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Published on September 9th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

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Solazyme Creates World's First Algae Jet Fuel

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September 9th, 2008 by
 

You may remember Solazyme from my post a few weeks ago about its plan to mass-produce algae biodiesel in a three-year time frame. Now the innovative company is taking algae fuel a step further.

Solazyme announced today that it has produced the world’s first algae-based jet fuel. The product passed all testing specifications for Aviation Turbine Fuel— which means that the aviation kerosene has passed all the major hurdles to creating a jet fuel that is compatible with the current commercial and military infrastructure.

Tests that the jet fuel had to go through before meeting specifications include measurements for density, thermal oxidative stability, flashpoint, freezing point, and more.

While Solazyme isn’t the only company working on algae aviation fuel, it is the closest to achieving large-scale production.

So keep a close eye on Solazyme— it may be the first company to get both algae biodiesel and algae aviation fuel to the public.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



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  • Jourdan

    @ Tom V

    “other conventional fuels” are buried beneath the surface therefore the carbon stored is not released if not used. The CO2 argument is to avoid releasing these locked up carbon emmissions.

  • Jourdan

    @ Tom V

    “other conventional fuels” are buried beneath the surface therefore the carbon stored is not released if not used. The CO2 argument is to avoid releasing these locked up carbon emmissions.

  • Tom V

    If this fuel is carbon-neutral, because during the growth CO2 was absorbed, other conventional fuels would be carbon-neutral as well. The oil is made by pressing organic materials (not using any extra energy than earth is providing us) during ages. The CO2 emissions of conventional fuels where already absorbed over 10.000′s of years back. This proofs the CO2 discussions being rather silly.

    Besides this, I really like the idea that fuels will be harvested in a clean way.

  • Tom V

    If this fuel is carbon-neutral, because during the growth CO2 was absorbed, other conventional fuels would be carbon-neutral as well. The oil is made by pressing organic materials (not using any extra energy than earth is providing us) during ages. The CO2 emissions of conventional fuels where already absorbed over 10.000′s of years back. This proofs the CO2 discussions being rather silly.

    Besides this, I really like the idea that fuels will be harvested in a clean way.

  • Tom V

    If this fuel is carbon-neutral, because during the growth CO2 was absorbed, other conventional fuels would be carbon-neutral as well. The oil is made by pressing organic materials (not using any extra energy than earth is providing us) during ages. The CO2 emissions of conventional fuels where already absorbed over 10.000′s of years back. This proofs the CO2 discussions being rather silly.

    Besides this, I really like the idea that fuels will be harvested in a clean way.

  • Thassa

    The emissions would likely be similar to conventional diesel/aviation fuel. That said it would also be carbon neutral, since the carbon released by combustion would be offset by the carbon absorbed during the growth of the plants used to produce the fuel.

  • Thassa

    The emissions would likely be similar to conventional diesel/aviation fuel. That said it would also be carbon neutral, since the carbon released by combustion would be offset by the carbon absorbed during the growth of the plants used to produce the fuel.

  • Thassa

    The emissions would likely be similar to conventional diesel/aviation fuel. That said it would also be carbon neutral, since the carbon released by combustion would be offset by the carbon absorbed during the growth of the plants used to produce the fuel.

  • sheila

    what are the emissions like?

  • sheila

    what are the emissions like?

  • Ariel Schwartz

    this guy – Thanks for your response. You are correct in stating that diesel and jet fuel are essentially the same thing – the important thing about Solazyme’s announcement is that their aviation fuel has passed all the testing specifications. They are the first company to do that. And yes, “algae” is a noun. But “algae” and “algal” are interchangeable in this case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel

  • this guy

    fyi, diesel and “jet fuel” are, for all practical purposes, the same thing. consequently, biodiesel is a viable substitute for either. so developing “algae biodiesel” does not require a separate development of “algae aviation fuel.”

    you would be right if you replied that not all biodiesel is the same and can work in all situations and so they may have had to actually develop a biodiesel that can conform to jet fuel specifications. however many of the variations which exist between biodiesels of different feedstocks are generally corrected with additives so you don’t really have to do much beyond figuring out what the right mix is.

    which isn’t to say this isn’t cool – it is. but it’s not much of a breakthrough. i suspect that their eagerness to frame it this way is a PR move to make it sound like they’ve done some complicated stuff to make a wholly different, specialized product so that aviation operators will trust that it works. if you just told them that the same stuff that works in bulldozers works in a fighter jet, they’d probably just say thanks but no thanks. so instead, they “develop” aviation fuel.

    and, finally, the word “algae” is a noun. the adjective is algal. as in algal biodiesel or algal aviation fuel.

