Skip to Main Content

Latest News

July 6, 2009
Volume 87, Number 27
p. 10


Dow Plans Algae Biofuels Pilot

Project will test a process to turn CO2 into ethanol

Melody Voith

Algenol grows photosynthetic algae in bioreactors to produce ethanol. Algenol Biofuels
Algenol grows photosynthetic algae in bioreactors to produce ethanol.
  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Latest News

October 28, 2011

Speedy Homemade-Explosive Detector

Forensic Chemistry: A new method could increase the number of explosives detected by airport screeners.

Solar Panel Makers Cry Foul

Trade: U.S. companies complain of market dumping by China.

Novartis To Cut 2,000 Jobs

Layoffs follow similar moves by Amgen, AstraZeneca.

Nations Break Impasse On Waste

Environment: Ban to halt export of hazardous waste to developing world.

New Leader For Lawrence Livermore

Penrose (Parney) Albright will direct DOE national lab.

Hair Reveals Source Of People's Exposure To Mercury

Toxic Exposure: Mercury isotopes in human hair illuminate dietary and industrial sources.

Why The Long Fat?

Cancer Biochemistry: Mass spectrometry follows the metabolism of very long fatty acids in cancer cells.

Text Size A A

Dow Chemical is planning a pilot project with algae biofuel start-up Algenol Biofuels to convert waste CO2 into ethanol. The biorefinery is to be located in Freeport, Texas, at Dow’s largest manufacturing site.

The project is contingent on Algenol’s receiving a Department of Energy grant for up to $25 million, or no more than half the cost of the $50 million facility. The rest of the capital would be provided by Algenol, which would also own and operate the plant. Dow would contribute 25 acres of land, the CO2 supply, and technical expertise.

Algenol has been a quiet contender in the nascent algae biofuel boom. By choice, the firm has not raised any venture capital, CEO Paul Woods says. Instead, Algenol’s activities, and its 100 employees, have been funded by the company’s founders, including Woods, who retired from a successful career in pharmaceuticals at age 38.

The company’s unusual algae also set it apart. Algenol claims its CO2-hungry, single-cell cyanobacteria produce sugar and contain enzymes that enable one-step conversion into ethanol, which the algae then excrete. The algae, the salt water they live in, and the ethanol are all packaged in bioreactors that let in sunlight. The algae are engineered to survive high alcohol levels.

In contrast, most biofuel firms, such as Solazyme, are interested in algal oils that can be made into biodiesel, gasoline, or other petroleum-like products. For those companies, getting the oil out of the individual algal cells has been a high hurdle (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 22).

Algenol’s one-step biology is what attracted Dow, says Steve Tuttle, bioscience business director with Dow’s ventures and business development arm. “It fits with Dow’s advancements in polymer films. We can create an environment in the bioreactor where the algae perform the best,” he says. And, Tuttle adds, Dow’s chemists and engineers will help design a process that can scale up for commercialization.

But fuel-quality ethanol must be distilled from the bioreactor condensate, which is a major focus for the pilot plant, Woods acknowledges. “We are not going to rely on old technology,” he says. “We will use advanced membrane technology and separations that are more energy efficient.”

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Services & Tools

ACS Resources

ACS is the leading employment source for recruiting scientific professionals. ACS Careers and C&EN Classifieds provide employers direct access to scientific talent both in print and online. Jobseekers | Employers

» Join ACS

Join more than 161,000 professionals in the chemical sciences world-wide, as a member of the American Chemical Society.
» Join Now!