LiveFuels Accelerates Algae-to-Biofuels Project

LiveFuels, Inc., a developer of renewable algae-based biofuels, on Aug. 12 announced the start of pilot operations at the company's test facility in Brownsville, Texas.

Consisting of 45 acres of open saltwater ponds, the facility will be used for research on optimizing algal productivity and increasing the rates of conversion of biomass into renewable oils.

"Our new Brownsville facility allows us to explore a system-level solution for producing algal biofuels," said Chief Executive Officer Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones. "By harnessing the power of natural systems, we hope to achieve what has eluded the biofuels community for decades—cost effectiveness, scalability, and sustainability."

While many algae-to-biofuels companies grow monocultures of algae—sometimes genetically modified strains—within expensive enclosures, the company grows a robust mix of native algae species in low-cost, open-water systems. To harvest the algae, LiveFuels uses a proprietary mixture of oil-rich "algae grazers," such as filter-feeding fish species and a variety of other aquatic herbivores, in place of expensive and energy-intensive mechanical equipment. These species can easily be processed into renewable oils and many other valuable co-products.

To date, the company has filed 10 U.S. patents for its proprietary approach to growing and harvesting algal biomass.

At the Brownsville facility, company researchers will study how to optimize the productivity of natural aquatic ecosystems through biological and environmental conditions. The results will be used for an expansion to full-scale commercial operations along the coast of Louisiana. The commercial facilities will be designed to harness flows of agricultural pollution from the Mississippi River that can be used as nutrients for generating algal blooms. By removing these nutrients from river flows, the systems also may mitigate the impacts of agricultural pollution in the open ocean.

LiveFuels was founded in 2006 to develop the most efficient and scalable algae-based biofuel process. After a year of strategic planning with DOE national labs NREL and Sandia, the company raised $10 million in private financing. To date, the company has established pilot operations across the United States, generated extensive intellectual property and is well on its way to producing an economically feasible and sustainable algal fuel.

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