Greenwashing Waste: Exxon’s $350 per Barrel Algae ‘Oil’ (Lee Raymond is Missed)

Reposted from MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. — November 9, 2021

“… by Exxon’s calculations, a barrel of algal oil could be worth as much as $350, when factoring in existing low-carbon fuel standards and tax credits that add as much $260 in value to each barrel. Traditional crude oil currently sells for less than $80 a barrel.”

“The process requires vast amounts of energy so much so that algal biofuel production might consume more energy than it produces, some researchers concluded.”

Biofuels and biomass are energy technologies that are uneconomic and a mirage for the environmental gains that are desired by Left environmentalists. It is a loss-loss-loss for energy, stockholders, and the environment.

The article by Christopher Matthews, “Exxon Sees Green Gold In Algae-Based Fuels. Skeptics See Greenwashing” (Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2021) speaks for itself. Matthews’s piece is fair because its subject is not politically correct as are industrial wind power and solar power. (One hopes that this will

The article, subtitled “The oil giant, under pressure to address climate change, says it is getting closer to making the biofuel viable,” follows.

Some scientists regard Exxon Mobil Corp.’s long-running quest to turn algae into a transportation fuel as little more than a PR stunt. The oil giant says they are wrong.

Using genetic engineering, Exxon says it is closer to its goal of fueling jet planes and heavy trucks with oil distilled from the tiny organisms. With government subsidies and incentives, it says it is on pace to make algae biofuel commercially viable by the end of the decade.

Skeptics abound. Nearly every other major oil company has abandoned algae research after a flurry of investment at the start of the last decade yielded few results. Exxon heavily touts its efforts in nearly ubiquitous advertisements featuring ponds of green algae that portray the company as a leader in developing the fuels of the future.

Vijay Swarup, Exxon’s vice president for research and development, said he is aware of the perception that the company is using algae research to burnish its green credentials. Exxon made overly optimistic promises that fed that criticism, Mr. Swarup said, but the project and its progress are real.

“There is always this irrational optimism and exuberance in the beginning,” Mr. Swarup said. “You have to have a vision. After that, it’s ‘show the progress.’”

The allure of algae is obvious. One the most abundant organisms on Earth, algae captures carbon dioxide and when used as fuel could reduce life cycle carbon emissions by more than 50% compared with fossil fuels, according to some research. Algae can also grow in saltwater on non-arable land, meaning it wouldn’t compete with agricultural products, as corn-based ethanol does.

Exxon is pursuing its algae research with Viridos Inc., a San Diego company co-founded by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter. For years, Viridos has altered algae using the gene-editing tool CRISPR and other technologies, hoping to increase the fat content of algal cells to produce more oil, while bolstering their ability to grow.

But what is technically possible in a laboratory doesn’t always translate to the field, leaving doubts among other scientists about whether these efforts could yield enough quantities of oilier algae to produce biofuel at commercial scale. Exxon and Viridos say they have replicated laboratory results in larger, outdoor growing ponds.

Viridos’s ponds in the California desert near the Salton Sea produced 5 grams of algae oil per square meter a day last year, up from less than 2 in 2018 when it began using its proprietary algae strand. The companies estimate they can reach 10 grams by the end of 2021 and are targeting 15 grams by 2022, a level some in the scientific community view as an inflection point at which algal biofuel becomes commercially viable.

Even if Exxon and Viridos achieve the 2022 target, algae won’t be economically competitive with fossil fuels for the foreseeable future without substantial government subsidies. But by Exxon’s calculations, a barrel of algal oil could be worth as much as $350, when factoring in existing low-carbon fuel standards and tax credits that add as much $260 in value to each barrel. Traditional crude oil currently sells for less than $80 a barrel.

At those prices, Exxon and Viridos can make a modest profit, said Viridos Chief Executive Oliver Fetzer. The companies’ target for later in the decade is 25 grams per meter, at which point the business becomes very attractive, he said.

Once Exxon and Viridos meet those targets in outdoor ponds, the key will be scaling the technology in a sustainable way and finding customers. Viridos says it is in discussions with potential customers and partners, including airlines and other large oil companies, about deploying the technology more broadly.

Not everyone is convinced. Professor Kevin Flynn, a marine plankton ecologist at the U.K.’s Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said Viridos’s results need to be peer reviewed and significant obstacles remain to producing at scale. Mr. Flynn, who has researched algae biofuel for years, said all of his work and that of others indicates the goal is illusory. Exxon and Viridos have said they would share their data with the scientific community.

Algae researchers have encountered myriad challenges. In addition to biological productivity limitations, large-scale algae production requires enormous amounts of land, water and fertilizer, making it prohibitively expensive. Meeting just 10% of Europe’s fuel demand with unmodified algae would require flooding three Belgiums in more than 7 inches of water while using 50% of the fertilizer used for European agriculture, Mr. Flynn said.

The process also requires vast amounts of energy to produce the algae, extract the oil and then refine it, so much so that algal biofuel production might consume more energy than it produces, some researchers concluded.

“Whether they’ve actually ticked all the boxes, I would be highly suspicious,” Mr. Flynn said. “There have been people trying to do this for decades.”

Exxon and Viridos say that their genetically altered algae are more productive, reducing the amount of resources needed, and that they recycle fertilizer and other inputs and use saltwater, making the process sustainable.

Mr. Flynn and other scientists have also raised concerns about genetically modified algae making its way into the wild and overwhelming natural species. Exxon and Viridos say such concerns are overblown and note that the Environmental Protection Agency had to approve before their strands could be deployed outdoors.

The U.S. government has been funding algal research since the 1970s. The Energy Department has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants since 2007 to private companies and others researching algae biofuel.

