ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Open Greenhouse for Algae Biofuels Development

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with agriculture if this is going to be successful,” he said.

Another detail that stood out: Both Venter and Emil Jacobs, ExxonMobil’s vice president of research and development, emphasized the safety and containment characteristics of the greenhouse unveiled today. Venter acknowledges that Synthetic Genomics plans to grow some genetically engineered strains of algae in the greenhouse.

Emil Jacobs (left) and J. Craig Venter

Emil Jacobs (left) and J. Craig Venter

During his talk, Venter told San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who was in the audience, “Nothing will go into the drains, Mr. Mayor. San Diego is safe.” A few minutes later, Jacobs raised the subject again, saying he wanted to re-emphasize the safety and containment issue. “This is an important priority for us,” Jacobs said. “We’ve got well-established procedures, and everyone on the team understands that this is important and we will follow the procedures.”

Both men also emphasized the time and capital still required to develop algae-based biofuels. “We plan to spend $600 million on this program over the next decade,” Jacobs said, “and it will require billions more to put this into commercial-scale production.”

Algae normally produce “storage oils” that essentially consist of … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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