MOU Gives AIQ Option to License PetroAlgae’s Micro-Crop Technology in Chile


PetroAlgae is a Florida-based renewable energy company that licenses its technology for growing and harvesting “micro-crops” such as algae, diatoms, micro-angiosperms and cyanobacteria for large scale production of biofuels.

Last month PetroAlgae announced a deal with Chile’s Asesorias e Inversiones Quilicura (AIQ).  The memorandum of understanding signed by the parties provides AIQ with an option to purchase a license to build a full micro-crop technology system in Chile to produce green gasoline, diesel and jet fuel (see the Recharge News story here).

According to PetroAlgae’s , its system has a “modular, flexible design construction” that enables “near-continuous” growth and harvesting of a wide variety of micro-crops.  The company uses “proprietary methods of controlling nutrients and light exposure to produce unsurpassed per-acre yields of biomass and protein extracts.” 

The large quantities of biomass produced by the growth and harvesting technology can then be refined into transportation fuels.

PetroAlgae owns at least two international patent applications relating to its micro-crop technology.  International Patent Application No. PCT/US2007/006466 (‘466 Application) is entitled “Systems and Methods for Large-Scale Production and Harvesting of Oil-Rich Algae” and is directed to systems and methods for continuous harvest of microorganisms on a large scale.

Disclosed systems include a central seed fermentation area with numerous final fermentation ponds emanating from the central seed fermentation area and arranged, for example, in a pie shape.  The final ponds can be of various shapes or dimensions to accommodate different ratios of seed to final fermentation, different growth rates of organisms, etc.

According to the ‘466 Application, wedge-shaped ponds are particularly well suited for growing photosynthetic organisms in continuous culture because media can be added near the point of the wedge and subsequently move toward the wide portion of the wedge, which allows greater surface area and sunlight for the multiplying cells.

With numerous pools, “the growth cycle can be offset between each pool such that there can always be at least one pool ready for harvest each day.”

International Patent Application No. PCT/US2007/020211 (‘211 Application), entitled “Tubular Microbial Growth System,” is directed to continuous harvest methods using a bioreactor system for growing microorganisms. 

The ‘211 Application describes numerous tubular growth units, or bioreactor pipes, that can each be seeded from a single “nursery” bioreactor.  The growth cycles can be offset so there is always at least one bioreactor pipe ready for harvest each day.

The bioreactor pipes can be coated to selectively pass and/or reflect specific wavelengths of light to regulate light exposure for the growing bugs.

The PetroAlgae-AIQ agreement is another example of a partnership to effect green technology transfer from developed countries to developing countries and emerging markets, despite claims that patents are a barrier to such transfer.

However, it appears this tech transfer deal so far has not been hindered by PetroAlgae’s IP.  We’ll see if AIQ exercises its licensing option.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.