Exxon said it has spent more than $300 million on algae research since 2009, less than 3% of its annual research budget. The company has said it is researching a variety of technologies to reduce carbon emissions, including other biofuels, carbon capture and hydrogen.

By contrast, Exxon spent more than $500 million on advertising between 2009 and 2015, according to a 2019 study in the journal Climatic Change. The Massachusetts attorney general sued Exxon in 2019 for allegedly misleading consumers about climate change, including through its advertising. Exxon denies the allegations and the case is ongoing.

artin Keller, director of the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said the skepticism about algae biofuel is understandable, but that Viridos appears to have made significant progress.

According to Mr. Keller, algae biofuels are a potential solution to reducing carbon emissions from jet travel and heavy trucking. Those areas, which produce a significant amount of emissions, are particularly hard to decarbonize because electric batteries are too heavy and don’t provide enough range for airplanes and trucks. The Energy Department committed an additional $100 million to funding biofuel research for aviation and other sectors earlier this year.

“From a biological perspective, it’s an achievement,” Mr. Keller said. “How do you scale it? That’s the next question.”

Comments

More than 150 comments were received. Most were doubters and critics, as was the tenor of the article itself.

Jim Henry wished the greenwashing would go away for the sake of investors:

I wish one of the oil majors would just come out and say “We are an oil, gas and chemicals company and our products will be in demand for decades to come – As such, we are going to leave the green programs to others and focus all of our company’s resources on producing our products in a cost effective manner – The money we are saving by not pursuing the green energy programs will be returned to our shareholders – We are hereby raising our dividend. I could be wrong, but I think investors would jump on board. Jim Henry

Kris Thiruvillakkat liked the greenwashing:

It’s less important if algae fuels will be successful project, what’s more important is companies like Exxon are showing willingness and action in exploring these.

Mr. Henry trumps Mr. Thiruvillakkat. Honesty and transparency trump imaging.

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Tom Halla
November 10, 2021 6:17 am

Genuflecting to the green blob seems futile, anyway.

George
Reply to  Tom Halla
November 11, 2021 1:12 pm

Mods

Joao Martins
November 10, 2021 6:23 am

” … a barrel of algal oil could be worth as much as $350 … ”

What about one barrel of snake oil?

Bryan A
Reply to  Joao Martins
November 10, 2021 6:39 am

Worth as much or cost as much?
It could cost $610 per barrel with the gubmt chipping in $260 in carbon tax credits leaving a net cost of $350 per barrel but is it really “Worth” anything?

Joel O'Bryan(@joelobryan)
Reply to  Joao Martins
November 10, 2021 9:24 am

They misspelled “cost.”

SMC
November 10, 2021 6:34 am

Exxon, or any other oil company, will never be able to satisfy the Watermelons for as long as they exist as viable companies. The only thing that will satisfy the Watermelons is if oil companies go bankrupt, cease operations and cease to exist. Nothing less will suffice for the Watermelons.

MarkW
Reply to  SMC
November 10, 2021 6:59 am

Leftists hate everything that is big, except government.

J Mac
Reply to  SMC
November 10, 2021 8:06 am

Joe Biden’s pick for Comptroller of the Currency, Saule Omarova, was born and raised in communist USSR. She refuses to hand over her university thesis on Marxism she wrote when she was in school in the USSR.

In a newly uncovered video, Omarova admitted her goal is to bankrupt the coal, oil and gas industry in order to usher in a ‘green’ agenda. “Here what I’m thinking about is primarily the coal and oil and gas industry. A lot of the smaller players in that industry are going to probably go bankrupt in short order, at least we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change, right?” Saule Omarova said in a clip uncovered by the American Accountability Foundation.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  SMC
November 11, 2021 1:20 am

Yes, that is certainly their aim, to destroy everything that makes our lives good. They never think about how life will be if modern technology is is magicked away. It is unfortunate that we can’t give them all a dose of Virtual Reality in just what the world would be like with no fossil fuels….

Fraizer
Reply to  SMC
November 11, 2021 10:48 am

The aim is to use them as a cash cow via lawfare (think tobacco settlements) in the short term and disrupt operations to the point that it is “necessary” for government to assume control in the long term.

roaddog
November 10, 2021 6:37 am

Re-purposing the term “weedeater.”

Alexander
November 10, 2021 6:40 am

The BP (Beyond Petroleum) CEO says exactly that, that in 2100 the fossil fuels will still be providing 20% of all energy, in an interview on Amanpour and Co. And that we will miss the temperature “targets.”

M Courtney
November 10, 2021 6:44 am

There is no point in greenwashing as nothing is ever enough for Greens.
It cannot ever be good enough as they use the Precautionary principle that puts the potential downside of anything as infinite. So you have costs with no upside.

Having said that we need to be cautious about naming things that don’t work yet as Greenwashing. Although this is a long, long way from being commercial it actually is possible.

Many green ideas are not possible. Running the whole grid on unreliable energy sources, for example. But this could, in theory, work.
It doesn’t work. Yet one day it might.

DMacKenzie
Reply to  M Courtney
November 10, 2021 8:15 am

Methanol, ethanol, biodiesel, palm oil, etc. are more viable than algae oil today, and likely to remain so. We have a very poor concept of how increasing finding and production costs of petroleum will affect our future economies. By about 2100, it is likely that biofuels or manufactured fuel of some type, will be cost competitive with quite expensive fossil fuels anyway. And an electric bicycle might be the most reasonable way to get to the grocery store 20 km away….or maybe your groceries will be dropped by drone on your front step…. It is very likely that present carbon taxes or equivalent are really just government planning for increasing tax revenues on the energy consumption and production component of the economy. They have “think tanks” full of egg-heads to analyze such things, with a track record of being right about half the time. (/s)

ThinkingScientist
Reply to  M Courtney
November 10, 2021 12:44 pm

I think Churchill nailed it pretty well:

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.” Sir Winston Churchill, Reader’s Digest, December 1954

jorgekafkazar
Reply to  M Courtney
November 11, 2021 3:02 pm

Algae oil is the wave of the future. And always will be.

