OriginOil enters into JV to develop biorefineries for military

By Bryan Sims | December 19, 2011

California-based algae technology developer OriginOil Inc. has cofounded a new joint venture together with its wholly-owned Australian subsidiary Alternate Energy Systems Pty. Ltd., called Future Energy Solutions Unlimited Inc., that aims to carry out bankable feasibility studies in support of developing and deploying biorefineries in strategic locations around the world that serve the U.S. and NATO military requirements for the production of advanced biofuels and other bioproducts.

The Energime Group of Companies, an energy management and sustainable growth company headquartered in Everett, Wash., gave preliminary commitments to provide $1.5 million in matching funds to AES and $3 million to FES for a total of $4.5 million. The investments, to be finalized by early next year, are intended to fund the planned bankable feasibility studies, which will lead to Energime’s key role in designing, building, operating and owning the future biorefineries.

“Through its massive commitment to alternative fuels, the U.S. military has provided the market both opportunity and challenge, which we intend to meet,” said Larry Sirmans, CEO of FES. “Our project delivery team has a unique blend of industry-specific knowledge and experience as well as very relevant military experience. We know and understand what both the military and the industry face to make this a reality. We are focusing on projects initially in the U.S. and Australia. Longer term, we see tremendous opportunity for Asia, Europe and Africa.”

A veteran of large-scale biofuel project development, Sirmans previously served as projects director for Agri Energy Ltd. and project developer for Australian Biofuels-Swan Hill Ethanol. Currently, Sirmans is the technical director of Australian mine company MBD Energy Ltd. and a leading player in Australia’s algal biofuels sector.

In the joint venture, OriginOil intends to contribute its proprietary systems and process knowledge to help develop multifeedstock blending standards that will be needed for the new biorefineries. Prior to cofounding the joint venture, the company in October forged a collaborative research agreement with the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory to establish industry standards for algal biomass.

Specifically, 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 carbonaceous materials that are currently used in various biochemical and thermochemical processes to produce fuels and chemicals.

“Our venture with Larry Sirmans is a game-changer for algae because these biorefineries will rely on algae to provide high energy values and a molecular structure that is virtually identical to petroleum,” said Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil. “It all starts with these feasibility studies and the setting of multifeedstock standards. We’re excited to be helping out.”