Calif. gas stations start selling algae-based fuel

E&E  • Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Algae-based fuel went on sale yesterday at four San Francisco Bay-area gas stations, making private citizens there the first in the world to use a domestically grown product that some say could revolutionize the fuel industry.

Propel Fuels Chief Executive Matt Horton said he hopes the company can build hundreds of stations like it across the state.

The fuel, called Biodiesel B20, is 20 percent algae and 80 percent petroleum and can be used in any vehicle that runs on diesel. It emits fewer polluting emissions than traditional fuel, Horton said (Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 13).

This week, University of Michigan researchers said they have managed to speed up the natural process of converting algae into oil, letting them “pressure cook” the algae for as little as one minute to alter about 65 percent of the organism into biocrude.

“We’re trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms,” said Phil Savage, a University of Michigan professor of chemical engineering.

Biocrude still remains different from crude oil. “Before biocrude can be fed into the existing refinery system for petroleum, it needs pre-refining to get rid of extra oxygen and nitrogen atoms that abound in living things,” the researchers said in a news release (Robert Rapier, Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 13). — HP