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Targeted Growth, one of the leaders in genetic research, is trying to boost the oil content. It has already created versions of cyanobacteria with 20 percent to 40 percent of their mass in lipid. Next year, it hopes to show that it can produce this type of algae in large enough quantities to support a pilot manufacturing facility. Ideally, Targeted will be able to show that its algae can produce 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of oil a year per acre and show a pathway to get to 4,000 to 6,000 gallons an acre a year.
Cyanobacteria, or blue green algae, are not incredibly oily. Only about 5 percent to 10 percent of their body mass in a natural state consists of lipids, which can be turned into biofuel, according to Margaret McCormick, general manager of the biobased materials unit at Targeted Growth. By contrast, some species of Botryococcus can achieve a lipid content of up to 70 percent to 80 percent after genetic engineering.
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