  • this guy

    fyi, diesel and “jet fuel” are, for all practical purposes, the same thing. consequently, biodiesel is a viable substitute for either. so developing “algae biodiesel” does not require a separate development of “algae aviation fuel.”

    you would be right if you replied that not all biodiesel is the same and can work in all situations and so they may have had to actually develop a biodiesel that can conform to jet fuel specifications. however many of the variations which exist between biodiesels of different feedstocks are generally corrected with additives so you don’t really have to do much beyond figuring out what the right mix is.

    which isn’t to say this isn’t cool – it is. but it’s not much of a breakthrough. i suspect that their eagerness to frame it this way is a PR move to make it sound like they’ve done some complicated stuff to make a wholly different, specialized product so that aviation operators will trust that it works. if you just told them that the same stuff that works in bulldozers works in a fighter jet, they’d probably just say thanks but no thanks. so instead, they “develop” aviation fuel.

    and, finally, the word “algae” is a noun. the adjective is algal. as in algal biodiesel or algal aviation fuel.

  • this guy

    fyi, diesel and “jet fuel” are, for all practical purposes, the same thing. consequently, biodiesel is a viable substitute for either. so developing “algae biodiesel” does not require a separate development of “algae aviation fuel.”

    you would be right if you replied that not all biodiesel is the same and can work in all situations and so they may have had to actually develop a biodiesel that can conform to jet fuel specifications. however many of the variations which exist between biodiesels of different feedstocks are generally corrected with additives so you don’t really have to do much beyond figuring out what the right mix is.

    which isn’t to say this isn’t cool – it is. but it’s not much of a breakthrough. i suspect that their eagerness to frame it this way is a PR move to make it sound like they’ve done some complicated stuff to make a wholly different, specialized product so that aviation operators will trust that it works. if you just told them that the same stuff that works in bulldozers works in a fighter jet, they’d probably just say thanks but no thanks. so instead, they “develop” aviation fuel.

    and, finally, the word “algae” is a noun. the adjective is algal. as in algal biodiesel or algal aviation fuel.

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  • Mr. Sinister

    Actually, they feed the algae sugar, not biomass. That’s one of the drawbacks of their process, in my view. If they use sugars from easy-to-get-at sources, such as sugar cane or corn, then their process is subject to the same criticisms that are leveled at today’s ethanol production. If they use cellulosic technology to extract the sugars from inedible biomass, it would certainly help ‘green’ the process, though current cellulosic processes often make use of some pretty nasty chemicals. Still, it’s an exciting technology to keep an eye on.

  • Mr. Sinister

    Actually, they feed the algae sugar, not biomass. That’s one of the drawbacks of their process, in my view. If they use sugars from easy-to-get-at sources, such as sugar cane or corn, then their process is subject to the same criticisms that are leveled at today’s ethanol production. If they use cellulosic technology to extract the sugars from inedible biomass, it would certainly help ‘green’ the process, though current cellulosic processes often make use of some pretty nasty chemicals. Still, it’s an exciting technology to keep an eye on.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    Tom – They actually use a method unique to the algae fuel industry. Solazyme grows the algae in the dark in large tanks by feeding it biomass. The algae eat the biomass and turn it into natural oils. In contrast, most companies grow algae in open ponds, harvest the plant, and squeeze out the oil. Solazyme’s method allows them to harvest much greater amounts of algae in a shorter amount of time.

  • Tom Gandolfo

    By what method does Solazyme grow and harvest its Algae?

    Tom Gandolfo

    Asheville, NC

  • Tom Gandolfo

    By what method does Solazyme grow and harvest its Algae?

    Tom Gandolfo

    Asheville, NC

  • Tom Gandolfo

    By what method does Solazyme grow and harvest its Algae?

    Tom Gandolfo

    Asheville, NC

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