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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exxon moves into biofuels

Last updated: July 23, 2009

July 16, 2009

Exxon, famous for its mockery of alternative energies, is going to invest more than half a billion dollars into oilgae...

Published: July 13, 2009

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On Tuesday, Exxon plans to announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae — organisms in water that range from pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter.

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Source: The New York Times

July 18, 2009

The Economist provides more details regarding that weird piece of news about how a company, emblematic of the Big Oil and singled out by Barack Obama as an example of corporate greed, has got into the business of green energy. According to the Economist, Craig Venter of Synthetic Genomics has managed to genetically engineer a secretion pathway making his algae to release oil floating it on the surface of water. For those who don't know, algae are natural biodiesel producers with some species having up to 50% of their mass as hydrocarbons. This makes a hell of difference. Craig Venter calls the process his company is developing biomanufacturing, unlike algae farming of the competitors. The idea is that no algae should be farmed at all. Until now people were sawing their heads off over developing cost efficient ways of extracting oil out of algae. Venter's algae do it themselves.

Another Venter's trick, but this one is still in the process of being developed, is to make algae to produce pure hydrocarbons with no need of additional processing. If Venter gets this one done too, the next step should be to genetically engineer or breed out a super resistance strain of algae that can sustain high temperatures and intense illumination to speed up the process of photosynthesis. And if Venter and Exxon start getting close to this point, then some people in the Persian Gulf and around should better start checking if they still remember how to ride their camels and survive harsh desert nights in the open.

July 23, 2009

Jul 23, 2009

By Jeff Kart

. . .

A recent post on a push to increase the U.S. gasoline blend rate ended with this thought-provoker: At this rate, will cellulosic ethanol, from non-food plant materials, ever get off the ground?

Yes, replied Sam Salyer, a representative for a Massachusetts-based biofuel company called Qteros.

The company, formerly SunEthanol, recently announced an ethanol yield well beyond what the U.S. Department of Energy considers the threshold for commercial production, he wrote.

Qteros says it's achieved an ethanol yield of 70 grams per liter. The DOE's commercial standard is 50 grams per liter.

. . .

Qteros uses a technology called Q Microbe, which turns biomass into cellulosic ethanol, according to company officials.

"These results confirm what we predicted: Qteros and the Q Microbe can make cellulosic ethanol a commercial reality." according to Sue Leschine, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst microbiologist who first discovered the Q Microbe near the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts.

Source: Reuters

July 22, 2009

By Keith Johnson

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Qteros says bio-engineering will be the next step: “Although Qteros achieved these outstanding ethanol outputs with a non-genetically engineered strain of the Q Microbe™, the company expects to capture further improvements by taking advantage of on-going efforts in molecular genetics and strain development.”

It all seems to be part of a broader push to use advanced science to find alternatives to oil in the natural world. DSM, a Dutch firm, makes all sorts of modified enzymes that improve the production—and environmental footprint–of everything from biofuel to apple juice.

“The shortcut that oil provided for a century or so is ending, and we will have to go back to living off the land,” says Stephan B. Tanda, head of DSM Americas.

Source: The Wall Street Journal - Blogs

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