Ethanol Production from Algae: Algenol

Algenol has it’s headquarter in Fort Myers, Florida, United States. Unlike many other algae biofuel companies with focus on more advance direct replacements of diesel and gasoline (drop-in fuels) Algenol focuses on ethanol production from algae through its proprietary ‘Direct to Ethanol’ technology. The company was founded in 2006. It ranks 25th in the Biofuel digest ranking of 50 hottest companies around the world related to biofuels.

‘Direct to Ethanol’

Algenol utilizes the strains of cyanobacteria (also known as blue green algae) with inherent capability to produce ethanol. With the help of biotechnological interventions like the overexpression of fermentation pathway enzymes they first enhance the natural ethanol production capabilities of the strains. The resulting metabolically enhanced hybrid cyanobacteria are used for biofuel production.

Algenol grows the algal strains in its proprietary flexible plastic film photobioreactors. Through photosynthesis the algae utilize sunlight and carbon dioxide and synthesize sugar (pyruvate) and convert it into ethanol which diffuses into the culture medium through cell wall.  Ethanol gets evaporated into the head of a photo-bioreactor where its condensation takes place. The condensate is concentrated to get fuel ethanol. Further purification of ethanol happens through standard distillation with the help of Algenol’s  patented ‘Vapor Compression stream stripping’ technology.

The algal biomass is also collected. After dewatering it is converted into a green crude oil through hydrothermal liquefaction. The green crude oil is further subjected to hydro treatment which gives a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons. The distillation of the mixture separates diesel, jet and gasoline fractions.

Production capacity of ‘Direct to Ethanol’ technology

The fuel production capacity of Algenol’s ‘Direct to Ethanol’ technology is 8000 gallons of liquid fuels per acre of algae cultivated per year. The major portion of it is ethanol although approximately 500 gallons of jet diesel, 380 gallons of gasoline and 315 gallons of jet fuel are part of it.


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