According to the companies, the new facility moves the project from a laboratory setting to an environment that reflects real-world conditions for algae production. SGI and ExxonMobil researchers are using the facility to test whether large-scale quantities of affordable fuel can be produced from algae.

The greenhouse facility will help the companies examine different growth systems for algae, such as open ponds and closed photobioreactors. The companies will evaluate various algae, including both natural and engineered strains, in these different growth systems under a range of conditions, including varying temperatures, light levels and nutrient concentrations.

The companies will also conduct research into other aspects of the algae fuel production process, including harvesting and bio-oil recovery operations.

Craig Venter, founder and CEO of SGI, said: “The greenhouse is the next important step in our alliance as we comprehensively explore algae as a source of renewable biofuels. The team has already made great strides in evaluating various strains and growth conditions for algae and we are eager to continue and expand this important research as we plan for the next stages of scale up.”