Liquid fuels from algae start-ups

Blue Marble Energy of Seattle

AXI of Seattle (Allied Minds investors from MA supporting UW algae researcher Rose Cattolico)

Bionavitas Inc., of Redmond

Inventure Chemical Inc. of Seattle

Sapphire Energy of San Diego, CA

  1. formed in May 2007, Chief Executive Jason Pyle
  2. “green crude” 91 octane gasoline from algae microorganisms
  3. doesn’t absorb water like ethanol and biodiesel, so can be transported in existing pipeline infrastructure
  4. goal is 10k barrel/day from desert ponds
  5. “Almost every other [alternative fuel company] out there is a refiner,” says Robert Nelsen, managing director at ARCH Venture Partners. “They are taking something and refining it. We are producing something.”
  6. “We wanted to find something that you could scale infinitely.”
  7. “We’ve talked to people in the oil industry who’ve said, ‘This is the first thing I’ve seen that can change the game,'” says Nelsen.

I think their web site is (intentionally?) confusing.  Are they producing the equivalent of fossil crude oil from microalgae and then refining it to gasoline (and presumably other products), or are producing gasoline directly from microalgae?  I *think* they’re doing the latter.  But the former is the much better idea — producing crude oil from phytoplankton grown today, rather than digging up primary production from 300 million years ago — for it could go straight into the existing refinery infrastructure and generate all of the current cracked products (and by-products): tar, plastics, diesel, gas, butane, methane, hydrogen; sulfur.

Solazyme of South San Francisco, CA

biodiesel from algae

Amyris Biotechnologies of Emeryville, CA

developing renewable fuels chemically identical to gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. Amyris announced in April that it will develop diesel fuel in Brazil from sugarcane, with a production target date of 2010.


Forbes, May 2008 article

UW News article, August 27, 2008