Algae Biomass Summit opens with focus on meeting customer demand
The 2013 Algae Biomass Summit, the world's largest event focused on algae technology, opened Oct. 1 in Orlando, Fla. Hosted by the Algae Biomass Organization, industry leaders revealed new production capabilities and forecasts for commercial quantities of biofuels, feeds, Omega-3 oils, plastics and other products derived from large-scale, industrial algae agriculture operations.
Speaking to a packed conference hall, executives from Algenol, Sapphire Energy, Cellana, BioProcess Algae, Heliae, Algix and Aurora Algae all emphasized scaling up production as the industry's next major priority as it begins to provide algae-derived fuels and a wide range of other products to worldwide markets. Matt Horton, CEO of alternative fuel retailer Propel Fuels, showcased research results demonstrating consumer preference for algae-based fuels.
Paul Woods, CEO of Florida-based Algenol Biofuels, unveiled a new vertical bioreactor design that has allowed the company to achieve algae-to-ethanol production capacities in excess of 10,000 gallons per acre at competitive prices. Algenol also uses its algae to produce renewable jet fuel, diesel and gasoline. The company expects that the new system, based on simple, easy to set up photobioreactors growing algae in seawater, will enable a rapid expansion to commercial production.
"As fast as people can put up the bags, I can fill them with algae," said Woods.
Algenol and Sapphire Energy both expect to meet production capacities in excess of one million gallons within the next year. That milestone was acknowledged as just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the industry's goal of supplying markets with meaningful quantities of sustainable, renewable fuels derived from algae.
"A million barrels is a significant milestone but it's only the beginning of what's required," said CJ Warner, Sapphire Energy CEO and chairman, who reported on Sapphire's success in the past year in bringing its pilot scale facility online, and announced they are selecting a site for a full production scale facility.
Beyond fuels, the ability of algae to be a source of fertilizers, feeds, plastics, and nutraceuticals was the subject of updates from executives at Cellana, BioProcess Algae, Heliae, Algix, and Aurora Algae. Algix, a Georgia-based company producing a range of algae-derived plastics, was among the companies expressing a growing interest in purchasing large quantities of algae from producers.
"We brought our checkbook and we're taking orders," said Michael VanDrunen, President and CEO of Algix.
The Summit will continue through Thursday afternoon. Information on the event, including a full agenda is available here. Ongoing developments can also be monitored via the Twitter hashtag #ABS13.
The Summit comes at a time when industry is increasingly looking for new sources of sustainable raw materials -- feedstock -- for a wide range of end-uses. Products made from algae are the natural solution to the energy, food, economic, and climate challenges facing the world today. Algae have the power to simultaneously put fuels in vehicles, recycle CO2, provide nutrition for animals and people and create jobs for millions of Americans without harmful impacts on freshwater supplies or valuable agricultural land.