Friday, July 15, 2011
It seems promising. Two other companies are doing much the same bio-engineering to get alcohol production directly from cyanobacteria: http://www.environmentteam.com/2010/01/08/modified-cyanobacteria-converts-co2-in-to-liquid-fuel/ , and http://www.blueridgesustainability.org/GM%20presentations/Bruce%20Dannenberg.swf (which also presents a slide describing at a high level a means of reproduction control so CB escaping into the wild don't, umm, run wild).
Doing some back of the envelope calculations on Joule Unlimited's numbers, it would take a total area (not necessarily all one square of dirt) roughly 81 miles on a side (roughly 6500 sq mi) to produce 100% of the US' 2005 gasoline consumption. This ignores expansion for things like access to usefully small sections for maintenance. For comparison, Chicago is roughly 225 sq mi, and your beloved Boston is a shade under 50 sq mi.
JU seems a serious startup: last May they concluded a deal to lease 1200 (options to expand to 5,000) acres in Lea County, NM for an initial (one might say IOT&E) plant. http://www.jouleunlimited.com/news/2011/joule-secures-first-multiple-sites-host-solar-fuel-production
Or maybe like you, I'm just a sucker for such hopes.
I am skeptical.
Things that sound too good to be true usually are.
The article is vague and reads more like a promotion to invest in the company.
If they have a whole stable of bugs that really work, why are they not producing fuel commercially?
Still, it is a worthwhile post and I hope I am wrong.
I have thought for a long time that some gene-tech company could get wildly rich by developing a bacteria that would eat sewage and shit oil. This seems to be something of the same sort of thing. Hope it works out.
Sounds pretty capital intensive, to say nothing of the land area, water
and feed stock requirements. These
thinks will require relatively
warm conditions, lots of sunlight and ?non-atmospheric CO2. Wonder about problems of contamination with wild cyanobacteria with yield reductions. Back of the envelope suggests 1k-5K square miles of water tanks to make
a big dent in the US demand and
13K + square miles to replace. Great Salt Lake is 1K to 3K square
miles. Now if they could use salt
"The Joule technology requires no “feedstock,” no corn, no wood, no garbage, no algae. Aside from hungry, gene-altered micro-organisms, it requires only carbon dioxide and sunshine to manufacture crude. And water: whether fresh, brackish or salt." Did you guys actually read the article?