News and Updates

Algae biofuels appear to offer bright promise in energy mix

Robert Hayes, Hobbs News-Sun. October 14th, 2012.

With the new Eldorado Biofuels facility built down by Jal, I found some interesting information to share. Although the green slime in a swimming pool is surely a nasty sight (particularly if it is in an area with mosquitoes), the algae is actually a plant, or at least many little microscopic algae plants.

Algae can be found in many forms including multicellular forms (common seaweed) and can grow in salt water such as that found in the ocean.

Like trees and other plants, algae are largely composed of cellulose and similar organic matter. This means that after it dies, its remains could either be burned or allowed to biodegrade like any other plant. More commonly in nature, algae are a form of food for other living things higher up the food chain. This is because like other plants, the algae concentrate carbohydrates into their cells which can serve as a source of food and nutrients for other life forms. A good example of saltwater algae serving as a nutritious food source is that of plankton because plankton is a major food source for many whales and other sea creatures.

As a plant, algae need sun, water, carbon dioxide and nutrients (dissolved minerals) to grow. The water can be fresh or salt water depending on the type of algae cells. Like other plants, algae convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into regular oxygen (O2). It is this regular O2 which mammals like us require to breath. They do this through a process called photosynthesis (although some can eat other organisms for energy). In photosynthesis, the carbon from the CO2 is broken down chemically (using energy from the sun) to build carbohydrates (such as sugars and starches). The photosynthesis enables the algae plants to convert the electromagnetic energy of the suns light rays into chemical energy in the form of cellulose, carbohydrates, starches and oil (depending on the type of algae).

There is a special type of algae that stores its energy in the form of oil, these are known as the diatoms. This particular type has cell walls made of pectin and silica and has been known to be rather toxic if ingested (due to the algae diatoms production of domoic acid as another byproduct in addition to oil). In addition to this, the silica in diatoms adds ash to the fuel conversion processes of Eldorado fuels (the Jal facility) so they work to keep them out of the bacteria culture as much as possible

A commercial production plant for algae would attempt to farm the algae like a continual algal bloom where the correct conditions of high CO2 content, water nutrients and sunlight would cause the algae to flourish. In principle, this biodiesel can be directly mixed with common fossil fuels or even find use in some modern engines with some chemical treatment.

The biggest hurdle with automobile engines comes with being able to construct a proper fuel, air, heat mixture in the piston at the time of ignition to insure complete combustion of the fuel at the right time. If you don’t have enough of any of these 3 ingredients, this can cause the mixture not to ignite (or ignite too soon) and so not burn properly or simply to behave differently as the car warms up (if any readers remember what engine knocking was back when leaded fuel was first introduced). Getting the right mix can be pretty important.

Initial estimates say that algae can produce around 40 times more energy per acre than corn and can yield more than 20 percent of their weight in oil. By utilizing land not considered appropriate for farming or other useful purposes, such a farm could use waste emissions from other commercial facilities (in terms of the CO2 emissions and/or brackish waste water) and run these through an algae farm converting it back into breathable oxygen and possibly useful oil. This certainly sounds like an excellent mix into an energy portfolio that our society is earnestly searching for. This because many people see undue risk in being critically dependent on any one fuel source which if compromised could be crippling to our economy and way of life.

What future difficulties lay ahead for algae biofules (if any) remain to be seen as this technology is in its infancy but certainly does appear to offer a bright promise for the kinds of alternative fuel supply’s our nation is searching for.

Robert Hayes of Hobbs is a licensed professional engineer in nuclear engineering in New Mexico, a certified health physicist by the American Board of Health Physics and has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and a masters degree in physics.

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State rules slow down biofuel project

Hobbs News Sun – September 16th, 2012

THE ISSUE: A biofuels project in Jal has run into regulatory problems with the state.

WE SAY: State law needs to be updated to keep up with new technology and techniques.

At a recent N.M. Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Material committee hear- ing in Hobbs, several local companies spoke to the committee about their projects in the southeastern New Mexico.