MarkW
November 10, 2021 6:58 am

I wonder if Kris Thiruvillakkat is an investor in Exxon.

November 10, 2021 7:00 am

https://diatoms.org/what-are-diatoms? 1/2 of our O2 is produced by our friends…thanks diatoms.

commieBob
November 10, 2021 7:07 am

It’s less important if algae fuels will be successful project, what’s more important is companies like Exxon are showing willingness and action in exploring these.

Back when we had the Arab oil shocks, it looked like oil and gas might become permanently unaffordable. As a result, IIRC, a couple of oil companies became big vendors of solar panels.

If oil companies are working on alternate energy, it isn’t because they’re trying to save the world. They’re trying to find something to do if they can’t sell oil. That’s how capitalism works. Of course the greenies don’t like capitalism. Mind you, they’re against anything that might work.

Scissor
November 10, 2021 7:13 am

If one is going to use an oil feedstock that is grown in water, might as well go back to whales.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2021 3:50 am

Good idea. The whales will do all the work collecting algae, perform the necessary chemical reactions and also will have fun doing so.

Mr Ed
November 10, 2021 7:18 am

Sapphire Energy did this some 15 years ago. Green Crude made from sewage effluent
with bioengineered algae. They flew a 737 around the country with fuel made from
the stuff.
I kinda like he idea as a way of cleaning up sewage effluent instead of just dumping it
into a river. Monsanto was a major investor IIRC. Some farmer bought the company
for pennies. $350 a barrel??

John the Econ
November 10, 2021 7:21 am

Amen. That is what an adult would say. Unfortunately, we so few of those anymore.

Look at the scam that is ethanol. It’s a wasteful blob that will never go away, even after decades of general acceptance that it’s neither cheap or green.

No, greenwashing will become an multi-billion dollar a year waste that will be self-sustaining because it will create it’s own political and edonomic ecosystem to support, and not because it does anything socially or economically beneficial to society as a whole.

DMacKenzie
Reply to  John the Econ
November 10, 2021 8:32 am

Ethanol is the closest we have to a substitute for gasoline should there be a gasoline shortage. Germany in WW2, South Africa during apartheid embargo, and more recently Brazil, relied on ethanol in order to significantly reduce their dependency on imported oil. That is why limited ethanol production will continue to have government support. Bad stuff happens if you can’t run at a basic survivability level in times of real crisis (bombs and rifles, not the climate type). That is why all countries support their farm based industries even though food imports are likely less costly….security of supply….

John the Econ
Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 10, 2021 9:12 am

Picture an America in some parallel universe: The oil industry announces that it is mixing 10% or more of Ethanol into the gasoline supply. Immediately, America’s already most hated industry is attacked from all quarters for attempting to literally water down American’s fuel to rip off consumers. Ralph Nader would be filing class action lawsuits on behalf of all consumers for the losses related to reduced fuel economy and damage to internal combustion engines, and Al Gore would go on a rampage about the increased net carbon footprint and other environmental damage because of the resource intensive nature of producing Ethanol. There’d be food riots in the 3rd world, because of the diversion of food crops to produce Ethanol, and vast amounts of rain forest would be cut down for crop land needed to make up the difference.

Oh wait. The last part actually has happened in our universe too.

At least the America in that universe retains some degree of sanity. Ours clearly does not. Ethanol is a complete scam. The government bought into it after the phony energy crisis of the ’70s believing that it could replace oil from the Middle East. Agribusiness bought into it for obvious reasons. The environmental movement bought in because they thought it would be a low-carbon alternative, even though it literally takes a gallon of oil-based products (gasoline, diesel, and fertilizer) to produce a gallon of Ethanol, which actually has lower heat content than the fuel it’s replacing. Getting lower mileage these days? That’s probably why. Never mind the damage that may be happening to your engines.

Ethanol subsidies are a perfect example of the destructive feedback loops that are created when the government starts subsidizing. Producers receiving the subsidy get comfortable, then dependent on the subsidy. A percentage of the subsidy is then fed back to the politicians to keep the subsidy in place or to expand it. The last thing any of these people want is for the subsidy to ever end. Meanwhile, alternatives that are more viable and would not require subsidies never get a chance because they can’t compete with the subsidized product, so they never happen.

Even Al Gore himself now admits that supporting Ethanol was a mistake, and that he did so only because he had to buy much needed votes from the farm states.

I have every expectation that in 100 years when all transport is fueled by something other than carbon-based energy, that we’ll still be subsidizing Ethanol, just like the city of Detroit still subsidizes a horseshoe changer.

DMacKenzie
Reply to  John the Econ
November 10, 2021 9:25 am

Nah…its illegal to have a horse stable in your back yard in most cities….times change. And I’m talking about a fuel supply crisis when a few nukes have exploded over the Pacific fleet and California, not some announcement of 10% ethanol blending by oil companies, despite it possibly having the reaction you mention….

John the Econ
Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 10, 2021 9:33 am

Then we’re screwed, as it takes at least a gallon of fossil fuels to create each gallon of ethanol.

Pflashgordon
Reply to  John the Econ
November 10, 2021 12:16 pm

Correct. If ethanol was used to produce ethanol, you’d have to grow 11 acres of corn to net one acre’s worth of ethanol to market, and that is being generous. Soy is more efficient at producing biodiesel, but making a perceptible (not significant) dent in the fuel supply would require every acre of arable land on the planet. Good luck finding anything to eat or wear. And bye bye to habitats, national parks, forests, and surface water quality. Biofuels in any form (except insignificant amounts produced from waste) are a nonstarter for a developed country.

