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Are we in the right track ? Is fermentation the way to go?

August 24th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Algae-Cultivation-Biofuel

After Solazyme’s delivery of 1500 gallons of oil to the US navy,many companies in the US have started pursuing the fermentation route- “the dark fermentation route” to produce biofuels. In fact, one thing what I noticed with Solazyme is the fact that they are not only trying to produce biofuels,  but are also trying other high-value products. So when such a option is considered, the fermentation route might be the way to go.  However, many scientists claim that this wont work and this doesn’t capture the carbon-dioxide from the air as its carbon source from the sugars.

As you might be all aware that fermentation  is a biochemical process wherein sugar acts as a carbon-source, instead of sunlight and carbon- dioxide. The fermentation technology is about a century old and it’s a well –established technique. Interestingly, growing algae in the absence of light is a far more simplified  process . Research studies and some algae- company  data reveals claim that algae grown in the dark can reach densities that are 1,000 times higher than strains of photo-autotrophic algae that are grown in the light.  In short, one concentrated tank of heterotrophic algae is equivalent to growing 1000 tanks of photo-autotrophic algae.

Now here are the advantages of fermentation over photosynthesis:

Access to a wide variety of biomass feedstock such as sugar cane, sugar cane waste (bagasse), energy grass, woodchips or other cellulosic material which can be produced at scale and in high yield.

Ability to tailor the product for a variety of diesel and aviation-fuel needs.

Reduced exposure to fluctuations in the price of vegetable oils.

Biodiesel produced from sustainable feedstock via the fermentation of sugars will offer the potential to deliver greenhouse gas emissions reductions of up to 80-90% when compared to conventional fossil fuel.

Fermentation technology is a century old and is well-established. Hence, existing infrastructure ( large fermentation vats, biorefineries) will help a great deal in making this process viable.  As per Solazyme ‘s and a few other companys  claims this is the best route to puruse.

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