Exxon to spend more than $600m on Algae

ExxonMobil believes that biofuels from photosynthetic algae could someday play an important role in meeting the world’s growing need for transportation fuels, while also reducing CO2 emissions.

In July 2009, we announced a significant new project to research and develop algae biofuels. Our partner is Synthetic Genomics Inc (SGI), a California-based biotech firm founded by genome research pioneer Dr. J. Craig Venter.

The goal of the program: to produce a commercially scalable, renewable algae-based fuel compatible with today’s gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Why algae? Scientists already know that certain algae naturally produce oils similar to the petroleum products we use today.

If commercial quantities of these algae-based oils could be developed, they could avoid the need to build the extensive new delivery infrastructure that some other alternative transportation fuels might require.

Algae-based biofuels have potential environmental advantages. Through photosynthesis, algae absorb CO2 – the main greenhouse gas – and convert it to useful products, like oils and oxygen. As a result, fuels made from algae could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Algae-based biofuels likely would not impact the global food supply. While biofuels made from plants like corn and sugar cane are an expanding energy source, they require fertile land and fresh water; algae can be grown using land and water unsuitable for plant or food production.

Algae also could yield between three and eight times more biofuel per acre compared to other biofuel sources. Getting these algae fuels from the lab to broad, commercial scale at the local gas station will be a tremendous undertaking – and could require decades of work.

It is an exciting project that brings together SGI’s expertise in genomics, synthetic biology, microbiology and biochemistry; and ExxonMobil’s expertise in transportation fuels and the development of technologies and systems needed to increase scale from concept phase to large-scale manufacturing.

ExxonMobil expects to spend more than $600 million on this project if research and development milestones are met. ExxonMobil’s investment in algae-based fuels is just one part of our commitment to the breakthrough technologies and integrated solutions that will be needed to address rising demand for transportation fuels and other long-term challenges illustrated in our Outlook for Energy.

Source: http://bit.ly/5IeoJu

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