As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, ExxonMobil says it is closer to its goal of fueling jet planes and heavy trucks with oil distilled from algae using genetic engineering. Building on recent successes, including the development of a higher-oil algae strain, ExxonMobil and Viridos, formerly Synthetic Genomics, are scaling up their algae research and aiming to have the technical ability to produce 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel by 2025. With government subsidies and incentives, they say they are on pace to make algae biofuel commercially viable by the end of the decade.
Some scientists regard ExxonMobil Corp.’s long-running quest to turn algae into a transportation fuel as little more than a PR stunt. The oil giant says they are wrong. Vijay Swarup, the company’s vice president for research and development, said he is aware of the perception that the company is using algae research to burnish its green credentials. ExxonMobil made overly optimistic promises that have fed that criticism, Mr. Swarup said, but the project and its progress are real.
“There is always this irrational optimism and exuberance in the beginning,” Mr. Swarup said. “You have to have a vision. After that, it’s ‘show the progress.’”
This video shows some of the R&D work being done by the Viridos-ExxonMobil partnership.
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