Biofuel Prospects Are Not That Gloomy As They May Appear

Analyst briefing, May 25, 2015, London
algae-technologyBrent crude oil futures are trading at about $52 a barrel, hardly encouraging news for fledgling biofuel industry brinking on the edge of survival. Yet biofuel prospects are not that gloomy as they may appear, the fact not lost on Russian handlers of the recently blown spy ring trying to gather information on developing alternative energy sources.

“If you don’t invest in oil and gas, you will see more than $200,” Abdalla El-Badri, secretary general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), said in an interview in London on January 26, 2015. Speaking to The Telegraph in London, Abdalla Salem el-Badri also said: “If we cut production then there will be spare capacity and producers will not invest, or postpone projects. The market will rebound back higher that the $147 we saw in 2008.”

Yet even if crude oil prices will go north, the biofuel technology is not what it used to be in 2008. The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB) is a public-private partnership of 40 universities, companies and U.S. national laboratories created to develop innovative technologies that make algae-based biofuels a sustainable, commercially viable industry. In 2010 when NAABB was formed, it established a starting baseline cost for algae biocrude of $240 per gallon based on the state of industry in 2010. In a synopsis report released in June 2014, NAABB come to conclusion: “In three years, NAABB was able to develop technologies that have the potential to reduce the cost of algae-based biocrude by two orders of magnitude from our starting baseline; that is, from $240 to $7.50 per gallon.” The report even hints on further progress: “Additional productivity and cultivation gains will be needed to further reduce the cost of biocrude to under $2 per gallon.”

In the most recent twist of events scientists and engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have created a process that produces biocrude oil through hydrothermal liquefaction process literally minutes after a slurry of green algae fed into processor.

It was oil fracking technology that leveraged geopolitical ground by bringing oil prices down. Next time when oil prices will go north the biofuel technology will be mature enough to curb imperial ambitions of petroleum rich regimes all the way from Teheran to Moscow.