Saturday, April 20, 2013

Grist for a re-make of "The Formula"?

From Chevron Defies California On Carbon Emissions that mentioned the possibility of $2.18 per gallon fuel [text: Catchlight roughed out the numbers for a $504 million solvent liquefaction plant producing 92 million gallons a year at a cost of $2.18 a gallon, according to a 2010 internal report that laid out the technical and economic prospects for producing biofuels on a commercial scale. ]:

To try to make algae fuel, Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil said it would spend up to $600 million and hired Synthetic Genomics Inc. in 2009 to identify and modify algal strains that yield high amounts of oils. The oil company promoted the work in ads with a scientist saying, “We’re making a big commitment to finding out just how much algae can help to meet the fuel demands of the world.”

Research hit a snag in 2011 when a strain that made enough oil in a California greenhouse to meet a required milestone in the contract failed to perform in a pond at an ExxonMobil facility in Texas, according to J. Craig Venter, Synthetic Genomics’ chief executive officer and co-founder and one of the first scientists to sequence the human genome.

Long Term

ExxonMobil recast the contract, leading to layoffs of more than half the Synthetic Genomics employees working on biofuels for the oil company, according to former managers and scientists involved in the project. The effort now focuses on long-term research and development rather than commercial production, said Heather Kowalski, a spokeswoman for La Jolla, California-based Synthetic Genomics.

Charles Engelmann, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, declined to discuss details of the partnership or comment on the company’s opposition to the low-carbon rule’s timeline.

The 1980 film "The Formula" had Marlon Brando as the evil oil company exec and George C. Scott as Lt. Barney Caine of the LAPD. The formula was to convert coal into liquid fuel. The 2013 version would convert wood into liquid fuel.

See also Not ready for slime time, including text from Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.


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