Monday, August 3, 2009

Dow Invests in Algae too! Why All the Money Flowing to Algae Biofuel??

C&E News reports that Dow has joined the biofuel algae fad. This makes two giant multinationals to plunk down money on biofuel from algae in the last month. [See my previous post on Exxon & BP's investment in Synthetic Genomics.]

Dow and Algenol is building a plant next to Dow's giant chemical complex in Freeport, Texas. Algenols technology is interesting because if makes ethanol directly. It would be particularly interesting if the cells excrete the ethanol, so they don't have to be killed.

Note that the Algenol plants has open tanks. These are easier to build, but previous algae plants have had trouble keeping the algae healthy because of rainwater and evaporation.

Why are big oil and chemical companies buying into algae?

1. Algae plants are big consumers of CO2, carbon dioxide. This could be a cheap way to get carbon dioxide credits in some future greenhouse gas tariff system.

2. Algenol's technology generates ethanol directly, and Synthetic Genomic's technology generates biodiesel. This is much better than other biofuels that need extensive processing. For example corn needs to be fermented to make ethanol.

3. Blogger Christopher Haase says algae plants also transform salt water into fresh water.

[See my follow-up post on Synthetic Genomics and Synthetic Biology.]