UPDATE 3-Exxon says growing its algae biofuels program

Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:25pm GMT

* Greenhouse will test algae strains

* Next step is outdoor testing

* Spending will grow over the next decade (Adds quotes, details from news conference, byline)

By Alyson Zepeda

HOUSTON, July 14 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: Quote) said on Wednesday it opened a greenhouse facility to grow and test algae, the next step for its nascent biofuels program.

Exxon said last year it would invest $600 million over the next five to six years attempting to develop biofuel from algae. If it met research goals, Exxon said it would spend more than originally budgeted in the next decade, $300 million of which would be allocated to its partner Synthetic Genomics Inc.

The project would cost billions to fully develop, Exxon said.

Researchers from Exxon and Synthetic Genomics will use the new facility to test whether large-scale quantities of affordable fuel can be produced from algae.

"It's one step along a pretty long path, but it's an important step," Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at Exxon Mobil, said at a teleconference held at Synthetic Genomics headquarters in La Jolla, California.   Continued...

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