| NEW YORK, Sept 9
NEW YORK, Sept 9 U.S. biofuel company Solazyme,
Inc should be making motor fuel from the scum that normally
grows on ponds cost competitive to petroleum products in two to
three years, its chief executive said.
"The end goal is to be at or less than the cost of fossil
fuel and my best guess is we'll be at that point within 24 to
36 months," Jonathan Wolfson, the company's chief executive,
said in an interview. The company recently got $45 million in
funding from venture capital firms.
Companies are racing to find economic ways to turn algae,
one of the planet's oldest life forms, into vegetable oil that
in turn can be made into biodiesel, jet fuel and other fuels.
Such fuels are considered to be net carbon neutral because the
algae absorbs greenhouse gases when it grows.
One problem with growing algae has been "layering" or the
tendency of algal cells to slow their internal process of
making oil once they multiply quickly in a pond, or in
specially made containers.
To get around the problem, Solazyme says it has discovered
a way to feed algae with renewable resources such as waste
sugars and starches, so they can make oil without sunlight and
no matter where they are in a container.
Wolfson said the process makes the individual cells
"morbidly obese," and makes a much thicker soup that can be
turned into fuel.
Plant waste rich in cellulose, or the tough woody bits that
make up most of plants such as trees, canes and grasses, also
can be fed to the algae, he said.
California-based Solazyme said on Tuesday it has produced
the world's first jet fuel derived from microbes. Airlines are
keen to discover green fuels because they are less likely than
cars to run on batteries or other alternative fuels in the
Solazyme's jet fuel passed initial third party
specifications. Wolfson said it will take at least a year for
it to get public and private jet fuel certification that would
legally allow it to be burned in planes.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)