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How About a Tank of Algae?

For the first time ever you can fill your tank with algae-derived biofuel. Today in Redwood City Propel Fuels announced they were offering algal biodiesel from Solazyme, a renewable oil and bioproducts company, at retail pumps for consumer purchase.

Moving the algae industry from laboratories and demonstrations to real world roads is a major milestone for the future of renewable fuels.

Solazyme’s Soladiesel®BD is made by fermenting sugars with algae, and will be available in a month-long pilot program at Propel’s Bay Area network of retail renewable fuel locations.

Some of the early news stories are in the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, NBC News,  GigaOM, and Biofuels Digest.Propel Fuels Fullerton station

Solazyme’s high quality algae-based SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including cold temperature operating performance. The fuel is compatible with existing diesel engines and the fuel’s performance is guaranteed by Propel. The fuel will be sold at the same price as conventional diesel fuels and will be available exclusively at Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose (N. First St.), Berkeley, and Oakland.

“Propel is committed to providing our customers with access to the highest quality, most sustainable, domestically produced fuels, so we’re proud to introduce the next generation of fuels to the retail market,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. “Propel’s growing station network provides the critical link between these future fuels and today’s consumer fuel tanks, giving our customers a chance to make history.”

Solazyme’s technology platform converts plant sugars into oils by feeding the sugars to microalgae in standard industrial fermentation equipment. The algae consume the sugars and convert them into oils rapidly and efficiently. While it takes millennia to make petroleum, Solazyme’s process takes merely a few days. Testing undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that, in a 20% blend, SoladieselBD significantly outperforms ultra-low sulfur diesel in total hydrocarbons (THC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter tailpipe emissions. This includes an approximate 30% reduction in particulates, a 20% reduction in CO and an approximate 10% reduction in THC.

“Solazyme’s revolutionary algae-based technology platform has supplied our development partners and customers with advanced biofuels that meet or exceed some of the world’s most stringent fuels specifications and requirements,” said Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme. “We’ve successfully demonstrated our land-based fuels in fleet vehicles and corporate busses, and are excited about this pilot program with Propel because it enables us to make these fuels available to the public.”

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