Algae investments are clearly not suffering from the economic downturn plaguing such formerly hot investments as bad mortgages. Although the algae biofuel industry is still relatively young, a few companies have established themselves as market leaders.
One of these, Arizona oil-company turned algae start-up Petrosun announced this week that they are signing Aquaculture Lease Agreements with qualified farm pond owners in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
The landowners will be offered a royalty income and base rent in return for the utilization of existing farm ponds or marginal acreage for the cultivation of algae and conversion to a biofuel feedstock.
PetroSun came to the algae business by way of a wakeup call. They were selected by DARPA to co-develop an algae derived alternative fuel system that would be utilized by the military."We agreed to the program, but made it known that the cost per gallon based on the restrictive requirements, may exceed $20 per gallon." said Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., but he discovered that this would pose no problem as the appropriations request acknowledged that a gallon of diesel cost $100 per gallon in hostile locations.
Petrosun's background in the oil and gas industry is the basis from which they developed their harvesting and extraction technology. But for an oil company, they are wedded to some pretty ecologically sound practice.
Concerned about the 600 gallons of water that it takes to drive a mile on ethanol, they designed the micro-algae ponds to limit fresh water impacts. They claim that their algae is capable of producing in excess of 30 times more oil per acre than corn and soybean crops.
Their farming system will utilize native microalgae strains, so as to not disrupt local ecosystems, and use either saltwater, brackish or wastewater in their pond system, thereby limiting the impact on the fresh water supply.
As far as LeBlanc is concerned, the age of oil is over. "Although the price of a gallon of gasoline and diesel are at an all-time high, that is only a fraction of the true cost to the American public. If the price to defend our energy requirements were factored into the equation, i.e. foreign governments, oilfields and transportation routes, the price at the pump would soar into the $10 to $14 per gallon range."
The reality that proven recoverable oil reserves are declining and demand is escalating challenged them to pursue algae-to-biofuels and other sustainable alternative forms of energy. As LeBlanc put it: "Independents and wildcatters built the oil and gas industry. PetroSun has accepted the role of an alternative energy wildcatter and is moving energy forward!"
For Matter Network