Oil majors get serious about biofuel

The Indian state oil company IndianOil has become the fifth major oil company to seriously invest in biofuel research and production.
PetroAlgae’s operating subsidiary PA LLC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enter into an agreement to license the company’s proprietary micro-crop technology to Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) for its future large-scale production of renewable fuels.
Together with PA LLC, IndianOil, will pioneer the commercial bio-diesel production from India IndianOil and PA LLC, initially will collaborate on adapting the algal strains and technology developed by PA LLC to suit Indian conditions. Thereafter, a pilot facility is proposed to demonstrate the commercial viability of the technology. A commercial production facility with a capacity of 200,000 TPA of bio-diesel is proposed in the near future, along with a high-value protein that can be used as feedstock for animal feed production as a by-product.
IndianOil has been exploring commercial ventures in all form of alternate energy including, solar, wind and bio-fuels. Significant progress has been made by the corporation in energy crop plantation. Over 850 ha of jatropha plantation has already been completed in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. During the next season, almost 40,000 ha of plantation is proposed to be completed along with commercial marketing of bio-diesel through IndianOil-CREDA Biofuels Limited.
The announcement is the first between an oil major and an algal fuel developer expressly aimed along a commercialisation path. Previous tie-ups have featured early-stage investment and R&D partnership.
The five oil company / algal fuel developer partnerships are:
ExxonMobil – Synthetic Genomics
Shell – Cellana
BP – Martek
Chevron – Solazyme
Indian Oil – PetroAlgae
PetroAlgae expects to be the first renewable energy company to commercialise a system that enables the production of a drop-in replacement for fossil fuels. The company’s globally scalable micro-crop technology is claimed to produce a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels as well as a high quality protein co-product, whilst absorbing carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions. The green fuels produced are functionally compatible with petroleum-based fuels and therefore use the existing industry infrastructure, hence the term ‘drop-in’. Through a modular, flexible design construction, PetroAlgae enables a near-continuous growing and harvesting process of a wide variety of micro-organisms suited to local climates, ensuring maximum growth rates.
Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (Indian Oil) is currently India’s largest company by sales with a turnover of Rs. 285,337 crore and profit of Rs. 2,950 crore for fiscal 2008-09. Indian Oil is also the highest-ranked Indian company in the prestigious Fortune ‘Global 500’ listing, having moved up 19 places to the 116th position in 2008. It is also the 18th largest petroleum company in the world.

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