The Wall Street Journal has done a report on algae fuel and it wastes no time getting right to the heart of the business case for algae energy.
The truth is, it is too good to be true -- at least right now. While engineers can grow small batches of algae in beakers in laboratories and convert it into fuel, re-creating that process on an industrial scale has proved elusive and expensive when compared with the price of gasoline. ...According to the WSJ article, the optimistic outlook is two to five years for commercial viability for algae fuel. That does not make algae energy too good to be true in a realistic business sense, in the world of biotechnology and energy development this is actually quite short. Nonetheless, the take away point from the article is that algae fuel is still not yet commercially viable.
"Growing the algae in a controlled way at commercial scale is a big challenge," says Randy Balik, vice president of business development at GreenFire Energy, which is seeking additional funding for its effort to find a way to do just that. "We are, optimistically, two to three years away, maybe four to five, from realistic, large-scale commercialization." ...
Today, the cheapest algae production -- done for the food-supplement industry -- costs $5,000 per ton, says F. Blaine Metting, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility in Richland, Wash. Still, he believes that if the crude oil stays at its current lofty price, algae-based oil could be competitively priced in five years if engineers and scientists can improve algae productivity per acre. "There are fundamental biological questions that need to be answered," he says.