One billion gallons of ethanol per year by 2012 are projected from a (near $1 billion) new technology facility being constructed in the Sonora desert area of NW Mexico by Mexico-based BioFields. 1000 gal capacity transparent bioreactors have five inputs: Algae, sunlight, CO2, nutrients and seawater. Outputs are: ethanol, oxygen and freshwater.
The things not needed for the process, developed by Algenol Biofuels of Baltimore, are arable land, harvesting, large amounts of fossil fuel, fossil based fertilizer or lots of fresh water. Algenol estimates the energy balance, i.e., the ratio of energy out vs. energy in will be greater than 8:1 which compares with 1.35:1 for corn ethanol.
Initial production in 2009 is planned for 100 million gal/yr.
Among interesting data developed by Algenol and made available to Automotive Industries by spokesperson Evan Smith, is an ethanol production rate already achieved of 6000 gal/acre/yr. Algenol data reports this compares with 370 gal/acre/yr for corn ethanol and 850 gal/acre/yr for sugarcane ethanol. The 6000 gal/acre/yr production rate is based on test operation of a prototype 1000 gal. bioreactor unit