Submitted by New Energy News Blog

Algae-derived biofuels have a wide variety of appeals but there is one that is promising beyond all the others: Unlike biofuels from most other “grown” sources, the algal substances derived from algae can be refined into airplane fuels.

In fact, algae-derived algal oils can be refined into anything petroleum-derived oil can be refined into.

Algal-based fuels are probably about 3-to-5 years from the market. Tests are just beginning. The right species (from among some 30,000 possibilities) must be identified. Commercial production at competitive prices must be achieved.

Darrin Morgan, Co-Chair, Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) and head, Boeing Corp. algal project: “It would be possible to fly on 100 percent (algae), but most likely [the first algal-derived airflight fuel] will be a blend…”

A Continental/Boeing 737-800 test flight is scheduled for January, using a blend of algal and jatropha plant derived liquids and standard jet fuel in one of the plane’s 2 engines.

Sapphire Energy has already produced an effective gasoline. Solazyme has produced a certified flight-ready jet fuel. (See HUGE NEWS FOR LITTLE ALGAE)

To prove the industry really is ready to take off (so to speak), the officers of ABO are in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with the Obama transition team and Congress.

Question: What do D.C. pols have to do with algae? Answer: A good lobbyist can convince a Congressman that taxpayer money will grow white on coal. Convincing Congress subsidies and incentives will grow algae should be a snap. Especially since algae can certainly do what the ethanol and biodiesel crops that get healthy taxpayer funding do. And those crops don’t efficiently make especially good vehicle fuels and can’t readily be refined into jet fuels or plastics.

With all the algaes’ potential [yes, that is grammatically correct, “algae” is plural], taxpayers can expect to be much closer to real independence from foreign oil imports if Congress decides to use a portion of the massive New Energy investments coming out of the stimulus package to fund algae programs. But the ethanol and biodiesel growers got to Washington a long time ago and the algal people must now work to make their case.

Jason Pyle, CEO, Sapphire Energy (the algae fuel company Bill Gates recently bought into): “We are up against formidable opposition from competing interests…The train is moving … it hasn’t left the station yet,” Pyle said in urging the algae industry to make a concerted lobbying effort. “But we are approaching the final opportunity … to grab a seat on the energy train.”

It’s as simple as A->B->C=flight! (click to enlarge)

Infant algae industry makes its case as alternative fuel source
Les Blumenthal, December 6, 2008 (McClatchy via Kansas City Star)
Continental Airlines to test biofuel on 737
December 8, 2008 (Puget Sound Business Journal)

Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) (Darrin Morgan, Co-Chair); Continental Airlines; Boeing Co. (Darrin Morgan, head of algal development); Sapphire Energy (Jason Pyle, CEO); Paul Dickerson, chief operating officer, Department of Energy (DOE) office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

Interest in algae biofuels from airlines and airplane manufacturers is rapidly growing and momentum is shifting away from crop biofuels. ABO is mounting a lobbying effort to win attention from the incoming Obama administration for the fledgling industry.

The point is that it’s within reach. (click to enlarge)

– The Continental/Boeing 737-800 is scheduled for Jnauary 7, 2009.
– An Air New Zealand 747-400 test flight using jatropha plant-derived biofuel scheduled for December 2008 was indefinitely delayed.
– DOE studied algae from the 1970s until 1996 but abandoned the research when the cost of oil was near $10/barrel and U.S. enthusiasm for ethanol and biodiesel exploded.
– The 2007 energy bill, with oil in the $100/barrel range and the ethanol scam revealed, included incentives more algae feasibility studies.

– The Continental/Boeing 737-800 test flight will be in Houston, TX.
– Virgin Atlantic flew a plane from London to Amsterdam on jatropha-derived airplane fuel but is also investing in algal fuel.
– Most algae farms so far are in warm sunny climates (Southern California, Arizona, Hawaii) with coal plants nearby generating the CO2 on which algae feed, algae grow anywhere, in salt water, fresh water, brackish water or wastewater.

– Continental and Boeing will test a 737-800 using a blend of traditional jet fuel and a biofuel formulated from algae and jatropha plant sources.
– An Air New Zealand test flight using jatropha plant-derived biofuel is delayed indefinitely.
– The algal-to-airplane fuel process drew much attention at the Farnborough International Air Show, a flight industry standard-setting event.
– No passengers will be on the Continental/Boeing 737-800 test flight.
– The Continental/Boeing 737-800 test flight will have the experimental biofuel blend in 1 of the plane’s 2 engines.
– NASA has been studying algae as a potential jet or space fuel source.

The last time the price of oil dropped, they stopped the research. What happens this time? (click to enlarge)

– Paul Dickerson, chief operating officer, DOE/EERE: “It’s hard not to get excited about algae’s potential…”

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