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Algae fuel hits retail pumps (for a test run)

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Diesel car owners in Northern California will be able to give algae-based fuel a try through a month-long pilot program offered by Propel Fuels and Solazyme.

The two companies said they believe this is the first time ever drivers have been able to fuel up on algae fuel at retail pumps. The pilot program aims to test consumer response to the renewable fuel, which will be sold at Propel's Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose, Berkeley and Oakland, Calif.

Solazyme's algae-based fuel was tested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which found that in a 20 percent blend the so-called SoladieselBD outperformed ultra-low sulfur deisel in total hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter tailpipe emissions. This includes about a 30 percent reduction in particulates, a 20 percent reduction in carbon monoxide and about a 10 percent reduction in total hydrocarbons.

Solazyme's algae fuel is compatible with existing diesel engines and Propel is guaranteeing the fuel's performance. The fuel also will be sold at the same prices as conventional diesel fuels.

Despite these assertions, Propel Fuels and Solazyme will have to find ways to convince drivers to put a fuel derived from algae into their cars.

Photo: Propel Fuels/Solazyme

— By on November 14, 2012, 2:49 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure