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Biofuels

Sandia National Labs and LiveFuels partner up to produce vehicle fuel from algae

Monday, December 18, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: biofuels, green energy, renewable energy


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(NewsTarget) Sandia National Labs is working on a new fuel, which they are calling "Supercrude," made from everyday algae from ponds, and they plan to market the gas by about 2010 with the help of LivingFuels.

"We believe Sandia has the strengths needed to lead the alliance in its early growth phase," says LiveFuels Chief Executive Officer Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones on the LiveFuels web site.

According to site, the project could yield anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 gallons of oil for every acre of algae grown and fed on farm wastewater. It adds that the United States' dependency on foreign oil could be eradicated by the fuel from 20 million acres of algae, at a fraction of the cost of developing the first nuclear weapon.

Sandia and LiveFuels are not the only parties attempting to make fuel out of the fermentation process. Dyadic International is touting a fungus that may be able to convert farm waste into fuel, and Microgy is reportedly able to transform cow manure and microbes into natural gas using a digester. However, these companies and others are mostly focusing on the production of ethanol, which is only useable in some vehicles, where as LiveFuels' project will produce petroleum usable in all gasoline engines.

The hurdle for this alternative energy source is production. The process that created the petroleum used today occurred millennia ago, and the algae optimal for production can easily be choked out by other strains. Sandia scientists and LiveFuels are working on genetically engineered algae that can prevail in ponds and grow in days rather than millenia.

Morgenthaler-Jones says on the web site that the United States is behind some countries in the field of biocrude rsearch, but noted that American ingenuity had won out in a similar situation during the space race.

"America put a man on the moon in eight years, and America can make its own biocrude in four, she said.

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