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Algae Spotlight: Inventure Chemical

inventurelogo.jpgWhen we gathered together our post, 15 Algae Startups Bringing Pond Scum to Fuel Tanks, last week, we realized a lot of the companies are making some significant inroads on the microscopic green fuel. Inventure Chemical’s CEO Mark Tegen tells us his firm, based in Seattle, is close to raising a venture round of $7.5 million to help its algae processing technology go commercial.

Tegen said Inventure has previously raised around $1.6 million from a group of angel investors, which were reported to include Seattle-based biodiesel producer Imperium Renewables. Unlike many companies working on harvesting and growing algae in ponds and bioreactors, Tegan says Inventure is working on the process that turns the algae into different types of fuels.

The company makes a reactor system that uses thermochemical processes and catalysts to turn the algae into three types of fuel: biodiesel, a fermentable sugar solution and a concentrated protein solution. Inventure doesn’t plan to build those capital-intensive algae-filled plants itself; rather it hopes to license its reactor system technology to prospective algae fuel makers.

“We’re a process technology company,” Tegan insists, and says the company already has four companies that it has partnered with on the algae front. On its website, the company says it is working with Arizona utility the Arizona Public Service, Israeli algae startup Seambiotic, and Imperium Renewables. Even with the company’s progress, Tegan says he still thinks that the algae-to-fuel goal is “several years away.” The company is also currently working with cellulosic waste.

Inventure is just one of more than a dozen startups working on the algae-to-fuel food chain. Two algae-focused public companies also announced steps this week. PetroSun is supposed to start up its algae farms today (on April Fools! uh-oh). And New Zealand’s Aquaflow Bionomic said it has now ÔÇťachieved commercial scale continuous harvesting of tonnes of wild algae at the Marlborough oxidation ponds,” which it says is the step before it can start producing its commercial-scale biocrude.

Algae is even becoming mainstream news: Check out CNN’s prominent article on Valcent Products; the company’s CEO Glen Kertz tells CNN he holds 20 patents in the area. Algae is sprouting up everywhere.

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