One company, Eldorado Biofuels, has built a small plant in Jal to test algae. The algae is used to digest byproducts found in produced water from the oilfield. The algae can then be converted into petroleum type products.

The biofuels project means potential jobs for Jal and diversifying the economy of the state. Eldorado’s leadership said they were pleased with their experiences so far.

But during that same hearing state Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, brought out the fact that projects like the biofuels in Jal are not necessarily receiving open arms when it comes to state law and regulations.

During the hearing, it was brought out that the biofuels project ran into roadblocks when applying for state licenses.

It seems state law does not perfectly recognize algae projects, so state regulations had it recognized as an oil well while other regulations said it was closer to a dairy.

Legislators acknowledged the problem, saying it appears state regulations have not kept up with modern technology and techniques.

We are pleased state Legislators took the time to listen and learn about what problems potential businesses may be having in locating in New Mexico. It is one thing to talk about diversifying the economy and being a business friendly state. It is another to actually do it.

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State reps review algae regs

Beth Hahn, Hobbs News-Sun. September 6th, 2012

Paul Laur, president of Eldorado Biofuels, was nothing but polite Wednesday afternoon during a New Mexico Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Materials committee meeting at New Mexico Junior College.

Laur previewed one of Eldorado’s projects, which is currently under construction west of Jal, to the committee.

“We are in a very good situation,” he said of New Mexico. “There is ample sunshine, large surface area and we’re not competing with (food) crops for space.”

Laur was complimentary of the state and told the committee, comprised of state senators and representatives, that New Mexico has an opportunity to be a leader in the biofuels industry.

Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, though, stopped Laur.

“Some people at the state level have been less than receptive,” said Leavell, who represents the area impacted by the project. “At least one person in a state department told (Laur) to take his project to Pecos, Texas. I don’t think that’s the kind of attitude we need coming from our state departments.”

Laur said during the past several months, Eldorado Biofuels ran into several roadblocks at the state level while applying for licenses for the Jal algae project.

For example, under one set of state regulations, the algae project is classified as an oil well, Laur said.

Under another set of regulations, the algae project is considered a dairy.

Eldorado is planning to use produced water — that is, water injected underground to bring oil and gas products to the surface — to grow algae.

Laur said the algae can digest many of the byproducts in produced water. The algae can then be converted into petroleum-type products ranging from plastics and cosmetics jet fuel.

“Anything that can be made from petroleum can be made from algae,” Laur told the committee.

Eldorado chose to build one algae project near Jal because of the availability of produced water.

Rep. Jim Hall, R-Los Alamos, said he would like to see state regulations changed to be more friendly to algae projects.

“It appears our state policy could be behind the development of new technologies,” he said.

Laur said the U.S. Navy is looking for ways to reduce the amount of petroleum it uses.

“You can power large vessels with nuclear (energy), you can power cities with solar and wind,” he said. “But it’s awfully hard to fly a jet with those technologies.”

Laur said the time is right for New Mexico to become a leader in biofuel production.

Eventually, biofuels made in New Mexico could power U.S. Navy fleets, he said.

Rep. Don Bratton, R-Hobbs, said he is pleased with Eldorado’s plan to use oilfield wastewater.

“There’s a lot of produced water in this state,” he said. “If we can put it to use, it would be a great value.”

The committee made no decisions regarding Eldorado during Wednesday’s hearing.

Beth Hahn can be reached at or by calling 391-5436.

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Algae-based fuels may soon gush from the desert

New Mexico Business Weekly, by Kevin Robinson-Avila, NMBW Senior Reporter

Date: Friday, January 13, 2012, 2:52pm MST

Algae ponds are starting to color New Mexico’s desert landscape green.

Sapphire Energy Inc., which uses a proprietary process to turn algae oil into renewable gasoline to replace fossil fuels at the pump, broke ground last June on a 300-acre commercial demonstration facility in Columbus.

In Hobbs, in the heart of southeast New Mexico’s oil patch, Massachusetts-based Joule Unlimited Inc. broke ground this fall on a five-acre site that will use concentrating-solar biorefineries to extract ethanol and diesel from bacteria in salt-water mixed with carbon dioxide.

