United Airlines just announced that Flight 1403, scheduled to take off today, Monday November 7th will be powered by Solazyme’s algae-derived biofuel. This will be the world’s first commercial biofuel powered flight. The flight’s route, from Houston to Chicago, is significant in several ways. First, the departure from Houston can be taken to symbolize a departure from the ”big oil” that Houston has come to represent. Second, it represents a full merging of United and Continental. The flight will be traveling from Continental’s hub in Houston to United’s hub in Chicago. Continental pilots will be manning the cockpit of the United 737-800 Eco-Skies aircraft.The fuel, branded Solafuel, is a 40/60 blend of algae-based fuel and traditional petroleum-based jet fuel that was produced by a partnership between Solazyme and UOP.Back in February, Solazyme announced a partnership with Qantas to provide biofuel to the Australian carrier, but United has beaten them to the punch with the first commercial flight. Solazyme was also the first company to produce an algae-derived jet fuel that met FAA specifications. In what is certain to become a major new industry, a major competitor has emerged in Sapphire Energy, which was named one of the top ten green startups of 2010, receiving more than $100 million in venture capital funding.Other players in this new field that were also spotlighted at last week’s Algal Biofuels Organization ABO Summit in Minneapolis include Phycal, BioProcess Algae, Heliae and Algenol.Two years ago, Continental Airlines launched the first US biofuel test flight, also from Houston, burning a blend of 50 percent standard aviation fuel, 3 percent algae-based fuel from Sapphire also partnering with UOP and 47 percent jatropha oil. A month earlier, Air New Zealand ran a test flight using 50/50 jet fuel and jatropha oil. Some consider jatropha, a tropical succulent, a promising jet fuel alternative, but concerns have been raised about the amount of water required to grow it, which is said to be five times more than corn or sugar cane.Meanwhile, Solazyme is producing not only oil, but also food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Last month they announced an expanded agreement with Unilever to produce algae-derived oils for making soap and other personal care products, presumably, to cut back on the use of palm oil and petroleum-derived components.A week later, their Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals subsidiary announced that it will begin producing its microalgae derived food ingredient, Whole Algalin Flour, at Roquette’s commercial production plant in Lestrem, France.Writing about the ABO conference, biofuels analyst Jim Lane says, “It could be that biofuels, renewable chemicals and materials have an overly complicated and wrongly-told story. What investors have been trained to think is that “green” equals “higher costs,” [meaning it] is a luxury, requires subsidies, and is currently unaffordable. Their belief: carbon mitigation is a cost that will be saddled on the hard-pressed and possibly unemployed consumer. They have come to believe that renewables equal subsidies… The message of the industry’s current investors to the world: the military should provide the capital for renewable diesel, that airlines should build out aviation biofuels, that governments need to provide incentives, tax credits, mandates and tariffs for the development at scale of everything else. And that anything not already paid for by any of the above should be paid for by oil companies, who apparently should be delighted at the opportunity to invest in putting themselves out of business.”RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
Archive for the ‘Biofuel’ Category
Could algae-based biodiesel be the fuel source of the future? – Peace River Record Gazette – Alberta, CA 2 comments
Alternate non fossil fuels have been around for a long time. What is technically possible is also becoming economically possible. What had been lacking was a motivator for change . Peak oil and climate change have become concrete drivers of that change to renewable , sustainable green fuel sources.
“Today August 10, 2011 marks 118 years since the first vehicle was run on biodiesel – in this case, peanut oil, and has since been declared International Biodiesel Day. It happened in Augsburg, Germany and was achieved by a man named Rudolf Diesel.Today biofuel has been utilized throughout the world, though not to the extent one may presume after 118 years of potential technological research to create the most viable product.On August 19 in Grande Prairie, the first biodiesel jet car will race in Drag Wars 2011 – it will be run off 100 per cent canola oil. In 2004, the City of Halifax, Nova Scotia began running its fleet of busses entirely off fish-based biodiesel. In Disneyland in 2009, it was announced the Park would be running its trains on biodiesel created from its own cooking oils. In 2007, the worlds first airplane – a jet turbine engine flight that last 37 minutes and went up 17,000 feet – was powered by 100 per cent biodiesel from recycled cooking oil.Shifting from fossil fuels to biodiesel is possible.”
Aviation biofuel…avant garde and a positive direction in curbing costs and ensuring sustainability.
“But aviation is making an important step in breaking free of its petroleum dependence through biofuel.
The ethanol that is typically used in cars—fuel alcohol refined from grain or sugar cane—would not work in aviation, at least with today’s jet engines, because its energy density (the power it packs per gallon or liter) is too low. But numerous start-up companies around the world have been working with a very different fuel derived from oils that have been extracted from plants, animal fat, or grease. The oils are treated with hydrogen to produce HRJ, synthetic kerosene that is chemically the same as jet fuel. Only carbon dating would reveal that it is not made from fossil fuel.”
Bacteria enzyme to produce biofuel from woody biomass – Technology – Ecoseed Information Network Leave a comment
The use of a different feedstock source for biofuel production will remove the competition for biofuel from foodstock sources. As the technology becomes more feasabile ( such as through the bacterial enzyme in the article ), the economics for such biofuel production , as in woody / tree biomass extraction , becomes more feasabile to sustain.
“Researchers from the University of Warwick in Britain and the Canada-based University of British Columbia have teamed up in a study that successfully identified an enzyme that could produce more biofuel from woody biomass.
The researchers identified a gene for breaking down lignin in a soil-living bacterium called Rhodococcus jostii. Though similar enzymes have been discovered before in fungi, this is the first time one has been identified in bacteria.
Through the discovery, fast-growing woody plants and inedible by-products of crops could both become sources of biofuels. The researchers hope that through this innovation, production of biofuel could be scaled up in a way that is economically viable and that does not compete with food production.”