PetroSun's algae-to-biofuel farm on the Texas Gulf Coast (photo: Google Maps)
Tue 1 Apr 2008 – PetroSun Biofuels, a wholly-owned subsidiary of energy company PetroSun Inc, has started operations of its commercial algae-to-biofuels farm located on the Texas Gulf Coast near Harlingen. The farm consists of 1,100 acres (445ha) of open saltwater ponds of which 20 acres (8ha) are to be dedicated for use in researching and developing an experimental jet fuel.
There are currently 94 five-acre and 63 ten-acre ponds on the 1,831 (740ha) acres contained within the operation. The company will extract the algal oil on-site and transport the raw product via barge, rail or truck to company-owned or joint ventured biodiesel refineries. The residual algae biomass will be converted into ethanol or other products.
The facility is expected to produce some 4.4 million gallons of algal oil, plus 110 million pounds (49,900 tonnes) of biomass a year.
Future farms and extraction plants are planned in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mexico, Brazil and Australia during 2008.
“Our business model has been focused on proving the commercial feasibility of the firm’s algae-to-biofuels technology during the past eighteen months,” said Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., CEO of PetroSun. “Whether we have arrived at this point in time by a superior technological approach, sheer luck or a redneck can-do attitude, the fact remains that microalgae can outperform the current feedstocks utilized for conversion to biodiesel and ethanol, yet do not impact the consumable food markets or fresh water resources.”
Algae are considered one of the most promising options for future jet biofuel production. Yielding 30 times more energy per acre than its closest competitor, algae require neither fresh water nor arable land for cultivation. Estimates have suggested an area the size of the state of Maryland could produce enough algae biofuel to satisfy the entire fuel requirements of the United States.
Last month, Continental Airlines, headquartered in Houston, Texas, announced it was to become the first US airline to undertake a biofuel-powered test flight next year (see story).
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