Slime time: ExxonMobil's $600m algae gamble

Supermajor makes massive investment in developing algae as fuel source

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

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US supermajor ExxonMobil has announced that it is teaming up with biotech company Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), to research and develop next generation biofuels from photosynthetic algae.

Under the agreement ExxonMobil could spend up to US$600 million if research and development milestones are successfully met. The figure includes $300 million in internal costs and potentially more than $300 million to SGI.

“After considerable study, we have determined that the potential advantages and benefits of biofuel from algae could be significant,” Dr. Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company said.

“Among other advantages, readily available sunlight and carbon dioxide used to grow the photosynthetic algae could provide greenhouse gas mitigation benefits. Growing algae does not rely on fresh water and arable land otherwise used for food production.”

“And algae have the potential to produce large volumes of oils that can be processed in existing refineries to manufacture fuels that are compatible with existing transportation technology and infrastructure,” he added.

Jacobs also said that ExxonMobil’s investment comes after several years of planning and study and is part of the company’s desire to diversify energy sources.

SGI is a privately held company focused on developing genomic-driven solutions to develop advanced biofuels from photosynthetic algae that are compatible with today’s gasoline and diesel fuels.
 

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