Alien Visitors?

Why all roads in algae R&D may converge in New Mexico—again
By Bryan Sims | December 28, 2010

Roswell, N.M., may be better known for the alleged crash-landing of extraterrestrial spacecraft in 1947, but the town will soon become a new haven for algal research when California-based OriginOil Inc. and Sustainable Resources Inc. jointly deploy an Advanced Algae Center devoted exclusively to algae commercialization. The planned center was once the headquarters for the U.S. DOE’s Aquatic Species Program from 1978 to 1996.

Once deployed by mid-year, the center will provide algae researchers, engineers and producers a uniquely secure and unbiased environment to test their technologies and processes on a wide variety of algae species before commercial deployment, according to Origin Oil CEO Riggs Eckelberry.  “We need to have a place where everyone can experiment without having to give up intellectual property,” Eckelberry says. “All too often, many consortium deals favor the operators who have no IP and the technology companies are left short.”

With its abundant sunshine and low production costs, the location offers an ideal setting for algae growth, according to Eckelberry. “If we can attract people in sort of a magnet site to grow the algae, harvest it and then convert it into fuels, feed and fiber products, then people would have a place to showcase what they have,” he says. “I think it will put Roswell back on the map this way.”  

—Bryan Sims