Upstream Standardization

Establishing a uniform intermediate feedstock standard for algae
By Bryan Sims | October 24, 2011

Like John D. Rockefeller accomplished with the creation of Standard Oil, California-based algae technology developer OriginOil Inc. believes that specification standards are necessary for the burgeoning algae industry. To make this a reality, the company is working with the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory to develop standards for converting biomass, including algae, in an effort to provide direction for designing equipment and products to meet this standard.

Working with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the U.S. DOE’s Biomass Program, OriginOil’s collaboration with INL will focus on utilizing a process demonstration unit at INL to determine how algae could add energy content in combination with other feedstocks such as woody biomass and other herbaceous materials that are currently used in various biochemical and thermochemical processes. While the original focus of the program was on terrestrial biomass, OriginOil plans to work with researchers at INL to extend the concepts to include algae, according to Paul Reep, OriginOil’s vice president of technology intimately involved in the collaboration.

Reep says he envisions that once a correct formulation is established, the combined functional groups and net-energy value of the entire formatted feedstock comprised with portions of algae material will be greater than the sum of the individual parts.

“The big-picture idea behind this program is to set up a series of depots around the country where different types of materials that are more indigenous to one specific area could be combined with other indigenous materials from another area, and create uniform feedstocks that could then be shipped and transported to biorefineries,” Reep says. “It’s these depots that are the intermediate step in that going-to-the-biorefinery process.” 

—Bryan Sims