DD More
Reply to  John the Econ
November 10, 2021 3:19 pm

John – “because of the diversion of food crops to produce Ethanol”.
Ever driven past an ethanol plant? Your Diversion last only a couple of weeks, as soon as the sugars are cooked out of the corn, it is dried and sold off to the cattle feeders. There are no piles of processed corn around any of them.

“even though it literally takes a gallon of oil-based products (gasoline, diesel, and fertilizer) to produce a gallon of Ethanol”

Still getting your data from 2001? School for Environment & Sustainability
University of Michigan 2021 Fact Sheet.

Fossil Energy Ratio (FER) is the ratio of energy output to nonrenewable energy inputs. Gasoline has a value of 0.8 (1.2 BTU of fossil fuel needed to supply 1 BTU of gas at the pump). Recent estimates have produced a FER of about 1.5 for ethanol, though areas with highly efficient corn agriculture, such as Iowa and Minnesota, have FERs close to 4.

Don’t let the facts hit you where the sun don’t shine.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  DD More
November 11, 2021 8:21 am

Does the University of Michigan 2021 Fact Sheet explain how the two estimates are made?

Seems odd.

How do the oil companies stay in business at a ratio of 0.8 to 1.2 and why does ethanol need massive subsidy and legal preference if the ratio is 1.5 or “close to 4”.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 10, 2021 5:09 pm

No, Germany used the Bergius process to make its liquid fuels from native lignite coal. Their aviation gasoline was better than our petroleum-derived av-gas, and their array of synthetic lubricants are still used today (my new Toyota 4Runner has a crankcase full of synthetic oil). We have higher quality coal than they did (and do), and have demonstrated the ability to make synthetic fuels at a cost almost competitive with 1940s petroleum.

I wasn’t aware of the Solvent Donor Process until tonight, but I will bet that we use something like it when – in the distant future – our petroleum reserves dwindle.

Travis
Reply to  John the Econ
November 10, 2021 4:47 pm

already is a multibillion dollar waste

Philo
Reply to  John the Econ
November 11, 2021 1:14 pm

OK, it is a done deal to make ethanol as a by product of fermenting corn. It will work in smaller fractions in most modern vehicles and it is perfectly possible to build vehicles that will run a mix of methanol and ethanol(it would be really hard to get people to ignore it for ‘ other uses”.

The problem is that the cost of production is greater than it can readily be sold for, and it produces more carbon dioxide than simply burning the dried corn.

Shanghai Dan
November 10, 2021 7:22 am

I’m more interested in turning kelp into oil. But then, I’m considering that as my petroleum source when I move to my desert island and live out the rest of my days…

Olen
November 10, 2021 7:38 am

Then we will have peak algae.

bonbon
November 10, 2021 8:01 am

Wait a minute – Genetically Modified bio-fuel? Anti-GM lobbies are exactly the same climate activists. They already tolerate GM maize bio-fuel, and want us to eat synthetic meat, vegan burgers, so that’s ok.

In this case Exxon Knew – they are hauling in green credits, have unlimited access to FED zero-interest liquidity, can buy back stocks – what a Tea Party!

One only wonders what happened to Trump’s Sec. of State ex-Exxon CEO Tillerson.

ResourceGuy
November 10, 2021 8:07 am

Brand it as Jimmy Carter Oil.

The Dark Lord
November 10, 2021 8:10 am

Exxon should just have a big factory somewhere that they claim makes this “green oil” … and never let anyone inside … then build a small pipeline to an oil terminal a mile away … pump in the real oil, put it in a Green barrel and voila “Green Oil” …

fretslider
November 10, 2021 8:11 am

Isn’t this all dancing on the head of a pin?

As I understand it the aim is a biofuel; a substance that can be turned into crude oil. It’s still oil, and very expensive oil at that. The consequence of using such a product would be to make costs zoom through the roof and probably price people out of using it altogether. Which is probably closer to the real goal, as it were.

It’s like arguing Drax is carbon neutral – which until recently it was – officially.

In post-modern chemistry is a benzene ring still a benzene ring?

Philo
Reply to  fretslider
November 11, 2021 1:22 pm

No, it’s a hula hoop- round so it makes a nice round benzene ring for smoother burning!

John in Cheshire
November 10, 2021 8:20 am

Not only should the oil and gas companies tell the eco-loons and their willing accomplices in the civil service and in government, to get stuffed, the coal industry and the electricity generation industry should also tell them where to stick their sustainable development and zero carbon nonsense.
The biggest lie is telling everyone that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

dgp
November 10, 2021 8:55 am

It still relies on the Sun, so it’s solar and has all the same drawbacks as solar. I’m also a little concerned about genetically modified algae. It’s the base of the food chain, and you don’t mess with the base.

David Dibbell
November 10, 2021 8:55 am

I graduated from college in 1978 and joined Exxon at Baytown TX. I greatly enjoyed working there until late 1980. Jimmy Carter, the 1979 oil crisis, long lines at the gas station, and the Donor Solvent process to convert coal to liquids (look up Exxon Donor Solvent Process.) I wasn’t involved in that pilot plant, but I knew about it. So sure, eventually we may have to find alternate carbon sources when it becomes prohibitively expensive to find and extract the next barrel of crude. Start with coal. But I can’t see how a future without liquid hydrocarbon fuels makes sense. Algae? Maybe, but good luck with that. Synthesis of liquid fuel from natural gas? Good one. Eventual direct synthesis from atmospheric CO2 and water with inputs of power from nuclear fission or fusion? Maybe. We’ll see.

But the big breakthrough we need remains simple: We must get beyond this unsound attribution of harmful warming to emissions of CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels. After that, chemistry and scaled-up processing make a lot of things possible.

