The CEHMM algae biofuel project was a research and development project investigating biodiesel production processes and the propagation, harvesting, and extraction of oil from both brine and freshwater algae. The use of algae as a biodiesel feedstock has great potential to make biodiesel a viable replacement for significant quantities of petrodiesel, thereby reducing American dependence on foreign oil, reducing the impact of hazardous materials used in the petroleum industry, and reducing net global CO2 emissions. The project is a green energy project thereby supporting the national agenda of a clean and renewable source of energy.
Since southeastern New Mexico has been identified as an ideal area for algae propagation, discoveries related to processes for harvesting and extraction of oil from algae has the potential to create a strong new industry for the region. This project will not compete with food sources and uses non-arable land and brine water that currently has no potable use. The CEHMM model is one that could be expanded into a commercial enterprise anywhere in the world where there is ample sunlight, warm temperatures, and little topographic relief.
In early 2006, CEHMM started growing marine microalgae in outdoor raceway ponds and undertook applied research on methods of farming, harvesting, and extracting oil from algae. As a result of this work, CEHMM developed a vertically integrated system that was scaled up from lab and pilot scale to the early stages of commercial demonstration-scale production. On April 19, 2010, CEHMM became the first fully integrated biorefinery with the capability to operate at more than 1,000 gallons per day throughput. The idea of full integration means that all facilities from cultivation through extraction are collocated in one centralized location.
During the seven years that the algae program was in full operation, CEHMM set new standards for algal cultivation in the arenas of crop protection, productivity, oil content, extraction, and cultivation. During this time, CEHMM took the initiative to test their algae in the commercial arenas of animal and human nutritional applications with excellent results. CEHMM continues to maintain a small R&D algae project focused on the cultivation, harvesting, and oil extraction of marine algae in support of establishing business opportunities in aquaculture for nutraceutical, medicinal, animal nutrition, fuels, and other commercial applications for algal biomass. However, due to a reduction in funding, the CEHMM algae project was downsized to only sustain existing cultivars and accommodate the maintenance of the facility and supporting infrastructure. This project remains viable for entities wishing to invest in and immediately launch a proven, technologically unrivaled algae project.