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Algae: a genomic-driven solution for sustainable energy

Posted by: Jenny Zurawell

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Genomicist Craig Venter and his company Synthetic Genomics Incorporated (SGI) have entered into a $600m strategic alliance with Exxon Mobil to develop a next-generation biofuel from photosynthetic algae. Algae absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight in aqueous environments, producing an oil of similar molecular structure to contemporary petroleum products. Algal fuel can be refined, transported and distributed using existing refineries, pipelines and service stations and can run the engines of today’s automobiles and airplanes.

Venter, who is best known for his role in sequencing the human genome, said the new partnership was the largest single investment in trying to produce biofuels from algae but said the challenge to creating a viable next-generation fuel was the ability to produce it in large volumes. “This would not happen without the oil industry stepping up and taking part,” he said.

Several advantages of algae over traditional biofuels are that algae produce significantly higher amounts of oil and biomass, aid environmental remediation through the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide and do not force the polemical tradeoff of food for fuel by occupying agricultural lands. For more on Craig Venter’s genomic projects, check out his talks on DNA and the sea and creating synthetic life on TED.com.

Comments (3)

  • dick hopkins commented on Jul 3 2011

    I made an effort to contact the U.S. DOD about Algae oil. They told me there are companies who are working on the project right now.
    They have to make an Algae oil for all temperatures and storage facilities as well. The U.S. Military needs ONE fuel they can count on in all theaters. Hmmmm, so do we eh?

  • dick hopkins commented on Jul 3 2011

    I believe in Algae Diesel fuel. Algaeolium some call it. I wish some of the larger companies working on the IP of Sales and Distribution, would show some of us Diesel owners how to extract the oil from the Lipids in a safe and secure manner.
    Right now its sorta Volitile if your not careful.
    Need more talk on this subject. Something like 150,000 Diesel owners, farmers etc could be a big help in R&D to a company.
    Let us in on it please.

  • Angela Brandeen commented on Jul 18 2009

    Another alternatives for biofuel… Studies like this is all we need to conserve our resources and we do have a lot to choose from/…

    Angela’s Electrolux