Tom Gelsthorpe
November 10, 2021 8:58 am

It’s possible that pond scum is the Fuel of the Future, but it seems unlikely.

Joel O'Bryan(@joelobryan)
Reply to  Tom Gelsthorpe
November 10, 2021 9:32 am

pond scum is already running the US Congress.

Joel O'Bryan(@joelobryan)
November 10, 2021 9:22 am

One way to pump-up the algae biofuel productivity would be to use electric-powered grow lamps so the algae could photosynthesize 24/7.

The algal grow lights could be powered by huge solar PV farms and large office size stacks of batteries to make it “green.” They could easily get 30 grams/m^2/day of oil doing that.

Just imagine the efficiencies of growing bio-oil 24 hours a day with LED lights!!! It would be like making free energy, perpetual motion machine!!

WR2
November 10, 2021 9:43 am

This biofuel still produces CO2 when it’s burned, so I fail to see how this solves anything for anyone, except for peak oilists. It’s not a very good fuel source (maybe more energy input than output), and probably not a very good carbon sink either with all those energy inputs required. Seems like good ole fashioned petroleum plus carbon sequestration could achieve the same energy and co2 outcomes for much less $.

Joseph Zorzin
November 10, 2021 9:50 am

“Biofuels and biomass are energy technologies that are uneconomic and a mirage for the environmental gains that are desired by Left environmentalists.”

Woody biomass, is NOT desired by left enviros. When are you all going to BELIEVE ME? They hate it. They may like agricultural based biomass but not biomass from the forests. Whether you believe me or not- FORESTRY PEOPLE are NOT leftists. They are rural folks who drive trucks and big logging machines which use diesel. They’re probably more conservative than the regulars here.

And, woody biomass never claims to have environmental gains, other than BETTER FOREST MGT. Do you think I’m hallucination over this? I’ve been a forester for 50 years.

Yes, it gets some subsidies but trivial amounts compared to the billions going to wind and solar. And there are intangible benefits- like, with better forestry, many forest owners will continue to keep their land in forest, rather than sell out to wind and solar companies or to urban sprawl.

And, we all like wood products, right? Anyone here hate wood products? And, I know some of you think forests are clear cut for biomass- that’s nuts, nobody does that. They may clear cut, but clear cutting is a perfectly normal forest mgt. practice, in some areas, for specific reasons. But most of the wood goes into timber for construction, furniture and even pulp before what’s left, the dregs, goes to chipping for Drax and other power plants, what few are still allowed by GREEN lunatics who adore wind and solar.

If you care to see GREAT forestry, with biomass as a component of it, look at the photos of another forester here in MA, on his Facebook photo album: https://www.facebook.com/pg/MikeLeonardConsultingForester/photos/?tab=albums

Furthermore, great forestry has many other benefits to the owner and society- well managed forests protect watersheds, provide wildlife habitat, produce valuable timber which means jobs in mills, cleaner air, etc. A professor of forestry at U. Mass. said the multiplier effect on the value of stumpage (the value of the standing tree to a logging firm) is about 50 to 1. So, that trivial subsidy for biomass is a great investment. Oh, and did I mention that well managed forests will sequester more carbon than mismanaged/abused forests? Not that I care since I don’t believe the climate lunacy.

Woody biomass does not belong in the realm of wind and solar. It’s an ally of the people here. Forestry people love and use a great deal of fossil fuels and they are very, very conservative. Wake up to this reality. Sure, I know, the Brits here would rather that Drax burns local coal. Fine by me but if your government won’t allow that- then don’t cry like Saint Greta when Drax uses woody chips from the American southeast, and stop crying like babies over the trivial cost to move that wood across the Atlantic. It can’t be that expensive or Drax wouldn’t buy the chips.

So, Robert Bradley doesn’t know what he’s talking about- regarding woody biomass.

If you want to really know what leftist enviros think about woody biomass, read the web site of the queen of forestry/biomass haters, Mary Booth: https://www.pfpi.net/. She and her cronies have succeeded in killing off a number biomass facilities in New England and elsewhere. When Dartmouth College wanted to build a 200 MW biomass plant for the campus and nearby community, using LOCAL wood- the leftist, climate alarmist lunatics managed to stop it.

Pflashgordon
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 10, 2021 12:26 pm

Joseph, you have to get out of the forest sometime, and run some scale-up calculations. Nobody says waste to energy is wrong, just grossly inadequate to power society. Biomass in any form is limited by BTU yields/acre/year. As said elsewhere here today, it is driven by the sun, and there is not enough yield to provide more than a tiny fraction of our energy demands, and that at great ecological cost if pursued at industrial scale. The author of this article DOES know of what he speaks.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 10, 2021 3:31 pm

My major resources employer company had a subsidiary forestry and paper company, large by world standards. I used to sit in on their monthly management meetings, so received good insight. These people were high class operators who thought hard about the best use of diverse parts of a forest. We were able to say each year that our forests were in better state than before and that we had created more trees and more land under well managed forests than before, well managed included matters like bushfire control.
This was before carbon dioxide entered the picture, with the pseudo-scientific claims of control knobs and existential crises used by ignorant onlookers to cause regulators to make ever more restrictive policies, The industry got screwed around trying to appease these noisy minority voters.
There is no problem with the managed use of forestry byproducts for electricity generation. Burn it and you get CO2. Let it rot where it falls and you get CO2. The big mistake is to let the CO2 global warming bogeyman get into your decision making and sidetrack it. Drax should burn coal because it sits on coal. Both coal and wood produce CO2 so wood has no advantage that way.
It is the same for oil from algae. If it is wise as a backup to mineral oil if it comes to depletion or resources war, fair enough, but don’t make plans to satisfy CO2 control knob stories. Both algal oil and mineral oil make CO2 on burning, so what?
The real problem, just now, is the gutless conduct of the many scientists who know that climate science is full of errors, some terminal, but refuse to speak up, This means that many management decisions are tainted by false inputs and so are less than optimum. Geoff S

