ExxonMobil presses on after other oil giants drop green algae as biofuel

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Some scientists regard ExxonMobil Corp.’s long-running quest to turn algae into a transportation fuel as little more than a PR stunt. ExxonMobil says they are wrong.

Using genetic engineering, the oil giant says it is closer to its goal of fueling jets and heavy trucks with oil distilled from the tiny organisms. With government subsidies and incentives, it says it is on pace to make algae biofuel commercially viable by the end of the decade.

Skeptics abound, according to The Wall Street Journal. Nearly every other major oil company has abandoned algae research after a flurry of investment at the start of the last decade yielded few results. It’s another example of how ExxonMobil appears to be on a divergent path from its peers. 

ExxonMobil claimed a breakthrough in 2017 but has yet to demonstrate results. Until the company profitably produces commercial quantities of the biofuel, scientists familiar with algae research say, doubts will remain.

Vijay Swarup, ExxonMobil vice president for research and development, says he is aware of the perception that the company is using algae research to burnish its green credentials, but the project and its progress are real. 

But what is technically possible in a laboratory doesn’t always translate to the field, leaving doubts among other scientists about whether these efforts could yield enough quantities of oilier algae to produce biofuel at a commercial scale. Read the full story.