Monday, September 8, 2008

ZenTiger Pond Scum

Remember Peak Oil? It's the looming crisis that needs to be solved right after climate change and world population. Don't worry - greedy capitalists are on to it. Whilst Al Gore is probably working on a new DVD with a rock concert to raise awareness of the DVD being available for governments to purchase for the classroom, and the Greens are planning a campaign to turn off CFL bulbs for at least an hour, the gears of capitalism are looking for a way to make a dollar in tomorrow's world. Some of those capitalists are asking if Algae is the new green fuel.

It delivers 10 to 100 times more energy per acre than crop based bio-fuels, can be generated in tanks, presumably with many layers to increase effective surface area and there have been steady improvements in results from researchers in the business.

Companies like Sapphire are excited that they could potentially replace all fuel from algae sources.

From Venture Beat: Only a year old, Sapphire Energy is a San Diego startup that has lab-developed an algae that it says can create a substance akin to crude oil that can be processed by existing refineries, transported through existing infrastructure and burned without difficulty by today’s vehicles.

Where fuels like ethanol and biodiesel rely on grown feedstocks — corn, sugar, switchgrass, trees — Sapphire’s algae requires no feedstock at all, just water and sunlight. Pyle claims that the requirement to grow without relying on a food crop was one of the company’s founding principles.


Investment companies have been predicting production within 5 years. Sapphire is no different.

Five years is an important number that crosses all industries. This is the usual amount of time that all research based organisations predict results when they need more financing. It's the Goldilocks zone of enticing investors to believe that results are not far away, but they have a good five years to work out how to sell the next 'breakthrough'. Therefore, I remain cynical that the solution is only 5 years away, but optimistic that this line of research will actually yield an eventual result.

Success in this area would be both timely for the planet and rather apt for the oil industry. Fancy being replaced by pond scum.

--ZenTiger


PS: To all those that read this post title and expected a rant about politicians - shame on you! You'll have to find your own links to the Privileges Committee hearings, Question Time and the ETS bill being pushed through with all due haste.

Fuel From Algae by Solazyme and Chevron

Sapphire a gem for investors

1 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

The problem with the biofuels bill is that it presumes you can go out today and buy such "sustainable" biofuel, which of course you can't. With the biofuels bill we are forced to use inefficient cropped biofuels for the forseeable future, rather than waiting until sustainable biofuel is available and embracing it then.

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