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Food first . Fuel next ! Aurora Biofuels 6

Facing a steep hill in fuels, Aurora repositions its algae products as a source of omega-3s.

That's the new business plan of Aurora, formerly Aurora Biofuels. The company emerged out of research conducted at UC Berkeley in 2007 with a business plan to grow algae in open ponds to produce fuel.

Now, the company is in the midst of a reorganization, according to sources. When it emerges, Aurora will put a strong emphasis on growing algae for omega-3 fatty acids and proteins for the dietary supplements market.

It will also sell cell mass as animal feed. Aurora had mentioned the possibility of selling cell mass (i.e., the leftovers after the oil has been extracted) as pet food in the past, but the push on oils for human dietary supplements, particularly with a vigor that will equal or exceed the company's push into fuel in the near term, is new.

Why the switch? The vast majority of biofuel startups have encountered difficulty in getting past the experimental stage. Range Fuels, Mascoma and others have delayed plants because of a lack of available capital.

Others, like algae pioneer GreenFuel Technologies, which raised over $70 million, went under.

Large oil producers like ExxonMobil have invested in biofuel start-ups, but have yet to commit to full-scale production agreements with them.

Further, the price of fuel fluctuates. Many startups were formed in the 2004-2008 era when predictions of $200-a-barrel oil weren't that far-fetched. Now, oil burbles around $75 a barrel.

By contrast, the chemistry and markets are much more stable.

Potential suppliers have to meet certain technical and safety thresholds, but once they do, they can secure lucrative contracts. Put another way, it's easier to get on your plate than into your gas tank.

Besides, how do you think salmon get their omega-3s? Through a food chain that starts with algae.

Solazyme, one of the algae leaders, opened a food lab last year and began selling algae oil to the cosmetics and food industry for revenue.

Others, such as Cobalt Biofuels, have begun to emphasize biobutanol for the chemistry industry and have put less stess on biobutanol as a substitute for jet fuel. Zeachem now talks of producing acetic acid and other materials for the plastics industry; the company started with a push on cellulosic ethanol from poplar trees.

LS9 produces chemicals for the fuel industry, but also has a deal with Proctor & Gamble.

Aurora declined to comment. The company's website partly reflects the name change: it is listed as Aurora and Aurora Algae on various pages of the website, while the URL is still www.aurorabiofuels.com.

The company also has begun to talk about tasty omega-3s on the site, but in very general terms. One page of the website lists the opportunities in "pharma, feed, food and fuel." Note how fuel is listed last.
Thu August 19 2010 06:52:28 AM by Natalia Aurora  |  omega -3  |  UC Berkeley 1804 views

Comments - 6

  • Jacintha wrote:
    Thu August 19 2010 06:54:15 AM

    Food first ! Fuel next !
    Way to go !

    Vote Up! 0 Vote Down! 0

  • Abomohra wrote:
    Thu August 19 2010 09:27:19 AM

    Thanks for this interested article. I completely agree with you, that Food first! Fuel next. But I see that we shouldn't neglect the production of Biofuel from algae because this may be the solution for energy crisis next decades, we should search about the solutions for the problems of our generations and (don't look under our feet).

    One of the most important things that we can't compare the current price of fossil fuel because of many reasons that affected the fuel price last years, the most close one is Gulf Mexico.

    No one can claim that algae can resolve the problem of fuel, but algae participate to overcome this problem. We can imagine the world after few decades without fossil fuel, What will be the solution? Sun energy only, Wind only, Water energy only, algae only ....etc, or these power sources collected will be the right solution? So I think that we have to proceed in research about algae as source of biofuel and also as a source for valuable compounds and edible plants are enough for food.

    Edible plants only for food and algae for biofuel. So food and biofuel may be go in parallel.

    Best Wishes

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  • Natalia wrote:
    Thu August 19 2010 01:21:46 PM

    I agree with Abomohra

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  • Amanda wrote:
    Thu August 19 2010 03:54:28 PM

    How does algae as a fuel compare with other energies like solar power, wind energy etc.,
    which is the most efficient method to make energy ?

    Vote Up! 4 Vote Down! 0

  • Thu August 19 2010 10:06:39 PM

    @ Amanda

    Good question Amanda !

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  • AlgaeNova wrote:
    Fri August 20 2010 08:19:36 AM

    Hallo friends, this here I would like to commend as well, but lacking the time I can only use the good old method of copying a former reply given in Linkedin on this matter. I beg your pardon.......... Understanding the Global Food System I haven?t had the time yet to go through all the details of your web-site, - but I will have to. How can industrial algae breeding contribute to the growing famine of our planet? This is what bothers us to. Even though we are using the technology of breeding algae in PBR`s (photo bio reactors) purely out of economical reasons - following the dictate of commerce - we have the clear vision that algae is a "food solution" and we are proving it as well. The "bio-fuel hype" is setting wrong sings into this world and nearly everybody in this business is seeing algae as a liberator to a coming shortage of crude oil. We don?t and we definitely think this is the wrong way. The productivity of algae for an unpolluted, continuous and healthy food and feed supply is unmatched in nature, - given one is using the right breeding practice. One of our food/feed supply chain is biogas production > sequestration of flue gas and the use of production heat to dry algae biomasses > dried algae cake for fish or shrimp feed > purification of waste water from the aquacultures with the help of algae (diatoms) < breeding of natural food (zoo plankton) in waste-water pools as food supply for fish and shrimps ( here the ideas and the outstanding engagement of Mr. Sampath Kumar and Mr. Bhaskar from NUALGI helped a lot to get the right understanding!) You can follow to some extend these supply chain in our publication: http://www.slideshare.net/algaenova or the information on my profile here or on Linkedin: http://de.linkedin.com/in/algaenova To use this food supply chain in underdeveloped countries (for such areas we would recommend a covered pond system. We do not recommend open pond systems. The danger of pollution is much to great) would mean production of energy with agriculture waste > production of food and feed stuff for aquacultures and as feed supply for chickens, cattle?s, sheep i.e. (it has shown that supplying algae biomasses to animal feed reduces the production of methane gases when digested), > workstations and education of skilled experts > depending on areas protection of wildlife and natural recourses (over fishing, inadequate fishing methods!) > protection of environment. Off course I don?t understand the Global Food System and have very limited information, but I feel that something has to be done for a controllable food supply system that is not endangering our remaining recourses, and I am convinced algae breeding can be a practical solution the this problem. But now for the interests of this Blog, - here a report from IRIN GLOBAL: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=89675 (do these people cars or food?) and here jet another copied file: http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/article-print.jsp?article_id=3165 Viele Gr??e, Andreas

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