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Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

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ExxonMobil Announces Breakthrough In Renewable Energy

Algae

Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil’s partnership bore fruit on Monday, said a press release that announced the development of a modified algae strain that could push algae-based energy closer to being a commercially viable alternative energy source.

The only way forward for algae-based energy to become commercial is if a high content strain that grows quickly is discovered. SG’s advanced cell engineering technologies has now managed to enhance the algae’s oil content from 20 to 40 percent, according to an official report published in the peer-reviewed Nature Biotechnology journal. The latest discovery moves the green fuel source closer to that mass market utilization.

“We remain convinced that synthetic biology holds crucial answers to unlocking the potential of algae as a renewable energy source,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Synthetic Genomics co-founder and chairman. “We look forward to continued work with ExxonMobil so that eventually we will indeed have a viable alternative energy source.”

“This key milestone in our advanced biofuels program confirms our belief that algae can be incredibly productive as a renewable energy source with a corresponding positive contribution to our environment,” Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, said in the company’s press release. “Our work with Synthetic Genomics continues to be an important part of our broader research into lower-emission technologies to reduce the risk of climate change.”

Related: Déjà Vu: Shale To Kill Oil Prices Once Again

Synthetic Genomics CTO James Flatt had previously dismissed the prospect that the simple modification of an algae’s genome could allow the biofuel to reach commercial viability. In 2013, Exxon and the lab reworked their agreement for phase II research that would get back to basic science instead of focusing on creating a commercial success.

ExxonMobil is also pursuing other emission-reducing technologies, including carbon capture and storage, and advanced energy-saving materials, according to a press release.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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  • Randy on June 20 2017 said:
    George, growing algae and harvesting the oils to burn produces net zero carbon emissions. The carbon is harvested from the air by photosynthesis, converted to oil and then burned. So it's a much better alternative than fossil fuels if it were commercially viable. It means that we can use our current infrastructure without adding more carbon to the atmosphere.
  • Charles on June 20 2017 said:
    Renewable means the algae oil produces no greenhouse gasses, right? It's pure and clean - producing zero soot and co2. Sure.

    And because algae is Green, this is a "Green" energy, right?

    Don't get me wrong-- I'm fine with the technology. But I don't see the need. We have enough oil in the ground to last until we are using other fuels that are not producing emissions. So why do this?

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