Dow Chemical Partners with Algenol Biofuels to Build Pilot Biorefinery

algae photo

photo: Algenol Biofuels

Though it was announced over two weeks ago, perhaps because of Exxon's backing of Synthetic Genomics, Dow Chemical's backing of Algenol Biofuels is getting a bit more play. Together they will develop a pilot-scale algae biorefinery at Dow's Freeport, Texas manufacturing site: Technology Review describes the project:
CO2 From Dow's Operations Feed Into Bioreactors
The plant will consist of 3,100 horizontal bioreactors -- troughs covered with semi-transparent film, filled with salt water pumped in from the ocean, in which the algae grows -- each of which is about 5' wide and 50' long. The algae grown in these will be able to produce about 100,000 gallons of ethanol annually. CO2 from Dow's nearby operations will be fed into the bioreactors.

The thing with Algenol's method of producing algae biofuels is that it has modified the blue-green algae to directly produce ethanol through photosynthesis. What's more is that Algenol doesn't have to harvest the algae to extract the ethanol, simplifying the process and reducing costs.

Ethanol Can Replace Fossil Fuels in Plastics Manufacturing
The reason Dow is interested in producing so much ethanol? It's not for fuel, but rather because ethanol can replace fossil fuels in the production of ethylene, a feedstock for many plastics.

More: Technology Review

About this time last year it was announced that Dow was working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to improve yields of cellulosic ethanol, for much the same reason as this venture with Algenol Biofuels. Plastic production.

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