Using Algae to Replace Fossil Fuels
Manta Biofuel is using algae to make a cost-competitive, renewable replacement for fossil fuels.
The company has raised $3 million from notable investors including the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Maryland. It’s also secured $1 million worth of Letters of Intent from two universities, and created a pipeline of more than 50 additional potential customers.
With its alternative energy source, Manta Biofuel is targeting a $2 trillion market opportunity. It’s also positioning itself to save the world. Here’s how:
Climate change is causing significant damage to the environment. The U.S. alone consumes nearly 1 billion gallons of fossil fuels every day, and emits 300 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
Despite the impressive adoption of electric vehicles, as well as solar and wind technologies, the world is still highly dependent on fossil fuels. Over 80% of energy comes from these fuels. And no electric solutions currently exist for things like long-distance air travel, shipping, or heavy machinery usage.
The bottom line: our dependence on fossil fuels could have catastrophic effects on the Earth, unless those fuels are replaced with a sustainable, economically viable alternative.
Manta Biofuel has created this alternative. Its algae-based oil can be used to make renewable replacements for all products that come from fossil fuels. This includes gasoline, jet fuel, asphalt, bunker fuel, and heating oil.
Other companies have tried to produce algae-based biofuel alternatives. But they’ve all failed, mainly because they grow algae in expensive, highly-controlled environments. This approach isn’t economical or scalable.
Manta Biofuel’s approach is radically different. This company is taking inspiration from agriculture — its Founder has more than 15 years of experience in the agriculture industry — to make a system that’s scalable, reliable, and cost-effective.
Its approach enables it to scale production with independent farmers, in essence democratizing clean energy production. Simply put, Manta Biofuel is farming algae, instead of manufacturing it.
Noted a reviewer from the Department of Energy, “[Manta Biofuel’s] team has demonstrated that they are capable of growing, harvesting, and converting algal biomass into an ASTM certified fuel oil. This is a significant achievement seldom realized by much larger, better funded companies working in the industry.”
Over the past six years, Manta Biofuel has developed its patented algae-to-oil production process. And this process includes three steps:
• Grow: First, renewable fuel starts with wild algal polycultures grown in open ponds.
• Harvest: Next, algae is harvested using the company’s proprietary magnetic harvesting machine.
• Convert: Finally, the algae is converted to oil using the company’s hydrothermal liquefaction reactor.
The company has incorporated this process into a full-scale machine that can continuously harvest over 200,000 gallons of algae per day.
Manta Biofuel’s unique technology enables it to sell to a variety of markets. The company is initially targeting customers in the heating oil market, a $10 billion opportunity. These consist of small, local customers with strong sustainability goals — households and businesses that purchase 100 to 100,000 gallons to heating oil at a time.
As production volumes grow, Manta Biofuel will target customers in the following markets:
Marine Fuel and Heavy Industry: This includes shippers and U.S. ports. Customers in this market consume 60 billion gallons of marine oil a year, creating a $270 billion market opportunity.
Crude Oil: Target customers include refineries and large oil companies. U.S. refineries process 800 million gallons of crude oil a day, creating a $1.7 trillion total available market.
With respect to pricing, Manta Biofuel will sell each barrel of its oil for $125. After factoring in $65 for production costs, and $10 for delivery costs, the company estimates earning $50 in gross profit per barrel.
To scale its business, the company will first implement its technology at a pilot facility. This will be to demonstrate its technical viability. From there, it will move to a demonstration facility, to showcase the economic viability of its technology at scale. After that, the technology will be used at a handful of seed sites, and finally to additional sites.
Manta Biofuel made its first sale in 2018 to a Maryland homeowner. Since then, it’s secured two Letters of Intent to sell 240,000 gallons of renewable oil to the University of Maryland and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. This represents a $1 million revenue opportunity.
Since its inception, Manta Biofuel has won more than $2 million in grant funding from the Department of Energy, spread over three investment rounds. Only about 2% of technologies that apply for funding from the DOE receive all three rounds of investment.
The company has been selected to participate in two “clean tech” accelerators: Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator and Harbor Launch. It was also named a finalist in the DOE Clean Energy Challenge.
Notably, extensive testing by Alcor Petrolab, a testing service for fuels and chemicals, has shown Manta Biofuel’s renewable oil to meet all specifications for use as heating oil.
Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in the agriculture industry, including work at his family’s 2,000-acre grain farm.
Prior to starting Manta Biofuel, he was a graduate research assistant at the University of Maryland, where he conducted algal biofuel experiments. Before that, he was a research technician at the University of Washington, and a research assistant at Ohio State University.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Ohio State and a Ph.D. in Algal Biofuels from the University of Maryland.
Zach began his engineering career with Space Power and Propulsion Lab, a technology company, where he focused on creating super-conducting coil to attach to satellites.
From there, he was Head of Structures for Design Build Fly, an engineering company focused on the aviation sector. After that, he was a production engineer with Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor.
More recently, Zach spent three years as a mechanical design engineer with Fluence Automation, an industrial automation company. He joined Manta Biofuel in February 2019.
He studied Engineering at the University of Maryland.
Brian has spent more than 20 years as an engineer.
After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and his Master’s in the same subject from Villanova University, he joined Exxon/Mobil, an oil and gas company. He spent 20 years with Exxon/Mobil before becoming a consulting engineer with Philadelphia Fry-O-Diesel, an energy company designing biodiesel machines.
More recently, Brian was Director of Research & Development for BlackGold Biofuels, an alternative energy company. At the same time, he started his own chemical engineering consulting business.
Before Manta Biofuel, Andrew co-founded 301 Ventures, a venture fund making pre-seed investments in startups affiliated with the University of Maryland.
Prior to that, he was a finance associate with OneWeb, a communications company. He also worked in financial services with Convergent Wealth Advisors.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Maryland.
John joined Manta Biofuel in 2016, immediately after graduating from college. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Goucher College.