Processing Magazine

Exxon Mobil to spend $600 million on algae fuel program

July 15, 2009
According to, Exxon Mobil plans to spend up to $600 million on a program to make biofuel from algae. The Irving, Texas, company will work with Synthetic Genomics Inc. of La Jolla, Calif., on research and development of the project. Synthetic Genomics stands to receive up to $300 million in the deal, if things work out well. Exxon’s move follows those of rivals like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Sunoco and Valero, who have all made moves into the biofuel area, either by backing research programs, investing in small energy businesses or buying them outright. Started in 2005, Synthetic Genomics will use photosynthetic algae for the research, which get their carbon from CO2 either in air or from other sources. Algae are naturally attractive for biofuel production because they use an abundant, free carbon source. Algae can be grown in tanks, but they do need sunlight for photosynthesis, so the tanks can’t be too big, which limits the scalability of an algae project. The algae can be grown in flexible tubes, but that system can’t be increased in size rapidly either.