Propel, Solazyme make algae biofuel available to the public

By Erin Voegele | November 15, 2012

Algae-based fuel is now available to members of the general public in California. On Nov. 13, Propel Fuels and Solazyme Inc. celebrated the first retail sales of algae-derived fuel. The two fuel brands have come together to offer Solazyme’s Soladiesel to drivers through Propel’s Bay Area network of retail renewable fuel locations. The 30-day pilot program aims to test consumer response to the fuel.

According to Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels, the fueling locations involved in the pilot program are supplying a 20 percent blend of Soladiesel, at a price identical to that of petroleum-based diesel.

Horton said that Propel has historically received a lot of questions from people asking when algae-based biofuels are going to be available. “We’ve had to tell them for years that we don’t know,” he said. “But today when people call with that question, we can tell them—and we are spreading the word—it’s available today. Come give it a try.” Horton also noted that his company is expecting to see good customer interest in the new fuel blend.

Solazyme’s technology converts plant sugars into oil by feeding the sugars to microalgae in industrial fermentation equipment. The algae consumes the sugars, converting them into oils. According to Solazyme, tests conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have demonstrated that, when used as a 20 percent blend, Soladiesel outperforms ultra-low sulfur diesel in total hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter tailpipe emissions.

“Solazyme’s revolutionary algae-based technology platform has supplied our development partners and customers with advanced biofuels that meet or exceed some of the world’s most stringent fuels specifications and requirements,” said Bob Ames, vice president of fuels at Solazyme.  “We’ve successfully demonstrated our land-based fuels in fleet vehicles and corporate busses, and are excited about this pilot program with Propel because it enables us to make these fuels available to the public.”

Horton noted the significance of the day. “It is my hope that today we provided a vision of great things to come,” he said. “We certainly have a long way to go as an industry before some of these advanced fuels are going to commercially available and cost competitive, but it’s my hope that 10 years from now we’ll look back at this day and say that really was the very beginning of something great.”

Horton added that this is just a first step for Propel. “We as a company are committed to installing the infrastructure to deliver the fuels that are available today, and with partners like Solazyme, we are going to continue to offer the most advanced, most sustainable, domestically-sourced fuels that we can,” he said.