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BA Deere
Honored Advisor

Competition for Ethanol

Hat tip to Bigmoe from the "other site".  Exxon is claiming a major "break through" on making bio fuels from algae.  I don`t know if it`s a nothing hamburger or a real hamburger with sesame seed bun and pickles, but they`ve been at it since 2009.  Some of the responses are whistling past the graveyard "Meh! Nothing to it, too expensive, too this too that" ...and I don`t know maybe there isn`t anything to it.  But Exxon and other companies have spent 10yrs on smart looking people with glasses and lab coats and green stuff in test tubes, I don`t think they are one`s to throw away money without any prospects. 


“We knew that algae had the potential to be more productive than other biofuel sources like corn and soy beans and, unlike those, they don’t require arable land or freshwater,” Alessandro Faldi, ExxonMobil scientist, explained.

“It was a true eureka moment when we knew what we had,” said Rob Brown, SGI’s senior director and the lead scientist on the algae project. “After testing and retesting the breakthrough, ensuring it wasn’t just a false positive, a cheer went up in the lab. If you can imagine people doing cartwheels down the hall, that’s what it feels like after years of research to move the needle in such a substantial way.”

Faldi and Brown are quick to emphasize that this is only a first step. The ongoing challenges are not lost on the team. Still, Faldi is inspired by this latest breakthrough and sees it as a necessary and positive move in the right direction that will strengthen SGI and ExxonMobil’s fruitful collaboration to develop algae-based biofuels at a commercial scale.



24 Replies
Honored Advisor

Re: Competition for Ethanol

There seems to be plenty of algae in Lake Erie that the farmers are blamed for.  Maybe they can start there.

Veteran Advisor

Re: Competition for Ethanol

It reminds me of that "hallelujah, we've got us an ASF oral vaccine," only to do my own research further on their claims and find out that they DON'T have a marketable ASF oral vaccine and that they know they still need a minimum of 4 more years PLUS a collaboration between multiple countries and multiple organizations, with merely the HOPE of having a marketable ASF oral vaccine, to go the distance.

Like you stated, this sentence from that article you referenced is also the tell: 

"'This step is critical, but it’s important to keep our focus down the line to where we need to go,” Faldi said. “We will need to increase the algae’s ability to convert the sun’s energy into biomass to further increase fat production..."

What I came away with was:

- waaaat, the sun's energy is important??!!??   but, but, but I thought CO2 was the main driver for, well, everything!!! (sarc alert)

- this is just 1 step in the long process of achieving, if ever, their goal.

Interesting that it appears they had to CRISPR it to double the fat and that the algae needs CO2 to generate fat.


BA Deere
Honored Advisor

Re: Competition for Ethanol

The way the Chinese operate, if there`s any hail Mary ASF vaccine with a hint of success they`ll just plain use it or test it out on Hong Kong protesters...anything so they won`t have to buy one ounce of pork more than they absolutely have to.  

With ethanol, big oil still must think and put dollars behind a substitute is worth it just for the 10% oxygenate share of the market.  I had to laugh in their propaganda, they say `algae won`t use valuable crop land for fuel production`...yeah thanks Exxon, we need more corn weighing on the market  Smiley Very Happy   you guys are all heart.

But even if we get utopia of a Democrat elected after the election and those Rin waivers are fully reinstated, still the eggheads with the glasses, lab coats and test tubes will continue looking for a ethanol substitute.  So even in a socialist paradise, we`d better continue looking hard for a old nag for the corn market to ride.  JMO

Senior Advisor

Re: Competition for Ethanol

As  usage  of  corn  in  finishing  rations  continues  to  decrease ,  while  today  being  the  ''  anniversary  ''  of  the  Bankruptcy  of  Enron ,  can  be  part  of  the  competition  discussion  -  maybe  ?      

Senior Advisor

Re: Competition for Ethanol

Plenty of big announcements of breakthroughs on cellulosic ethanol over the years.

Meanwhile, solar and wind were scaling up and becoming the cheapest form of power, largely unnoticed and met with skepticism.

If it does work, no reason that it needs to be a competitor with ethanol- you just need a government willing to keep its commitments.

Would, however, be a competitor to The Big Dog.

