As nations and companies across the globe strive to discover alternative, sustainable oil substitutes, one form of biofuel source seems to be getting a lot of buzz. This source is algae-based fuel, which is made by harvesting and converting natural micro-algae oil into biodiesel or green diesel or bio jet-fuel. While algae currently costs more per unit mass than crude oil, due to high capital and operating costs, it yields between 10 and 100 times more feedstock per unit area than any other second-generation biofuel crops. Companies across the world are racing to efficiently and cost-effectively make algae fuel production a viable and commercial reality.
One such company is UniVerve, one of several Israeli initiatives in the algae fuel field.
The company has developed a complete process to produce oil from microalgae as feedstock to biofuels, while utilizing the remaining biomass in the feed industry (fishmeal animal feed); the oil is then transferred to biodiesel plants or bio-refineries (that are in desperate need for feedstock), which will turn it into diesel or jet-fuel. Competing with established organizations in the US (where availability of resources and supportive legislation have helped considerably) and Australia, UniVerve has approached the algae fuel challenge in a different way than many of its competitors, basing their process on agricultural concepts such as high yield/low cost, simplicity and scalability. Essentially, the company selected suitable strains, invented and patented a unique growing system and adapted a simple and cost-effective harvesting method, enabling very high yield per m2 with lower costs and energy consumption.
UniVerve’s founders feel that the Israeli culture upon which the company was founded has given it a tremendous advantage. Benefiting from what co-founder and CEO Ohad Zuckerman refers to as the “the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit”, the company’s complex challenges are aided by “Israeli values such as determination, work ethic and teamwork” as well as its advanced biotech and engineering industries.
UniVerve and other Israeli companies like it are instrumental to Israel’s progress in the biofuel race; their technological innovation makes them likely candidates to be in the lead to crack the algae fuel challenge.