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ABS Day One Kicks Off with Enthusiasm and Scale-up Reports
September 25, 2012
he 2012 version of the Algae Biomass Summit (ABS), the algae industry’s premier trade show and progress marker, kicked off Monday, September 24, with a gathering that showcased the evolution of an industry just a handful of years in the making.
After opening remarks from ABO Executive Director Mary Rosenthal and ABS Program Chairman Dr. Phillip Pienkos, Colorado Senator Mark Udall brought home the message to the 700 or so in attendance in the opening session that future generations will be indebted to them for bringing renewable fuels into the international marketplace. He noted that despite the resistance by some powers in Congress, the work being done here is crucial to the future of every country.
“Some of my colleagues in Congress,” Senator Udall said, “think that spending money on developing alternative fuels is not prudent during times of economic struggle. I feel exactly the opposite. Now is the time to make those changes to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. Putting that off is unacceptable.”
He went on to explain the tenuous path that the military faces in acquiring and transporting fuels in hostile territories, noting that the Department of Defense spends over $30 million for oil every day, and pointing out how many important innovations had their start in military research before moving into the consumer marketplace.
While the Navy has stepped up in a big way for algae biofuels development, soon he expects the private investment community will do the same. He counseled the attendees that Washington needs to be continually educated on the progress and needs of this industry, and he urged those in attendance to “Keep pushing on all levels, keep educating us back in Washington, and keep innovating. I want to be a champion for your work,” he said. “We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass us by.”
Next up, Dana Christianson, energy efficiency specialist at the National Renewable Energy Labs, discussed NREL’s central position in the landmark Aquatic Species Program, and how they have renewed their efforts in algae research due to the critical need to develop alternative fuels. “The Middle East,” he said, “will be in turmoil for a long time. We need to find a new path to our fuel needs. And a fully developed algae industry could create 900,000 jobs in this country.”
On the opening plenary sessions, representatives of five companies discussed their progress of moving to scale in their production. Tim Zenk, Corporate and Government Relations Director of Sapphire Energy, said that his company has produced 31 million gallons of biomass so far at Green Crude Farm, their newly opened demonstration facility in Columbus, New Mexico. “We are showing that you can grow this as a crop. We have had a year of stable growth, and have developed key processes that are economical and scalable.”
Tim Burns, CEO of BioProcess Algae described the evolution of their new five-acre facility in Shenandoah, Iowa, co-located with a corn ethanol facility. The facility will be in full production by November. Cellana’s Martin Sebarski said that their six-acre facility in Hawaii, using a hybrid of closed and open systems, has yielded 10 metric tons of biomass, with a diversity of strains emphasizing Omega-3 for their ReNew line of products, as well as proteins for high value feeds and biocrude oils.
Heliae chief Dan Simon updated his company’s progress, saying that they have recently raised an additional $30 million for expansion and are in position to produce revenue in 2013. “We have a production model that works and are building our first commercial facility on 20 acres,” adding that the company now has 84 employees, including 12 PhDs, 27 engineers and 35 operations people. They plan to raise another $50mil for expansion in 2013.
Wrapping up the panel was Algenol’s Paul Woods, who revealed that the past year was very eventful for his company, raising $100 million, while negotiating state regulatory hurdles that almost brought the company down. In successfully navigating the red tape, Algenol was able to prove out their production model, surpassing eight thousand gallons of ethanol per acre per year. The company, now with155 employees, has expanded beyond ethanol in their production platform to now include jet and diesel fuel, and they are planning on raising around $150 million over the next year for development, with their next facility possibly encompassing more than 1000 acres. He lamented a bit that, while this has been a great year for the company, virtually all of their funding has come from sources outside the U.S.
ABS continues through Thursday, September 27.