For more on that project, see “Joule extracts fuels from bacteria.”

But while those two projects are under construction, a third company is already growing algae to produce oil and other products at a one-acre site in Jal, in Lea County.

Eldorado Biofuels LLC constructed four ponds, or raceways, where it grows algae with produced water from oil and gas production on land owned by Gregg Fulfer of the Fulfer Oil and Cattle Co. in Jal, said Eldorado President and CEO Paul Laur. Eldorado has developed a proprietary process to treat produced water for use in algae cultivation.

“We’ve been growing algae since June and harvesting it since July,” Laur said. “We’ve been stockpiling it to build up inventory and send samples to prospective companies who want to test their own technology to extract oil, and to refineries to turn it into fuels. We’re on track now to scale up and make some headway with sales and marketing.”

The company will add four more raceway ponds this month, building the project out to 1.5 acres.

“We’ll start selling product in the next week or so,” Laur told the Business Weekly on Jan. 6.

Eldorado will sell three products: algae paste for use by other companies to extract oil, as well as oil that Eldorado extracts itself and sends to refineries, and protein-rich, lipid-extracted algae as livestock feed.

In the future, the company will bill oil-and-gas firms to take produced water off their hands. That helps resolve the need for massive amounts of water to grow algae in the desert, while offsetting operational costs to lower the final price for fuels developed by Eldorado.

The company, which previously received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, received another $100,000 grant from the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program in September to work with people in the oil and cattle industries to explore setting up more algae facilities on their lands, Laur said.

Unlike Eldorado, Sapphire doesn’t use produced water for algae-to-gasoline operation. Rather, it has tapped underground brine aquifers that would be difficult to use in other crops, said Sapphire Vice President for Corporate Affairs Tim Zenk.

“This is not arable land,” Zenk said. “It’s a saline aquifer below land that hasn’t been able to be farmed for about 40 years because of the high salt content in the water. That’s the kind of land we want to produce on to not offset food farming when we move into large-scale production.”

Link to original article

“What they have said, I will do”

Meet Paul, our boots-on-the-ground, arms-in-the-pond CEO, who does not have time to write blogs or self-promote because he is busy growing algae in southern New Mexico. Eldorado Biofuels has succeeded in cultivating algae in produced water and in cleansing the water of toxins – a success that will have loud repercussions in the coming years, even though characteristically Paul is quiet and soft-spoken about it. Other firms have spent a fortune in PR and promises, but Paul has patiently focused on the product, which he is happy to show. He has just spent two weeks in the scorching sun constructing an acre of new tanks as part of Eldorado’s expanding capacity to produce algae, which loves the sun and so that is where you will find him. He reminds me of this classic little story:

“The Athenians were to choose between two architects to build a big structure. The first, more affected, came forward with a fine prepared speech on the subject of this job, and was winning the judgment of the people in his favor. But the other, in three words: “Athenian lords, what this man has said, I will do.”


Press Release

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

NMSBA awards Eldorado $100,000 grant

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program has approved Read more…

Business Weekly reports:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eldorado taps produced water for algae biofuel

Paul Laur, president and CEO of Eldorado Biofuels LLC, sees bright green in the toxic waste water that plagues the oil and gas industry. Algae green, that is. Eldorado is launching a pilot project  Read more…

LANL News Center:

April 4, 2011

LANL, Sandia celebrate 10 years of success at New Mexico Small Business Assistance fest

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program is celebrating “10 Years of Innovation” . One local business that benefited is Eldorado Biofuels. Read more…

Biodiesel Magazine reports:

December 20, 2010

The National Alliance for Biofuels and Bioproducts has successfully produced ASTM-quality biodiesel from oil extracted from algae.

The NAABB, made up of scientists and engineers from universities, private industry and national laboratories, received $44 million from the U.S. DOE to develop a commercial process for algal biofuel. Read more…

NAABB Consortium Announces:

November 17, 2010

Successful Conversion of Algal Oil to High Quality Biodiesel

Method employs cost saving catalyst and produces useful byproducts Read more…