Berkeley, Calif.-based Bio Architecture Lab Inc., a company that transforms seaweed into biofuels, will open a pilot plant in Chile to tap growing demand for biofuels in the region and to demonstrate it can scale up rapidly to become a major source of ethanol and essential chemicals in the future.
The company, along with its joint partner DuPont, received $17 million from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project – Energy (ARPA-E) in 2010 to develop their technology. It’s also receiving support from Statoil, the giant Norwegian oil and gas company.
The company’s CEO, Daniel Trunfio Jr., said the new Chilean plant will crush seaweed grown in four ocean farms and ferment the sugary juices into alcohol. It will have annual production capacity of 6,000 liters (1,600 gallons) of a diluted form of ethanol. The company calculated that its system could convert seaweed into ethanol twice as productively as from sugarcane and five times more effectively than corn, which is the current leading source of ethanol in the United States, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
The company is seeking funds to build a second pilot project next year to focus on other essential chemicals, including precursors for nylon and green plastics, says Bloomberg.
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