Archive for the ‘oil’ Tag

Exxon Invests in Biofuel from Algae Production

Whether its “conventional” sources or renewable, energy is energy, and there is money to be made.

What does Exxon investment mean for algae biofuels?

By Callum James

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) have recently announced that ExxonMobil are set to invest as much as $600 million in biofuel production technology, specifically biofuel produced from algae. Exxon seem to be following the lead of many other much smaller energy companies who have been researching algae as a source of biofuel for some time.

However Exxon are not doing this on their own, they will work alongside Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI). Together they have formed a research and development partnership focused on exploring the production of biofuels from photosynthetic algae. EERE plan on using photosynthetic algae, such as single-celled “microalgae” and blue-green algae, harnessing their ability to use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into cellular oils along with some long-chain hydrocarbons that can be processed into fuels and chemicals.

via Biofuel from algae (via

The are two main advantages of algae-based biofuel.

  • Algae-based biofuel could be converted into a renewable replacement for gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel, without requiring major vehicle retrofitting. The flexibility to refine multiple fuels from a single source is also attractive.
  • Yield from algae production dwarfs that of even the most robust crop-based biofuels on a per-acre basis – more than three times as great as current crops can produce.

I applaud this move. The current actors in the energy markets are extremely well-positioned for this new development. The trading, distribution, and regulatory systems are already in place, no “perfect storm” of events has to fall into place (as was true of the Pickens Plan). No disruption of consumers’ patterns of consumption or lifestyles is required to transition to these new fuels.

Better living through chemistry – the 21st century version.


Ford Engine Plant #1 Reopens to Build Fuel Efficient V6

Ford Engine Plant #1 reopened yesterday. The retooled factory is now building an advanced engine for use in the 2010 Lincoln MKS.

This is good news for the 250 or so Ford employees who were recalled. But this is at best a baby step in the right direction. According to news reports, the new 6-cylinder engine delivers performance typically seen from a V8. You could spin this as Ford being responsive to that segment of buyers that want full-size cars, but it’s not going to do much to curb dependence on foreign oil.

Why do I keep getting flashes of buggy whips going through my brain?

Abu Dhabi sultan decrees 7 percent renewable sources by 2020

When leader of one of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves decides to get serious about renewable energy, you have to figure it’s not because of some touchy-feely “Save the Planet” motivation. No, this is a hard-nosed, practical, business decision: The sooner oil producing countries convert a significant portion of their energy economy to renewable sources, the more oil they’ll have down the road.

Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the state-owned future energy company Masdar, which will oversee the green drive, said at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that it was natural tomove into this new sector. By doing so Masdar would “provide a comprehensive solution to the world’s energy challenges and maintain Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading supplier of energy to the world.” The Gulf state, a part of the United Arab Emirates, also wants to differentiate itself from neighbour Dubai, and diversify its economy, believing a “green” infrastructure will help its image as a new tourist destination.

Can’t argue with any of that. In fact, many of the same reasons apply to the economic landscape in Houston, which is rapidly establishing itself as the economic hub for wind energy in this country.

Here’s my take: Although renewable sources – wind, solar, hydro, wave, etc. – are becoming more affordable, they still have two problems that need to be addressed. The first is critical to transforming renewables into an “industrial” scale power generation source: renewables will need a large-scale solution to the firming problem. (wind/sun/waves only available for certain parts of the day). Changing the significant parts of the energy economy to renewable sources will in itself be an enormous technical challenge. I want a non-polluting hydrogen powered car as much as the next greenie, but there just aren’t any. And the technical details of converting the transportation fleet to renewable energy is only going to happen when replacing the vehicles on the road today with as-of-now unavailable heavy EVs or hydrogen cell trucks makes economic sense. From where I sit, the best hope in the near term – say the next eight to ten years – would be some form of plug-in hybrid platform or biofuel vehicle (presuming a process for cellulostic ethanol can be made widely available – and affordable). Which means old-fashioned petro-fueled trucks are going to be around for a good long time.

If that’s the case, then hanging on to your limited and increasingly in-demand fossil fuel reserves for as long as possible makes extremely good financial sense.