0 Kudos
Veteran Advisor

well, BA

I remember saying something similar when I saw DuPont pouring several hundred million dollars into the cellulosic ethanol plant at Nevada, Iowa-----only to watch them divest for pennies on the dollar as the new regime was not enamored with the prospects for making etoh from stover...

and now we are witnessing something similar out of "Project Liberty" at Emmetsburg

cellulosic is proving a tough nut to crack, and definitely not for a lack of money being thrown at it


Veteran Advisor

Re: Competition for Ethanol

@BA Deere 

Your posted article and its accompanying scientific paper made me wonder why they don't ferment algae instead of looking to increase its fat/lipid/oil-producing ability.  Answer:  Fermentation is cost-prohibitive. 

...which led me to this article.

It outlines every problem inherent in algae-for-biofuel production that they have to conquer to bring it to market.  

  1. "Increasing oil content of existing strains or selecting new strains with high oil content.
  2. Increasing growth rate of algae.
  3. Developing robust algal-growing systems in either an open-air environment or an enclosed environment.
  4. Co-product development other than the oil.
  5. Using algae in bioremediation.
  6. Developing an efficient oil-extraction method."

And they now think they are on the right path to solving #1.  That article link is definitely gonna zero you in on the whole algae-for-biofuel end game.

Some points to ponder:

-- Algae will require an astonishing amount of area (land and/or water) to grow enough for biofuel. (Who else has such massive amounts of undeveloped land except farmers, US govt, and the elites?  Who is in jeopardy of losing mass quantities of ownership of land?)

-- Algae uses massive amounts of CO2 ... and "those who shall not be named" want net-sum-zero carbon emissions???  Exactly what are these massive amounts of algae supposed to use to grow with?

-- Why does Bill Gates' name keep popping up?   Fake meat, fake fuel, etc. (I call him "El Destructor" -- everywhere his name pops up, regular folk seem to end up suffering.)

Anyway, it is obvious that U.S. farmers have a HUGE target painted on their backs.

0 Kudos
BA Deere
Honored Advisor

Re: well, BA

Ray, the big trouble with cellulosic ethanol was the hauling of falling apart, rotting corn stalk bales, all that "fossil fuel" used chopping raking baling and hauling bales to make a bio-fuel.  Then the fertilizer and humus replacement for clearing the stover.  On top of all that cellulosic almost looked good on paper when gasoline was $4, but the bloom went off the rose will $2.xx gas.  

Could be big oil trots out smart looking actors in commercials, to keep alive the narrative that "resistance is futile!" grain ethanol might as well also pack it in.   When in reality it`s "fake science".

I don`t know about any of this seems to me the biggest threat to ethanol is a declining oil demand economy. When I was a kid we cruised mainstreet in jacked up Chevelles and Challengers getting 5 miles to the gallon, today these kids don`t seem to care if they even get a drivers license..just text a Lyft.  

And the political direction these days is to make this country equal to a 3rd world...where they ride bicycles and public transportation. 

0 Kudos
Honored Advisor

Re: well, BA

We are going to continue to get nowhere like a dog chasing its tail as long as we keep repeating the nonsense.

algae-based biofuels at a commercial scale

a marketable ASF oral vaccine

algae won`t use valuable crop land for fuel production

usage  of  corn  in  finishing  rations  continues  to  decrease

electric cars have small carbon footprints

electric power doesn't need fossil fuel.

solar and wind were scaling up and becoming the cheapest form of power

breakthroughs on cellulosic ethanol over the years.

--------- all variations on comic book theory.  Totally unproven or just plain false and we keep repeating it after we watch it fail or see it proven wrong.....

Follow the yellow brick road and ask the University wizard to create power with his federal funded powers.   We keep electing folks who haven't got enough sense to see through it.  But we cannot expect better until we do better.

Maybe we should stop reading sources that continually lie to us.

Celullostic theory (like climate theory) assumes imput data to be known and true.  Yet consistant (cellulosic ) input and  input data (climate theory) are continually inconsistent either by field or unacceptable result..... i know that is a bad sentence but in terms of cellulosic, it is impossible to have consistant beginning product.  It is what makes grain ethanol work, consistant and accurate to formula input grain.

But we don't have to get into the details --just make the promoter of theory make it work before we consider it worth righting about..... that function is the responsibility of the reader or listener.   Some of these sources, both institutional and political, have lied to us and themselves for so long it is way beyond embarrassing.