The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) announced Monday that it plans to work with Algenol Biofuels, Inc. to build and operate a pilot-scale, algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into ethanol. The facility is planned to be located at Dow’s Freeport, Texas site.
Algenol makes ethanol directly from CO2 and seawater using hybrid algae
in sealed, clear plastic photobioreactors. Algenol’s
process is capable of
producing over 6,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year, compared to
corn at 400, the company said. Additionally, the process achieves an energy
balance of more than 5 to 1 and a life cycle carbon footprint that is
merely 20% of petroleum, according to company figures.
Dow, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(NREL), the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Membrane
Technology & Research, Inc. are contributing science, expertise,
and technology to the project.
Algenol submitted its formal request last week to obtain a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for financial support to successfully conduct the pilot. Upon approval of the grant, Dow and the other collaborators will work with Algenol to demonstrate the technology at a level to sufficiently prove that it can be implemented on a commercial scale.
In addition to leasing the land for the pilot-scale facility, Dow plans to develop the advanced materials and specialty films for the photobioreactor system. In addition, Dow will also provide the technology and expertise related to water treatment solutions and will provide Algenol with access to a CO2 source for the biorefinery from a nearby Dow manufacturing facility. The CO2 will be supplied to the algae in the photobioreactors and will serve as the carbon source for the ethanol produced. The result is a CO2 capture process which converts industrially derived CO2 into more sustainable fuels and chemicals.
With sales of $58 billion in 2008 and 46,000 employees worldwide, Dow is a diversified chemical company that delivers a broad range of products and services to customers in around 160 countries. On April 1, 2009, Dow acquired Rohm and Haas Company, a global specialty materials company with sales of $10 billion in 2008 and 15,000 employees worldwide.