "Science". Whoever the players may be, this might be THE essential key to the passport to freedom from fossil fuel. Onwards and upwards!
Interesting stuff. I remember back in 1973 when we wrote about the future possibility of boi-fuels of all kinds in our Energy Policy Project books and in the final report. The general idea was that we were smoking the bio-fuels, or some sort of toking and the idea never got off the ground. Here we are over 30 years later and I hope this has the ability to prove we weren't "wrong" back then, just ahead of the curve! ;-)

Actually, I have it on the q.t. that the Department of Economic Development in Louisiana has helped those who have invested in this in our state. Pretty darned exciting. Lots of new bio fuels being explored.

Great days ahead.

Absolutely! Algae were supposed to solve the food crisis and the fuel crisis and then everything ground to a halt. I guess ExxonMobil got distracted by the money flow. Whatever got them to do the doubletake it takes to get back on track .......well worth every penny I say!
Methinks Denese that this might happen before universal healthcare! yet you have a vast section of the population that still does not believe in Science. It is totally amazing to me. This news keeps me alive and hoping. Dunno if the slow pace of democracy can keep up with the rush of discoveries every moment.....
Well this sounds promising. Whether it ultimately pans out or not, it's the sort of thinking we need to be doing more of before the world's petroleum reserves begin to run dry in the next several decades. That's if we're not all dead from global warming caused by burning the world's petroleum reserves:)
This is the kind of news that excites me. The rest is all fluff!:)
thnks for the info, Romadi, and a little patch of Kolkata - love your excitement, hope we stay alive to see the changes. would like to know more, do write more about the latest trends in bio research on fuels or food substitute, but in layman's terms, please
Even THIS was too scientific Nabina/Trisha?? (which is the real one???) I had to literally slash through the science and get the kernel out and while writing got my flashbacks of my own hook-up with Science and Botany and Algae. My friends from Brabourne and Kolkata can and will emote along. SUCH precious memories.....aaaaaaaaah!Thanks for stopping by and believe you me... this sort of stuff keeps me awake and believing still....
I love your "news of the week in science". PLEASE keep up with this storyline, because there will be much, much more that we will not get from the MSM until way too late for us to handle the news with some sense. Rated.
All of us awake and alive with the turn of events around the globe. Zuma thank you for an idea that I thought was mine alone. That is what I will try to do. Give you all the spinning touch of Science that perhaps changes and outpaces all other progressions in life.
Great Stuff. Anything to get the hell out of the Middle East!!
Does the government know about this? If they don' then don't tell them. They will find a way to screw it up.
Odd coincidence. My attempts to earn some $$$ in the "calf market" turned up some really small value algae stocks the last few days; one clearly being pumped by those that do that.

For those looking to risk, and possibly make, some money. The stock BEHL.PK has rocketed upward from sub penny fractions to $.10. Hundreds of millions of shares, and no regular market. There is also OOIL.OB; a bit higher up the securities food chain (and not rocketing, at the moment). Sorting out what's penny stock scam and which isn't is beyond me. I guess the very existence of scams means something's afoot, Watson.

Growing and "harvesting" algae is the easy part. Getting "oil" out is tougher. The oil, by the way, is vegetable oil; liquid Crisco. Not a gasoline feedstock. Europe runs, if not largely at least vastly more than the US, on diesel. One reason, I suppose, why US oil firms have been disinterested. Ya can't run muscle cars on Crisco.

But opportunity knocks. (No, I haven't bought either; too weird.)
I dont think that the government does anything. Its the people in the government that have vested interests that screw with society as a whole. Blaming the government is pretty puerile.

The Aquatic Species Program launched by Pres Carter, was a Govt program and had to be halted due to lack of funds. The lack of funds is likely due to the huge sums of monies spent on the Military which no one seems to mind. That is not government but "fear " playing its part upon the common man who support collective activities such as wars.

"Today's biggest obstacles are re-engineering algae to produce more hydrocarbons, to make molecules that more closely resemble refined gasoline as well as scaling up the whole process.

Venter says SGI has already reengineered some strains of algae to secrete hydrocarbons from their cells. That achievement allows them to produce the compounds continuously in bioreactors. That's a big advantage over traditional "farming" methods, in which algae are grown in shallow ponds from which they are harvested and split open for oil that is then refined into fuel. "

Given the global $1-trillion-a-year market for energy, they will use every molecule of renewable energy that they can. Exxon brings the scaling-up factor to the table and SGI has several research milestones to reach.

My new weekly Science corner might show future ventures to sniff out for investing! Welcome welcome!
looking forward to more in this space, Romadi. No, this piece was not that difficult and yes, I could feel your emotions about your Kolkata classroom and your teacher.
Rolling, Taking a cue from you and Zuma , I might get here more regularly with the Science news of the week. Even if I get 200 people who read the post I am doing my bit for Science. "They cant take that away from me........"(love that song) .

I am glad this was not too tough. I will learn with every post and try to make it as readable as poss. Did you see the coincidence of stocks going up btw? see Robert's comment. That was interesting. Like the apartment ads going along with the obituaries in NYC :)
Approaching 250.....................
Some more info about this
Some more info about this
my brother mm ghosh? There's lots of info. But people here are already complaining about technicalities and I have to keep it as simple as poss. Glad to see you here bro!!! Must read one of your posts....have actually on FORVM!
What happens with this sort of stuff is that the experimental stages are really exciting. But then some moneyed giant corporate which controls the market on the commonly used alternative will clamp down on the results and things get left as 'small scale industries'. Look at biogas and gasohol! Or tidal energy harness schemes?
After seeming very plausible it all suddenly becomes 'not cost effective'.
Hope this doesn't happen here.
As far as the writing goes..... this is one piece I am going to use in my science classes!
Simple to follow, with a small personal 'story touch'.
What a pity! Where I teach there are hardly any algae of the sort mentioned! They will find it strange that students can actually find a host of algae in drain water!
We could hold our very own international summit right here dear siblings (from Jordan and Kolkata, India) recognized you guys not only from name but style as well and appreciate the input always.
Thanks for tarrying SK,

I think in this world of information it helps to put forth one's interest in such a way that people still have space for their own writing. What we do is very soothing to the ego and sometimes I might forget my target. I think it is kind of friends to remind me. Shall sharpen my pencils (??) rather dust off the keyboard and start again................................

That is what did happen to this project in the 90s. This signal from Exxon thus is that much more meaningful. A significant investment might signal seriousness of purpose. However, one never knows and the need to keep on top of it is important. The absolute hunger for alternative energy is the only thing that will make it successful. We need to be out of the mid-east.
Ha ha! some of my old college mates actually read the post and remembered the same lectures! Posting comment from Facebook...

Ratna Pati Rama Dey-Rao:

Your new post brings back all the memories of Brabourne Days. Can't believe you still remember Diptidi's lectures. It's really interesting! Keep writing....