Green Gunk in the Tank

Green GunkThe state of Colorado leads the charge in algae-based biofuel

Biofuel is on the brink of becoming more than just raiding Burger King dumpsters, thanks to Fort Collins-based Solix Biofuels Inc. The company put Colorado on the map as an emerging world leader last month when it announced the start of algal oil production at its Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility near Durango. The Colorado State University spin-off intends to use the facility to demonstrate its technologies at commercially feasible production levels and costs.

Previous iterations of biofuels, like ethanol from corn and sugar cane, and biodiesel from cooking oil, have proven neither scalable nor sustainable due to the water and land required.

Microalgae, microorganisms about a quarter the diameter of a human hair, have a very short growth cycle, about five to seven days. Solix believes this solves scalability issues, projecting annual yields of 5,000 to 8,000 gallons of algal oil per acre, per year at the five-year mark. As for sustainability concerns, algae production sites can be located on land that is unsuitable for agriculture, particularly land in hot, arid regions.

Plus, algae do not require soil for growth and use significantly less water than conventional, irrigated agriculture.

And now for the bonus points: algae thrives on carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. This means algae production sites can use exhaust gases from industrial facilities to increase the production of algae, while helping to clean the air.

Learn more about the future of algae biofuels in Colorado at solixbiofuels.com, or geek out at the 3rd Annual Algae Biomass Summit October 7-9 in San Diego: algalbiomass.org.

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