Solazyme's Algae Jet Fuel Makes the Grade

Algae biofuel maker Solazyme said today that its microbial-derived jet fuel has passed inspection with flying colors. The South San Francisco-based startup had its algal-derived aviation fuel studied by the Southwest Research Institute, a fuel analysis lab, and it passed the American Society for Testing and Materials protocol, the first algae-based fuel to do so, according to the company.

The race for algae biofuels to take flight is on. Just last week, a new player spun out of Arizona State University‚Äôs Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology picked up $3 million to further the research into and eventual commercialization of a kerosene-based aviation fuel derived from algae. Solazyme, meanwhile, which was founded in 2003, picked up $45.4 million last month. However, just like in terrestrial transport, there’s plenty of room for multiple players in aviation fuels. Solazyme estimates that in the U.S. alone, 1.6 billion gallons of jet fuel are used every month.

Still, Solazyme has a long way to go. CEO Jonathan Wolfson said recently that the company would be able to produce millions of gallons of biofuel from algae within three years, up from just thousands today. That’s an ambitious goal, especially given that the company doesn’t plan on breaking ground for its first commercial-scale plant until 2010. So until then, air travel will still likely destroy any attempt one makes to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

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