A New Player in Algae Biofuel Takes New Approach

algae closeup A little known algae biofuel company based out of Denver, CO is looking to make big waves in the coming months. They have stayed off the radar so well that if you were to do a Google News search on this company, all you would get is a mere handful of articles. However, this little over a year old company, American BioResources, is positioning itself to be one of the leaders in the algae biofuel field.

While the algae field has many companies all over the world developing the technology and cultivating the needed markets, American BioResources is taking a somewhat different approach than the big names like OriginOil and Solazyme. While these companies are looking to create more of a complete algae biofuel system from growth to fuel production, American BioResources is focusing strictly on the growth aspect.

“We are focused first and foremost on being a raw materials provider,” American BioResources President Christopher Reim said. “We want to focus on growing algae; we’re not interested in going upstream and being a refiner.”

In their growth system, they are looking to have the ability to grow different strains of algae since each strain can offer unique benefits and applications in the fuel sector as well as others.

Additionally, American BioResources believe that their growth system will have a better handle on the input energy costs than other systems out there. By using a closed growth system, they have direct control over what energy goes into the system and can ensure the energy produced outweighs the input.Biofuel closeup

“We believe we understand something very unique about how to use the right amount of energy through artificial lighting to get very good performance of algae,” Reim said. “We think we are getting more output because we are [growing algae] 24/7 at a frequency of light that is more meaningful to photo synthetic activity [than regular sunlight].”

Compared to some companies out there, American BioResources is well along in the  development of their growth system. They plan to sell a prototype of their growth system by the end of this summer and have several pilot growth projects up and running by the first quarter of next year.

As with most algae systems, CO2 is needed for growth and American BioResources is looking to localized sources to supply their closed growth systems.

“Because we are looking at a distributed production capability, meaning our units could be used in many locations across the US, we are looking for a regionalized model of CO2 collection and then use.”

To get CO2 to their growth systems, American BioResources is not looking to revolutionize CO2 collection systems. Instead, they are looking to partner with companies that can affordably provide the needed CO2.

“We want to partner with regional providers of CO2 to help them become a little greener for doing so but also match that with a logistics model that makes it affordable for us to get the CO2 where we need it.”

Even with a successful algae production system, algae biofuel companies still have to overcome the hurdle of finding support and interest from the public. American BioResources seems to have overcome this hurdle.

“We have a high level of interest from a broad mix of different parties, some private, some public,” Reim said.

Reim explained that the United States Department of Agriculture is one entity that has shown “excitement” towards American BioResources’ developments since algae growth offers rural economic development opportunities for farmers as well as providing a realizable fuel source.

“Today we are constrained in part by the cost and seasonality of the other [biofuel]  crops. We think that we can break out of that [constraint with algae].”

American BioResources also hasn’t disregarded the altruistic and infrastructure building potential that algae can offer. Reim explained that his company is currently looking into a partnership that will ultimately help bring these growth systems to third world countries to help supply energy as well as nutritional supplements like protein.

“If we even contributed in a small way to the general health improvement of developing nations, we would be incredibly proud.”

To conclude, Christopher Reim summarized what differentiates American BioResources from other algae biofuel companies.

“First, we are solely about growing algae, not about being an integrated refiner of fuels that happen to come from algae. That means that we can partner with those who already have an invested interest in refining and many of which have indicated they are gearing up to take algae oil. Second, we want to focus on our ability to deliver to the market at scale. First small scale, and specifically small scale where that is appropriate, and then replicate large volumes of capacity by getting many participants, primarily from agriculture, to work with us so we bring a new crop to market.”

Overall, American BioResources strict focus on a growth system is important in the advancement of the algae biofuel as a whole. Since producing large quantities of algae at a low cost is one of the remaining hurdles for algae biofuels, the laser-like focus of American BioResources on the growth aspect will definitely benefit the entire algae biofuel field.

Jonathan Williams is a conservative blogger at www.BlatantReality.com and www.SCStatehouseBlog.com. He is also the founder and current president of the nonprofit organization Need by Need, Inc. He can be reached at Jon@BlatantReality.com.

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Algae Technology Makes Solar Cells 3 x more Efficient

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Two corrections pointed out to me:
1)When talking about the "energy produced" outweighing the input, it should instead read "that the algae is produced economically." An amount of energy cannot be created from a lesser amount of energy but the production process can be made economically feasible.

2) American BioResources plans on validating their system this summer and going to market as early as possible next year (2010).

Sorry for those mistakes and any confusion it may have caused.

-Jonathan Williams

Written in June 2009

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  • Posted on June 23, 2009. Listed in:

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