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 11, 2021 4:53 am

Thanks for the plug Joe. I’ve developed Forest Cutting Plans for over 10,000 acres in Massachusetts where I prescribed Biomass Improvement Cuttings. Improving the forests, providing income for landowners, helping to provide many different forest products we all use, helping to sustain real green jobs right up the wood supply chain, and yes providing a source of clean renewable wood energy (firewood, chipwood for a wood pellet manufacturer and for biomass power plants) is what my forestry business does and I’m damn proud of it. We need more markets for low grade timber not less so that we can restore the health and productivity of our forests many of which are in serious decline. Biomass markets are, in effect, forestry facilitators.

Peta of Newark
November 10, 2021 9:55 am

At least someone flagged up the fertiliser requirement. algae are ‘green’ (in colour) and thus require Magnesium:
Also contain DNA = protein. thus requiring Nitrogen and Sulphur at bare minimum
(Attached should be a little something about nutriments that I snaffled off a Futurelearn MOOC)

Obtaining and preparing those things needs energy input..
OK OK they are recyleable but again, that takes more energy..
From where exactly?

I tried to do an energy analysis and I got their (hoped for) 25 grams per day of oil to be about 4% efficient in its use of solar input.
Pretty amazing, I recall that your ‘average plant’ gets about 2%

But bog-standard solar panels get nearly 20% (under a clear blue sky, usually standardised at 1000 Watts per square metre)
Apart from the crap efficiency of the algae, they’ll suffer from the inherent problems with sunshine panels – night-time and clouds
Then once the now ubiquitous Roundup gets into there, there’ll be no effective way to stop it, the entire thing will collapse. Farmers who use Roundup also need to use 50% more fertiliser.

Roundup is now everywhere and a good way of spotting it is to check the ‘per capita Covid fatality rates‘ for any/all given counties/ states and or countries.
it’s that simple and that horrible. Last thing it does is cause cancer

So we see that the Liebig Limiter here is sunlight – pretty well why commercial glasshouses don’t usually put more than 8 or 9 hundred ppm of CO2 in there – despite it’s Well Known fertilising properties.
So all that guff about ‘not competing with farm crops‘ is exactly that: Pure Guffage

To be expected though, the whole <expletive> lot of them are wilfully and gleefully ignorant of Thermodynamics – hence the much-vaunted ‘Hydrogen Economy‘ but not least the GHGE itself

Robert of Texas
November 10, 2021 10:15 am

Drop just one zero from the price and they have something… $35 dollar per barrel oil. This should be added onto the list of things to do right after fusion power is economically working.

Bruce Cobb
November 10, 2021 10:18 am

Let’s see, at 15 mg oil produced per sq. meter (supposedly by the end of 2022), that works out to roughly 475 bbl oil per sq. mile. Be still, my beating heart.

Joe from Perth
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 10, 2021 9:48 pm

World uses 100 million bbls oil per day. So 210,000 sq miles (540,000 sq km for non-Americans) of algae-filled ponds could meet the world’s entire oil demand indefinitely.

I can think of several suitable large deserts in my country (Australia), just add water. And there are many other large areas elsewhere in the world which would be suitable. Can you think of any better usage for California (420,000 sq km) than supplying 80% of the world’s oil?

Noone can predict future advances in sci and tech. What I do know is you need to have imagination, time and resources to make pipe-dreams work. So why not try? History is full of daft ideas that worked … and changed history.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 11, 2021 8:34 am

The units are grams per square meter, not mg. Regardless, it is instructive to think about this algae process at scale.

Thomas Gasloli
November 10, 2021 10:48 am

💦I have never understood how anyone could think that something which is 99% water could be a viable source of fuel.💦

Alex
November 10, 2021 12:28 pm

Well, just increase taxes on the mineral oil and algae become profitable!

Mason
November 10, 2021 1:20 pm

What about Lee Raymond?

Bob
November 10, 2021 2:57 pm

Perhaps they should experiment with growing the algae in a higher CO2 environment.

willem post
November 10, 2021 7:58 pm

EXCERPT from:

BIOFUELS FROM POND ALGAE
https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/biofuels-from-pond-algae

Since 2009, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics have been partners in research and development of oil from algae to produce biofuels to replace traditional transportation fuels.

In 2017, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics announced breakthrough research published in Nature Biotechnology that resulted in a modified algae strain that more than doubled oil content without significantly inhibiting growth, a key challenge along the path to commercial scalability.

In the California desert near the Salton Sea and the tiny town of Calipatria, an acre-size rectangular pond is filled with saltwater and algae. The pond is one of several at the site for the production of biofuel at scale.

“The goal is a sustainable, renewable biofuel that can be cost-competitive with pumping oil out of the ground, but can scale to levels that go far beyond demonstration levels, according to Oliver Fetzer, chief executive officer at Synthetic Genomics. 

In 2017, the partners announced, after nine years of research, they had solved one key challenge for making biofuel from algae. By tweaking a particular gene in a certain species of algae, the algae produced twice as much fat as it would in the wild, but still grow as quickly as usual. That fat can be made into biofuel.

Scientists are continuing development of the basic biology to make algae even more productive. That effort is in parallel with solving engineering challenges to efficiently grow and harvest algae. 

In the ponds, engineers are studying how to best move algae to expose it to the most sunlight and CO2, both of which it needs to grow. At first, the testing will be with natural strains of algae. Later, the testing will be with gene-edited algae. The partners need time to obtain acceptance by regulators and the public.

