This is such a cool idea that I just had to come at it, even though I’m a few months behind on the original announcement. In September, 2009, a new car aptly named the “Algaeus” completed it’s cross country tour successfully and refueled the idea that algae might bring natural solutions to our high tech problems after all. The algae fueled car traveled 3,750 miles across the country, spreading the word of new possibilities. After it completed it’s tour, it then joined the “Green Energy Bus”, the Veggie Van Organization and the FUEL team for a college tour to further spread the green word. The “Green Energy Bus” is a retrofit interactive classroom that shows students just how the new concept works.

The Algaeus is the brainchild of Sapphire Energy, the leader in algae-based renewable fuel, who joined with the team behind the award winning film FUEL, to complete the first cross-country car tour powered by a blend of algae-based gasoline in an unmodified engine. It took a total of 10 days after starting in San Fransisco and making it’s way to New York City, to which it arrived on September 18. The Algaeus presents a tantalizing peek into a very likely future which excites me. Sapphire Energy provides the fuel for the extraordinary car, containing a mixture of hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude and extracted through Sapphire’s proprietary process. However, there really is nothing extraordinary about the car in reality. It could be your car, the way things are hopefully going to turn out!

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A company called “LiveFuels” has announced the start of pilot operations at the company’s test facility in Brownsville, TX. The facility consists of 45 acres of open saltwater ponds and will be used for research on optimizing algal productivity and increasing the rates of conversion of biomass into renewable oils. LiveFuels grows a robust mix of native algae species in low-cost, open-water systems. This is in stark contrast to may other companies who grow singular cultures of algae and often genetically modified strains. As a natural, environmentally friendly business, LiveFuels harvests the algae by using “algae grazers,” which includes such natural harvesters as filter-feeding fish and a variety of other aquatic herbivores. This in place of expensive and energy-intensive mechanical equipment. As a result, these species can easily be processed into renewable oils and many other valuable co-products.

To date, LiveFuels has filed ten U.S. patents for its proprietary approach to growing and harvesting algal biomass. At the Brownsville facility, the company will conduct research on optimizing the productivity of natural aquatic ecosystems through biological and environmental conditions. The results will be used for an expansion to full-scale commercial operations along the coast of Louisiana. And all of this is being done in this revolutionary, environmentally friendly fashion. Kudos. to LiveFuels.

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Here it comes! The first Jeep, to my knowledge anyways, to be run on algae. Actually, it runs on what is called “algal-based renewable diesel” under the trade name, SoladieselRDTM. They recently showed the new car at CALSTART Target 2030: Solutions to Secure California’s Transportation Energy and Climate Future, which was held in Sacramento, California in January.

This very cool new fuel is a drop in replacement for ordinary petrodiesel (also known as #2 Diesel). It has already passed the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D975 Specifications. I know, everything technical is a mouthful and some of us more technically challenged individuals find it hard to even say these words, much less make sense of them. But, according to Biofuel Daily: “both SoladieselRDTM and SoladieselBDTM, a FAME biodiesel that meets the (ASTM) D6751 specifications, have been successfully road tested unblended (100 percent) for thousands of miles in standard unmodified diesel engines”.

The Jeep was available for rides throughout the event and although I don’t know anybody personally that went to the event, all reports have been positive. Jeep lovers, like me, are excited about the prospects.

Quoting Jonathan Wolfson, co-founder and CEO of Solazyme, Biofuel Daily reported that “with new elected officials across the country, now is an ideal time for events like CALSTART Target 2030, which look at energy solutions that will serve us in the long term” The article went to add that Mr. Wolfson is
“proud to be in California, a state known for leading energy policy” and that he is also “pleased to showcase our solutions which include clean and scalable renewable fuels derived from algae that meet today’s demanding performance and regulatory specifications, while dramatically reducing the carbon footprint versus petroleum based-fuels.”

I know all of this sounds like a sales pitch but I am hoping that algae finds a real future on the biofuels scene. It is both abundant and sustainable and I can show you where you can get a load of it right now! (LOL). And, according to Solazyme, their unique process grows algae in the dark using standard industrial bioproduction equipment. This makes it affordable and easily to start, without needing special equipment or for current equipment to be retooled, a problem with many other biofuels. The algae are fed a variety of non-food and waste biomass materials including cellulosic biomass and low-grade glycerol, which makes their growth and sustainability affordable. It also allows the company to produce oil with a very low carbon footprint and to do it efficiently in a controlled environment.

Solazyme’s fuels have already been road tested in unmodified vehicles for thousands of miles. The results, from what I have seen so far, are positive. If my readers have other information, I would like to know it so feel free to leave a comment. FYI: This company has also recently announced that it has produced the world’s first algal based jet fuel which met all eleven of the tested key criteria for (ASTM) D1655 (Jet A-1). This is another huge milestone in the making of viable bio fuels that can energize our future into the next century! Additionally, Solazyme’s process is the very first bridge from non-food carbohydrates and certain industrial waste streams to edible oils and oleochemicals. Now, think about that!

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