Solazyme Inc. is South San Francisco, California, United States based algae biofuel producer company.
Technology: Dark Fermentation
Solazyme’s proprietary technology utilizes the oil producing ability of heterotrophic microalgae through their fermentation in the dark. This means that microalgae are fermented without the access to sunlight inside huge stainless-steel fermentors. The ingredients necessary for their growth are provided to them externally. This is a unique feature of Solazyme’s biofuel production technology. It is in contrast to the generally employed technology in algae based biofuel production systems where open-pond systems or photobioreactors are used to grow algae which prepares its own food through photosynthesis.
In Solazyme’s approach the algae grow by utilizing the growth medium which consisted of sugars derived from plants. Sugarcane-based sucrose, corn-based dextrose and sugar from other sources including cellulosic biomass like corn stover, miscanthus, switchgrass, forest residues and waste streams are typically used. So the approach is to take benefits of ‘indirect photosynthesis’ where plants first synthesize the sugars which are taken up by microalgae.
The microalgae consume growth medium, grow and produce oil. The oil is extracted and processed further to make a range of fuels, including diesel and jet fuels.
Solazyme’s proprietary microalgal strains and genetic and engineering technological interventions have accelerated the natural oil production time of microalgae and also increased the quantity of oil in them. Solazyme’s microalgae can produce >80% of their dry weight in the form of oil as against the average wild algae which produce around 5-10% oil.
Types of Algae Biofuels by Solazyme
Solazyme’s renewable diesels and jet fuels are drop-in replacements of diesel and jet fuels. They meet EU, ASTM and Military specifications. This means they are compatible with existing diesel engines and do not require engine modifications in order to get accommodated.
1. SoladieselRD® is Solazymes’ trademark renewable diesel with a cetane rating more than 60 percent better than standard U.S. diesel fuel. In 2012 the testings of the SoladieselRD® were undertaken in collaboration with Maersk Line which is one of the largest shipping giants in the world. The diesel was replaced with varying proportions of Solazyme’s renewable fuel which was found to be able to replace the diesel completely. The journey fueled by algae biofuel covered 6500 nautical miles from Northern Europe to India and burnt ~30 tons of SoladieselRD®.
2. SoladieselBD® is a Fatty Acid Methyl Ester-based (FAME) fuel. It is a drop-in replacement for diesel with better cold temperature properties than any other commercially available biodiesel.
3. SoladieselHRF-76® is solazyme’s trademark renewable diesel for ships.
4. Solajet™ is the world’s first jet fuel produced exclusively from algal oil. It meets both the military specifications for HRJ-5 jet fuel as well as all non -petroleum commercial specifications for ASTM D 7566 for both military and commercial applications.
Solazyme Inc. is ranked no 1 by Biofuel digest’s ranking of hottest companies in bioenergy 2013-2014.