A great report by Biofuels Digest today is the primer everybody needs to read if they want the latest on reducing the cost of algae-derived fuels. The skinny: Just three years of technical advances have caused the expected price of algal biofuels to drop like a rock.
The story takes a look at the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and BioProducts, the NAABB, a research consortium tasked with advancing technology in algae biofuels along seven key areas:
“(1) the development of new strains, (2) cultivation processes with these new strains, (3) harvest processing of the algal biomass, (4) extraction processing for crude lipids and LEA, (5) LEA conversion and LEA product trials, (6) direct conversion processes of algal biomass to biocrude, and (7) upgrading lipids and biocrudes to fuels.”
Biofuels Digest points out that NAABB got started with $48.6 million from the DOE and $19.1 million in private funds.
Over three years those funds were used to develop technology advances that reduced the expected cost of a gallon of algae derived fuel from $240 per gallon to about $7.50.
That’s still too high to compete with fossil oil today, but who expects crude oil prices to drop by 97% with an R&D investment of a few million dollars?
With a relatively meager investment of less than $70 million over three years, this consortium has been able to make astonishing improvements in cost reductions and put the industry on a path to affordable and sustainable fuels. As a frame of reference, during the same three years the oil and gas industry spent nearly $434 million on lobbying efforts. Just imagine if our energy production industries were aligned on the benefits of developing domestic, low cost and drop-in fuels.
Oil companies are spending trillions looking for new oil, and those investment returns are diminishing, not increasing.
Today’s story was only part I of a look at algal fuel prices. As you can expect, we’re looking forward to reading Part II.