PetroSun's saltwater pools in Rio Hondo, Texas (image courtesy of maps.google.com).
Energy company PetroSun's algae-to-biofuel facility in Rio Hondo, Texas is expected to begin functioning tomorrow, April 1. The farm consists of 1,100 acres of saltwater ponds, of which all but 20 acres will be dedicated to producing biofuel from algae. The other 20 acres will be used to develop an experimental jet fuel. The facility is expected to produce some 4.4 million gallons of algal oil, plus 110 million pounds of biomass a year.Says PetroSun CEO Gordon LeBlanc, Jr.:
Our business model has been focused on proving the commercial feasibility of the firms' algae-to-biofuels technology during the past eighteen months. Whether we have arrived at this point in time by a superior technological approach, sheer luck or a redneck can-do attitude, the fact remains that microalgae can outperform the current feedstocks utilized for conversion to biodiesel and ethanol, yet do not impact the consumable food markets or fresh water resources.
According to the company's press release, PetroSun is working on plans to establish algae farms and algal oil extraction plants in several US states, as well as in Mexico, Brazil and Australia during 2008.
Algae is considered one of the most promising options for future biofuel production. Yielding 30 times more energy per acre than its closest biofuel competitors, algae require neither fresh water nor arable land for cultivation. It is estimated that if all of the fuel in the USA were replaced with algae biofuels, an area no larger than the state of Maryland would be required to produce it - making algae a much more efficient user of land than corn or soy ethanol, for example.
For information about other companies working on algae biofuels, see 15 Algae Biofuels Startups to Watch.