Here are several of our initiatives:
Biodiesel alleviates dependence on foreign oil and offers an immediate alternative to fossil fuels as it can be used in unmodified diesel engines and distributed via existing infrastructure.
Biodiesel is also an environmentally friendly fuel as it reduces CO2 emissions and generates less particulate matter than fossil fuels.
Biodiesel is made by converting bio-oil feedstock into biodiesel through a simple chemical process called transesterification. The vast majority of U.S. biodiesel is created from soy oil. Other common feedstocks include canola, palm and waste recycled cooking oil.
Today, nearly all biodiesel feedstock comes from agricultural crops. Some of the issues that arise from using food crops for the production of fuel include:
- It is not a scalable solution for replacing a significant percentage of fossil fuels
- It impinges on the food supply for humans and livestock
- Biodiesel from agricultural sources is expensive
Algae biomass, a next-generation biofuel feedstock, has many advantages over traditional biofuel crops.
- Naturally oily and grow very quickly
- Produce much more bio-oil per acre than traditional biodiesel crops
- Can be grown on marginal land, so they do not compete with food crops
- Remove CO2 from the air as they grow
Utilizing algae for biofuel production is not a novel idea, having been first mentioned over 50 years ago. The U.S. Department of Energy explored this concept through the Aquatic Species Program (ASP) from the late 1970s until 1996. When the program ended, oil was ~$20/barrel, making renewable energy generally, and algae-derived fuels in particular, uneconomic. The ASP concluded that producing biofuels from microalgae was feasible; however technology at that time did not allow for economic viability.
Seizing upon the ASP results and the economic changes that have occurred since 1996, Aurora BioFuels has developed both the plan and the capabilities to bring algae-derived biofuels to fruition.