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July 10, 2007



So, the bioreactor design made the algae too dense to grow. And they've had a big staff cut. I'd expect some missteps. But with several companies working on this, maybe one will succeed.


Errors are windows of opportunity for improvement. Maybe it’s costly, but this kind of practical experience is necessary.

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress” – Frederick Douglass

“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing” – Aristotle

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence” – Abigail Adams

Saul Wall

The algae grew too dense? Since the first goal of this process is to grow algae isn't this a success? They just need to filter the stuff off faster don't they?

John F.

While discussing the high density issue, let's not overlook the other problem mentioned in this post, one that will be much harder to overcome than algae density.

"...and was more costly than expected."

There's an ongoing debate between PBR and open-pond advocates, the former saying open pond won't work because of inability to control temperature and contamination by wild algae strains, and the latter saying that PBR will fail because of prohibitive costs.

Unfortunately, they may both be right.

NREL's earlier work in this field focused on open pond systems. Their effort failed because of the aforementioned temperature contamination problems.

On the other side, here's a case study on Greenfuel's process, concluding that it can't be economic below $800/bbl.


It will be great if someone proves one or both of them both wrong, but I would be reluctant to invest in any algae oil company at this point.


This Robert Metcalfe is the world renowned inventor of ethernet (the wired local area networking standard) from MIT.

Good to see more silicon valley folks taking interest in renewables.

Mary Soderstrom

Well, this may be a set back, but I must admit I'd never heard of this kind of energy production project, and find it quite exciting that such efforts are underway.

Quebec, where I live, gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric projects, but is currently talking about diversifying energy production. The big thing right now is liquid natural gas: two projects for LNG ports and processing plants on the St. Lawrence River have just been given the go ahead by commissions which supposedly are looking out for environmental problems.

But opposition is mounting. (See my blog for today and for July 6.) It seems to me that more effort should go into encouraging really new ways to produce energy and into energy conservation.

Mary Soderstrom


Mary, Quebec managed to flood millions of acres of land in order to get Hydro Quebec going. LNG is just another name to create massive amounts of GHG emissions.

Where is the environmental consciousness of the average Quebecois? Good to see that opposition is mounting to LNG.


It is more complicated
by Krassen Dimitrov July 3, 2007 4:38 PM PDT
I did send my Case Study to Dr. Metcalfe, however things are more complicated. For starters, he is not alone in this: Jennifer Fonstad who is currently the Chairman of the Board is allergic to technical/scientific arguments, so she would be of no help.
Secondly, these ageing visionaries (like Metcalfe) have been so successful in the past that they develop a sense of invincibility that ultimately leads to their demise.

Petroleum Chemicals

Nice post! You have worked hard on jotting down the essential information. Keep sharing the good work in future too.

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