Solazyme, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in creating sustainable oils from microalgae, has been awarded the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in Washington D.C. The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards promote the environmental and economic benefits of developing and using novel green chemistry and recognizes technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacturing and production. Solazyme won the 2014 Greener Synthetic Pathways Award for its microalgal fermentation-based tailored oils. This win represents the first time a company working with microalgae to produce renewable oils has been recognized with the award. Solazyme's Chief Technology Officer, Peter Licari, accepted the 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in Washington, D.C.
Achieving the desired compositions from plant oils is often energy intensive, expensive, can be wasteful, and, in some cases, requires use of hazardous chemicals. Solazyme recognized that the pathways that make oil in canola, soybean, palm, and coconut first evolved in microalgae. Taking advantage of the inherent oil-producing ability of microalgae, the company developed a process to make oils via fermentation. Solazyme's genetically engineered microalgae can produce oils tailored to customers' needs that can mimic or enhance properties of traditional vegetable oils or animal fats. These microalgae-derived oils are consistent regardless of season, geographic origin, and feedstock source.
"With this breakthrough technology, we can decouple the production of oil from geography and reduce the ecosystem damage that unsustainable oils have caused around the world," said Peter Licari. "Our algal oils can replace fossil fuels at one end of the spectrum and unsustainable plant based oils at the other."
Solazyme has screened tens of thousands of microalgae to identify the unique oils they produce with a broad array of chemical and physical properties. In several commercial applications, Solazyme demonstrated that their oils and lubricants reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and waste compared to use of regular vegetable oils.
Oils produced at Solazyme's joint venture facility in Brazil are expected to have a lower carbon and water footprint than many current triglyceride oils and have a far lower environmental impact than the petroleum-based products they replace.
The EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community including industry, trade associations, academic institutions, and other government agencies. Throughout the 19 years of the awards program, EPA has presented awards to 93 winners.