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Exaggerated Claims in Algae Oil Yield

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While some companies (such as Solazyme) say they will be capable of producing algae oil at competitive prices in two to three years, only a little algae oil has been produced to date, very few of the fifty plus companies have received funding, and it will be a long way off before the infrastructure exists to actually get it into the fuel distribution system. It is also currently very expensive to make.

So it is important to squint at claims which seem a little too good to be true. A one acre, horizontal photo Bio reactor style Algae Farm can yield 50,000 gallons of Bio Feedstock compared to 700 gallons using Corn or Soy, but when set up using a vertical system it could yield 5 times as much or 250,000 gallons a year at the going rate of $2.00 per gallon.

50,000 gallons of feedstock? The general consensus is that someday we could get to 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of oil per acre. That’s still far better than anything else (Jatropha is worth only 175 gallons an acre), but way less than 50,000.

Bryan Wilson, a Colorado State professor and co-founder of algae specialist Solix, said earlier this year that claims beyond 14,000 gallons of oil an acre seem to be “unsupportable.” Valcent has claimed it might be possible to get into the 150,000 gallon an acre range, but it is on the extreme end of the issue.

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