In seven years, 2025, and continued advancements regarding gene-editing and farming of algae, they estimate production of about 10,000 barrels of biofuels from algae per day. That’s a tiny amount compared to crude production. 

“Ten thousand barrels a day would be world-scale for current biofuels,” says Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “It is an important step, because we will learn about the engineering fundamentals tied with the biology fundamentals. The goal is hundreds of thousands of barrels a day. If we didn’t think this as scalable, reliable, affordable, and sustainable, we would not be working on it. We proceed only with scalable solutions. We are not interested in niche applications or additive applications. The goal is large scale.”

The algae would be grown on arid land that is not capable of growing food crops
The process uses saltwater to avoid burdening the local water supply
At some sites, including the test site near the Salton Sea, the algae farms may be able to use waste CO2. 

Exxon’s continued investments in non-fossil-fuels is happening under a cloud of increasing attention–and major lawsuits–for how much the company knew about the climate damage its product was causing. 

Startup efforts by other companies attempting to make biofuels from algae have failed in the past, in part because they made rosy assumptions about oil prices. 

Whereas a truck running on biofuel still has CO2eq emissions, those combustion emissions can be considered carbon neutral, because the algae absorb almost all of the CO2eq as it grows. 

Upstream CO2eq: The CO2eq of upstream energy, likely from fossil sources for at least the next few decades, has to be counted. That CO2eq could equal at least 40% of the combustion CO2eq. That CO2eq would be from:

– Providing make-up seawater to maintain salinity
– Operating and maintaining the facilities
– Providing large quantities of fertilizer to grow algae 
– Processing the algae oil into B100 
– Transporting the B100 to users 

NOTE: The CO2 of fossil fuels is from carbon that was buried many millions of years ago.  

https://www.fastcompany.com/40539606/exxon-thinks-it-can-create-biofuel-from-algae-at-massive-scale
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/replacing-gasoline-and-diesel-fuel-with-biofuels

michael hart
November 11, 2021 12:46 am

The energy yield is ultimately limited by photosynthetic yield per square meter, and thus sunlight. On land, at least, trees have the advantage that you only need to turn up once every two or three decades to harvest your crop. No day-to-day management of fancy ponds needed, so trees will probably always be the better way of harvesting sunlight by photosynthesis. Plus, you get a forest for things to live in.

Continuous farming of large areas of ocean looks attractive in principle, but the difficulties are obvious and enormous.

Meanwhile, they should just get on with building those nuclear power plants. It is painful to watch people trying anything and everything else first, before finally deciding for themselves that there is only one real solution.

Anders Valland
November 11, 2021 2:40 am

Since some of you are prone to see red very quickly, I am what is known as a climate heretic – coined by WUWT Willis Eschenbach.

Now, if the playing field is changed to the point where fossil fuels are taxed out of the market then fuels from algae makes sense. Why?

Algae grow very quickly. In particular they grow in the ocean, and the suck CO2 while growing. In fact, several projects are looking to algae as a simple and effective CCS technology. Since they can be grown where they do not conflict other interests they are not stained by the usual issues of biofuels – competing with food or harming forests, wildlife etc.

BUT! If you grow algae and make them into fuel, then you can make a well known gas (methane) that is easy to use and for which there exists infrastructure already. You can make them into liquids, either in the form of methanol or in the form of a biodiesel. Both of these can be easily handled in our exiting energy systems.

That it requires a lot of energy to make biofuels is a moot point, since it requires a lot of energy to make any replacement for natures finest product – fossil fuels.

THE IMPORTANT POINT: making biofuel from algae means you do not need to spend the additional energy and resources for a brand new infrastructure for storage, transport and use. You can use what we already have.

The alternatives are not fossil. They are hydrogen and ammonia. Both require huge spendings in infrastructure and resource use. They also require huge amounts of energy, although somewhat less than biofuels from algae.

SO, if you made it this far without seeing red. If a person is convinced that fossils must be abandoned, then we need to move to alternatives. All alternatives are worse than fossil fuels with respect to energy. The good part about biofuels is they let you use what you already have. The good part about algae is they do not devastate forests or use food resources for fuel.

yirgach
Reply to  Anders Valland
November 11, 2021 2:23 pm

The alternatives are not fossil.
They are nuclear. Using what we already have.

jorgekafkazar
November 11, 2021 2:55 pm

What a bunch of felgercarb!

“The companies estimate they can reach 10 g/m²·day by the end of 2021 and are targeting 15 g/m²·day by 2022.”

But can you smoke it? If they’re not, then what are they smoking?

Putting things into peespective, if you took a reactor with an area equivalent to 655 feet wide by 655 feet long, running on sunlight for 10 hours a day, it could generate about 12 cc/second of oil. Most men can urinate faster than that. That’s an awfully big reactor to provide such a teeny, weeny trickle of oil. Sounds like they’re going to piss away millions on this boondoggle.

George
November 11, 2021 3:27 pm

This was an obvious conclusion. The laws of thermodynamics still work even today in our post modern/post science world. It is always about reducing freedom and increasing central control.

ATheoK
November 12, 2021 11:14 am

its subject is not politically correct as are industrial wind power and solar power. (One hopes that this will”

Is there more to this sentence?
Besides, missing a closing parens, the sentence is incomplete.

by Exxon’s calculations, a barrel of algal oil could be worth as much as $350, when factoring in existing low-carbon fuel standards and tax credits that add as much $260 in value to each barrel.”

That is a heavily doctored result.
It is more likely this research team are not accurately reporting actual results, but using aggregated rebate/tax policies to masque their failures.

factoring in existing low-carbon fuel standards and tax credits“, where is this mysterious place where all of these government incentive bonuses come into play?

