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The story behind 1500 gallons of Solazyme's jet fuel to the U.S. Navy 56

Solazyme,a San Francisco-based algae company claimed that they provided about 1500 gallons of algae-based jet fuel , infact 100 percent algae-based fuel to the U.S. Navy. So, I was actually wondering what is so special about it that the U.S. Navy is after it.


Harris Dillion, the founder of Solazyme Inc. claims that their technology is to feed the biomass
( industrial and agricultural) for the algae,the algae eats it up and accumulate oil in their cells. They take the algae out, dry it and squeeze 80% of oil. They then transport this in a tanker to their biorefinery where this oil is converted into jet-fuel and more.

Algae strain selection as you might be aware is a resource intensive exercise,Solazyme has dedicated many years of research to identify the best oil yielding strain which can produce oil. In fact they are using an engineered algal strain.


The company apparently is seven years old and the process with the tank and growing the algae has been in development for about four years. Before that, they spent a few years growing the algae in ponds using sunlight, and realized that would never work.

The cost of making a gallon of oil by growing algae in the sun according to Dillon is about $1,000 a gallon. They then realized that the process of feeding biomass to yeast to make ethanol, which is about $2 a gallon. So they fed the sugars to algae, and use the same process to make oil.


They have considered all the aspects of the normal jet-fuel and worked on producing the same from their algae jet fuel for the US navy. There are many properties such as flash points,or freezing points, because it's very cold in the sky. You have to be above a certain freezing point. The standards are pretty stringent and of course, it needs to have a certain density because there?s not a lot of room on a jet.

Also, the density of jet fuel is actually a little lower than diesel because if you drop the density you can keep it from solidifying at cold temperatures.

Interestingly, no changes need to be made in the aircraft to support this fuel. There is no requirement of new engines, new pipelines or new gas pumps.

Solazyme actually aims at making the fuel meet every single fuel standard the Navy has so it can be used as a 100 percent drop-in replacement and now that they have delivered 1500 gallons of jet-fuel to the US navy, they will now send it to laboratories to get the final approval before they test their planes. Additionally,

Solazyme is also planning to deliver about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel which will be used for ships.
They claim that they will be able to make oil $60 to $80 a barrel within two years, and they say that they are not much higher than that now.

The Air Force is also certainly interested in these fuels as well. The Navy has a goal to operate at least 50 percent of its fleet on clean, renewable fuel by 2020. The Navy has led the way in putting a bold target out there and getting this program up and running.

Good luck to Solazyme!!!


According to Solazyme,

1. Their method of algae production doesn?t require light ( heterotropic)

2. They unlike others grow algae in steel tanks (fermenters) and not in open- ponds or Photobioreactors.

3. They wish to use existing infrastructure (large-scale fermentation tanks and bio refineries).

4. They have supplied 15,000 gallons to US Navy and their jet-fuel is 100% algae-based.

5. The U.S. Navy has sent it for testing it in laboratories and will use it only after they get it approved.

6. They plan to provide 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel for the Navy to run the ships.

7. Initially, they tried to grow algae in open-ponds but as they felt open ?ponds is economically not viable they have opted for dark-fermentation using cheap sugars.

8. Air-force is also interested in Solazyme's jet fuel

9. Solazyme has provided 15,000 gallons of jet-fuel to the U.S. Navy at their own cost.
Video :
Wed August 11 2010 05:17:27 PM by Sumukhi jet fuel  |  algae  |  Biofuel  |  bioenergy 4603 views

Comments - 16

  • Shankar wrote:
    Wed August 11 2010 10:27:30 PM

    Thanks Sumukhi. An informative article.

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  • Thu August 12 2010 12:49:14 AM

    Narsi of Oilgae has been saying that unless the price of pbrs fall by 80 %, they will not be viable.
    How come, Solazyme is goiong ahead with pbrs?
    What is behind this ?

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  • Sumukhi wrote:
    Thu August 12 2010 03:08:51 AM

    I second what Narsi says and we in Oilgae still think open-ponds is the best option for algae cultivation especially in tropical countries such as India.

    Solazyme use large stainless steel fermentation tanks which are cheaper than the PBR's.Their system doesnt require light at all and they believe that fermentation has already been done for ages, hence they can use the pre- exisitng facilities instead of constructing open-ponds or using PBR's

    Harris Dillion, founder of Soalzyme says that their philosophies is to do things that are compatible with existing structures. They can go into large-scale fermentation factories and then go to existing refineries.

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  • Natalia wrote:
    Thu August 12 2010 03:17:25 PM

    If solazyme has taken the lead, may be one should take a closer look at fermentation and biodiesel.

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  • Georgeonik wrote:
    Thu August 12 2010 04:18:29 PM

    The solazyme approach is an industrial approach. PBR's need to increase production by an order of magnitude to justify the cost. I believe that can and will be done. The challenge is big enough that we can all run as fast as we can and never catch up. I hope no one corporate entity or cabal corners this market, I doubt they could even if they wanted to.

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  • Sumukhi wrote:
    Fri August 13 2010 05:44:53 AM

    I guess even Martek biosciences and BP tied up to explore this opportunity of dark fermentation in mid 2008. However,there is no news of their current status.

