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Algae fuel maker PetroAlgae files to go public

PetroAlgae looks to raise $200 million for algae-growing equipment, although making fuel from algae cost-effectively has proved elusive.

PetroAlgae's open-air ponds are used for growing algae.
PetroAlgae's open-air ponds are used for growing algae. PetroAlgae

PetroAlgae, which makes systems for growing and harvesting algae for food and fuel, on Wednesday filed documents to raise $200 million through an initial public offering.

The Melbourne, Fla.-based company is already listed on the OTC Bulletin Board and lists no revenue in its S-1 prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Using algae as a feedstock for fuel holds great promise because it can be grown in many different climates and can be used for animal feed as well as fuel. But so far no company has been able to produce it at large scale or cost-effectively. Much of the cost is associated with processing algae by removing the water and extracting oil.

Rather than make fuel or food products, such as animal feed or protein supplements, PetroAlgae's strategy is to license its equipment to other companies. The company has developed modular open-air ponds to grow algae. Conditions in these bioreactors are monitored for light and algae density and are managed by the company's software, according to the prospectus.

The company lists a number of risks in its S-1. Among them are that it has not yet scaled up its technology and it may not be able to secure paying customers. Proceeds from the public offering of common stock will go to repay debt.