New Mexico town grows algae for biofuels
El Dorado launched its demonstration plant in June 2011.
In the tiny town of Jal in southeastern New Mexico, the sun beats like fire on the desert shrubs.
On a small, razed patch of dirt about a mile outside town, water slowly circulates in four oval-shaped ponds. A bright emerald green sparkles in the water, reflecting thick strains of algae that line the raceways built by El Dorado Biofuels LLC.
The pools contain a hardy variety of algae that thrives under the scorching sun, said President and CEO Paul Laur.
“It gets to 116 degrees out here during the summer, and the algae loves it,” Laur said. “You can almost see it growing with your eyes. It’s going bonkers.”
More important, the Jal-grown algae, which the company calls “Jalgae,” is thriving in dirty, saline water that El Dorado has pumped from a nearby oil-and-gas well.
That makes the operation different from other algae-to-oil projects. El Dorado will sell Jalgae for biofuels, and as a feed supplement for cattle, but will also offer petroleum companies a new, inexpensive way to dispose of industrial water, Laur said.
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