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  • Shankar wrote:
    Fri August 13 2010 11:08:04 AM

    I am keen on knowing as to who are the other players in the fermentation - biodiesel route !
    This seems like a hot area .

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  • Pengpu wrote:
    Tue September 28 2010 04:58:41 AM

    A relative large scale achievment for 1500 gallons aithough you didn,t tell us the time consumed, several weeks or several months? in addition I hope to confirm the squeezed content of oil based dry weight of biomass is 80% indeed and the oil means lipid or fatty acid including glycerides?Is there any unable esterified components in the lipid (oil)?
    Finally, I noticed that the algae was cultured by dark fermentation(heterotropic) and therefore no relation to fix Carbon dioxide. Eventhough I think it still is a great achievement as you said the price of oil is near 60-80$ per barrel. I wonder if you are kind enough to tell me if they feed sugar instead carbon dioxide as same as one used in the fermentation process to produce ethanol or any other else? Thank you for your replay in advance.

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  • Pengpu wrote:
    Wed September 29 2010 06:11:09 AM

    And if sugar was used to produce lipid in algae we have to use at least 2 ton sugar to produce 1 ton oil based on the chemical equation from -(C6H10O5)n- to -(C6H12)n-

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  • Duncan wrote:
    Wed September 29 2010 09:01:29 AM

    2 tons of sugar for 1 ton of oil ?

    Can you post the correct/ complete chemical equation please ?

    Thanks Pengpu .

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  • Nicole wrote:
    Wed September 29 2010 09:04:46 AM

    @ Pengpu

    Whatever time they took. They delivered. That is supposed to be the largest delivery made in the short history of algae biofuel.

    Whatsmore ! They have even got a large order for 200,000 gallons.
    That is great news for the industry.

    That the process doesnt fix carbon is a question.
    What is the net energy of this fuel that Solazyme makes ?

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  • Wed September 29 2010 12:01:15 PM

    You do fix corbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the growth of your sugar source. But one of the main advantages of microalgae is that they dont stand in competition to food produciton. This advantage is lost when using dark fermentaion, therefore i dont agree with this apparoch. its just a fancier way of making ethanol from sugar cane. its unsustainable.

    Vote Up! 3 Vote Down! 0

  • Probir wrote:
    Wed September 29 2010 02:26:56 PM

    "Li X., H. X., Wu Q., 2007. Large scale biodiesel production from microalga Chlorella
    protothecoides through heterotrophic cultivation in bioreactors. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 98: 764-771."...please check the article where you will get some numbers. Forget about the sugar issue, just comapre the mixing energy input with the calorific value of the biomass.

    If you produce anything out of sugar, ethanol production through yeast is more efficient (more BTU !!)

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  • Nicole wrote:
    Wed September 29 2010 11:11:26 PM

    All that we read about Solazyme in the recent past !
    All linked here for your convenience.

    Solazyme to Supply 20,000 G Algae Diesel for Navy Ships

    Solazyme is most strikingly different from its competitors for the fact that its organisms produce not just transportation fuels, but also other consumer products-a way to diversify their business and leverage high-cost goods against the low price bar set for fuels.
    Dillon started Solazyme with some colleagues in 2003 , and kept a culture collection of a couple hundred Chlamydomonas strains in his own low-tech facility. ?We bought the growth media, sterilized it in my kitchen, and stored it in the garage,? he remembers.
    They tried to grow the algae in outdoor ponds, but quickly realized that the productivity of the algae was nowhere near high enough to yield appreciable amounts of fuel. So they switched to heterotrophic species of algae, which directly consume carbon-based compounds rather than passively absorbing carbon dioxide from surrounding media.
    Dillon says that he expects Solazyme to be producing algal biofuel at ?demonstration levels of tens to thousands of gallons? per day by 2009, and aims to be producing its fuel products at commercial levels by 2011. ?The scalability is not something that frightens me too much,? he says.

    Braemar Energy Ventures and new investor Morgan Stanley are leading the round with all major existing investors from previous rounds participating, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, The Roda Group, Harris and Harris Group, VantagePoint Venture Partners and Zygote Ventures. Existing strategic investors CTTV Investments LLC, the venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures LLC, and San-Ei Gen, a major Japanese manufacturer and distributor of food ingredients, also participated.


    London-based Unilever, which relies on palm oil to make Dove soap, Vaseline lotion and Magnum ice cream, is set to announce Wednesday that it has made a multimillion-dollar investment in Solazyme Inc., a South San Francisco, Calif., company that harvests algal oil, a liquid that can replace palm oil in foods, soaps and lotions and serve as biodiesel fuel to power airplanes.

    In case you have forgotten about the agreement Uniliver signed up with Solazyme recently pl read
    Many of you may even remember that the Japanese food giant called San-ei Gen has participated in the recent $ 54 m Vc funding to Solazyme as a strategic partner.

    $52 million for algae fuel development- Solazyme

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  • Pengpu wrote:
    Thu September 30 2010 04:26:14 AM

    H2O has to be removed from the suger molecule to form hydrocarbon chain -(CH2)nCH3 in the acyl of lipids. So you will understand why only 1 ton lipid would be obtained using 2 ton suger ( or more) as feed in the fermentation.

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  • Thu September 30 2010 04:48:52 AM

    What is the NER or the Net Energy Return ?

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