These “factoring” government inducements are unlikely to play out in normal rural countryside, suburbs and towns.
Making them all fanciful dreams.
Exxon should cashier the management team that swallowed this nonsense.

Steve Z
November 12, 2021 12:39 pm

If the algae can produce 5 grams of oil per square meter per day, assume that the oil has a density of 0.8 g/cm3 (typical for crude oil), so that the oil produced per day has a volume of 6.25 cm3. If this is floating on 1 m2 (10,000 cm2) of water, the oil thickness built up per day is 6.25 cm3 / 10,000 cm2 = .000625 cm. Over a year, the oil film thickness would be 0.000625 * 365 = 0.23 cm, or about 0.09 inch.

The production rate of most oil wells is measured in barrels per day, and most wells can produce hundreds or thousands of barrels per day. One barrel is 42 gallons, or about 159,000 cm3. If a pond full of algae can produce 6.25 cm3 per m2 per day, the area required to produce one barrel (159,000 cm3) per day would be 25,400 m2, or about 6.3 acres, or roughly 5.6 football fields. A pond (lake?) with an area of 1 square mile (2.59 km2) could produce about 102 barrels per day.

In order to produce 15 million barrels per day (typical consumption of the USA), the required area would be about 150,000 square miles, or about the land area of Montana, or about 92% of the area of California.

What is the method for “harvesting” this oil? Trying to skim off a thin film of oil once a year from a much thicker depth of water won’t be easy.

Another problem with this method is leveling enough land so that the water containing the algae does not run off, and sealing the bottom of the algae basins with some impermeable material so that water doesn’t soak into the ground. So imagine six perfectly level football fields paved with concrete and flooded with water, to produce a little over a barrel per day of oil. How much fuel will be consumed by the earth-moving equipment needed to level and pave the land?

Also, most “oils” consist of a mixture of many compounds, with varying numbers of carbon atoms per molecule. The “lighter” compounds, with few carbon atoms per molecule, have lower boiling points and will tend to evaporate easily under sunlight (which the algae need), leaving behind only the “heavier” compounds with more carbon atoms per molecule and higher boiling points. But these “heavier” compounds are more difficult to refine into useful fuels.

Also, algae can only grow in water which does not freeze in winter or at night. What mechanism is used to heat the algae ponds during cold weather? How much water is needed to replace water that evaporates on warm or windy days?

Does Exxon have any answers to these questions?

willem post
November 21, 2021 7:41 am

BIOFUELS FROM POND ALGAE
https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/biofuels-from-pond-algae

Since 2009, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics have been partners in research and development of oil from algae to produce biofuels to replace traditional transportation fuels.

In 2017, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics announced breakthrough research published in Nature Biotechnology that resulted in a modified algae strain that more than doubled oil content without significantly inhibiting growth, a key challenge along the path to commercial scalability.

In the California desert near the Salton Sea and the tiny town of Calipatria, an acre-size rectangular pond is filled with saltwater and algae. The pond is one of several at the site for the production of biofuel at scale.

“The goal is a sustainable, renewable biofuel that can be cost-competitive with pumping oil out of the ground, but can scale to levels that go far beyond demonstration levels, according to Oliver Fetzer, chief executive officer at Synthetic Genomics. 

In 2017, the partners announced, after nine years of research, they had solved one key challenge for making biofuel from algae. By tweaking a particular gene in a certain species of algae, the algae produced twice as much fat as it would in the wild, but still grow as quickly as usual. That fat can be made into biofuel.

Scientists are continuing development of the basic biology to make algae even more productive. That effort is in parallel with solving engineering challenges to efficiently grow and harvest algae. 

In the ponds, engineers are studying how to best move algae to expose it to the most sunlight and CO2, both of which it needs to grow. At first, the testing will be with natural strains of algae. Later, the testing will be with gene-edited algae. The partners need time to obtain acceptance by regulators and the public.

In seven years, 2025, and continued advancements regarding gene-editing and farming of algae, they estimate production of about 10,000 barrels of biofuels from algae per day. That’s a tiny amount compared to crude production. 

“Ten thousand barrels a day would be world-scale for current biofuels,” says Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “It is an important step, because we will learn about the engineering fundamentals tied with the biology fundamentals. The goal is hundreds of thousands of barrels a day. If we didn’t think this as scalable, reliable, affordable, and sustainable, we would not be working on it. We proceed only with scalable solutions. We are not interested in niche applications or additive applications. The goal is large scale.”

The algae would be grown on arid land that is not capable of growing food crops
The process uses saltwater to avoid burdening the local water supply
At some sites, including the test site near the Salton Sea, the algae farms may be able to use waste CO2. 

Exxon’s continued investments in non-fossil-fuels is happening under a cloud of increasing attention–and major lawsuits–for how much the company knew about the climate damage its product was causing. 

Startup efforts by other companies attempting to make biofuels from algae have failed in the past, in part because they made rosy assumptions about oil prices. 

Whereas a truck running on biofuel still has CO2eq emissions, those combustion emissions can be considered carbon neutral, because the algae absorb almost all of the CO2eq as it grows. 

Upstream CO2eq: The CO2eq of upstream energy, likely from fossil sources for at least the next few decades, has to be counted. That CO2eq could equal at least 40% of the combustion CO2eq. That CO2eq would be from:

– Providing make-up seawater to maintain salinity
– Operating and maintaining the facilities
– Providing large quantities of fertilizer to grow algae 
– Processing the algae oil into B100 
– Transporting the B100 to users 

NOTE: The CO2 of fossil fuels is from carbon that was buried many millions of years ago.  

https://www.fastcompany.com/40539606/exxon-thinks-it-can-create-biofuel-from-algae-at-massive-scale
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/replacing-gasoline-and-diesel-fuel-with-biofuels

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