Photon8, a new venture algae oil development firm has emerged from research work at the University Of Texas, Brownsville, TX, by placing its priority on the economics of making algal based diesel fuel oil at low cost and with qualities identical to petroleum diesel fuel. The same additives are used but no blending with petroleum fuel is needed. Cost of the firm’s algal based diesel fuel is said to be $1.25/gal which permits retail pricing at or below petroleum diesel without subsidies
Photon8 has demonstrated photobioreactor production rate equal to 1.5 gal/square meter/yr and is on its way to an expected rate of 22,000 gal per 2.5 acre/yr then to best economic units of 5 acres. It believes further development may bring it close to 10,000 gal/acre/yr as a basis for planning large production systems, according to Brad Bartilson, President & CEO, Photon, Inc, Brownsville, TX.
As a basis for comparing the cost of U.S. algal fuel with petroleum, one must look at the total economic impact of Federal tax breaks(subsidies) that directly benefit oil companies aside from the market price per bbl . One available list of these which includes 16 items valued at many $billions follows:
Some aspects of the Photon8 technology follow:
Photon8 employs genetically enhanced algae which produces lipids(oil) preferentially.
This aspect accounts for 200% gain related to just the algae.
Another key part of the system are small diameter, plastic, “traveling wave”, parallel bioreactors which provide closed system performance at lower cost than open systems and make full use of injected CO2. (the firm declined to reveal detail of its proprietary bioreactors). Control of contamination is a benefit of closed systems.
The Photon8 system “removes lipids from the algae without dewatering and without killing the cells which are reused”. This is referred to as “cell-viable extraction”
Salt water and a very small amount of fresh water (for maintenance) are needed along with CO2 plus nutrients from waste materials. No salt water is discharged after its use. .
Bartilson admits to frustration with the massive common wisdom that algal fuel can not compete on an economic basis with petroleum. He explains this view as representing only what is not done today at a large scale existing production facility. He says all of Photon8’s development results and component systems have been verified by qualified outside laboratories and that the firm is well along with arrangements for funding of production at a modest level on property where expansion by stages can be carried out.
Photon8 has targeted the local Texas market for initial sale of its diesel fuel which is aided by the “same as petroleum” properties of the fuel without need for blending, refining and hydro treating. Bartilson says this will precede production of JetA fuel for aircraft.
Asked if Photon8’s game plan is to reach a level at which a major energy company will take an interest in ownership, Bartilson responds that….”who knows; everything we have done is driven first by economics which is what it is all about.”