At the 8:30 session on Tuesday morning (2010-4-20), a representative of the company Algenol presented information about a new technique for producing ethanol from algae with carbon dioxide. Algenol is a developmental stage company, founded by Paul Woods, Ed Legere, and Craig Smith, that will be opening a pilot scale refinery next year. It is largely based around several patents owned by Woods. They have several partners involved with their research including Dow Chemical Company that is involved with photobioreactors, Linde Gas AG that works on CO2 supply for the algae, Biofields S.A. that deals with commercial development in Mexico, and Georgia Tech. that has been researching gas separation between water and ethanol. The company was originally based out of Switzerland but has moved its headquarters to Baltimore. The company is now moving its lab to Naples (near the homes of Woods and Smith). The pilot biorefinery will be in Texas. This new biorefinery is being government funded and will be built on 17 acres. They are working on genetically engineering several hybrids of marine algae species to produce ethanol efficiently when supplied with carbon dioxide. Many of their current species are cyanobacteria that they have modified by adding pyruvate decarboxylase and alcohol dehydrogenase to the genomes. What is unique about their photobioreactor is that it does not require the algae to be dead for harvesting the ethanol. These modified algae produce ethanol that diffuses through the cell wall. It then evaporates with water. The biorefinery captures this once it condenses using some unique channels along the walls. The mixture of ethanol and water is then distilled. At the moment, these algae are only producing abou 1.5 moles of ethanol per meter squared per week. This is a relatively small amount adding up to about 5,000 gallons per acre per year. Through their genetic engineering processes, Algenol intends to improve this.
Algenol session at Clearwater conference (Blog post 1 from conference)