San Francisco Bay Area motorists will be the first in the nation to get to try out fuel made with B20, an algae-based biofuel, as part of a month-long test.
Algae-based biofuel in test program
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the fuel — which doesn’t use food crops as its basis — went on sale Tuesday, November 13, at stations in Berkeley, Oakland, Redwood City and San Jose. It has previously been used in trials by the military and by industrial companies.
A cleaner solution
The fuel will run any diesel vehicle. It’s commercial name is Soladiesel, and it is made by the South San Francisco-based company Solazyme Inc. It is being sold at Propel Fuels stations.
Propel Fuels specializes in “low carbon fuels and clean mobility solutions.” Its CEO, Matt Horton, said:
“Propel is committed to providing our customers with access to the highest quality, most sustainable, domestically produced fuels, so we’re proud to introduce the next generation of fuels to the retail market. Propel’s growing station network provides the critical link between these future fuels and today’s consumer fuel tanks, giving our customers a chance to make history.”
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Soladiesel is made by feeding sugars to certain algae. The algae converts the sugars to oils that can be collected cleanly and efficiently. The carbon in the fuel is carbon that is already in the ecosystem. Therefore, it is of far less concern for impacting climate change than are fossil fuels, which release carbons that had been locked away for a million or more years. Meanwhile, B20 could help the nation become less dependent on foreign oil.
Soladiesel is composed of 80 petroleum and 20 percent algae-derived biodiesel. Although diesel vehicles could run on 100 percent algae-based B20, it would raise the price of the fuel, said Horton. Also, many automakers say they would oppose a mix higher than 20/80 percent. In time, says Horton, the percentage of B20 in the mix can be raised as supply and demand increases.
Priced comparably to fossil fuel
The fuel is selling for about $4.25 a gallon, which is about the same as motorists in the area pay for a gallon of traditional, petroleum-based diesel.
Bob Ames, Solazyme’s vice president in charge of fuels and commercialization, said:
“We’re talking about fuels that are offered at standard diesel pricing.”
‘A stake in the ground’
The players in the effort say the pilot program is a starting place for increasing the use of so-called “clean fuels” in the marketplace.
“We are putting a stake in the ground. We hope to build hundreds of stations like this in California.”