*NEWS: Clean Energy Startup Receiving Attention

Thomas Peters, CEO, UnderSea Energy

A clean energy startup, with HQ in Newport Beach, has received a lot of attention recently, both domestically and abroad.

Thomas Peters, founder of UnderSea Energy, which creates biodiesel fuel from microalgae, has been invited to participate in a climate project sponsored by Al Gore, one of the most passionate voices working to alleviate global warming. Peters was also invited to Seattle by NASA Exports, which is studying how the oceans relate are affected by climate change. And, he just got back from China, where he pitched to investors during a clean energy summit there.

Fighting Climate Change

The Climate Reality Project is hosting a leadership corps training in late August in LA. During the three-day event, Peters – and other participants who were all selected via a competitive process – will learn new details about the global climate crisis, along with ideas to alleviate it from Gore, the former vice president and a Nobel laureate, and others working on this issue.

After the training, Peters will be a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, a global community of activists committed to fighting global warming.

“Climate change is a big deal,” Peters said. “And, seeking out solutions to change (global warming) and influence politics is good for the environment.”

NASA Calls

Peters was invited to fly up to Seattle and meet the team of NASA Exports, a large-scale, NASA-led field campaign, which uses satellite monitoring and state-of-the-art ocean tech, according to its website.

These NASA scientists are working to understand how carbon makes it to the “twilight zone” and deep ocean interior, as well as how long it stays there, which is “vital” to understanding present and future ocean ecosystems and global climate patterns, according to the agency.

It’s not the first time Peters has had synergy with NASA. The agency was reportedly one of the first to research the use of biofuels developed from microalgae as a viable alternative to petroleum-based fuel, he said.

NASA found that algae worked but then faced the typical challenge of making the cost of biofuel competitive with petroleum fuel. NASA’S program was ultimately discontinued, Peters said, but at that time the price of oil was much cheaper than it is now, he noted.

Combating Pollution in China

China imports the majority of its energy, so the country is on the lookout for cheaper energy alternatives domestically, Peters said.

The China International Energy Conservation, Energy Storage and Clean Energy 2018 Expo he attended was in Guangzhou.

He’s been to China multiple times to lay the groundwork for doing business there in the future. He said he considers his technology to be more advanced than anything in China right now.

Foundation

Peters, 36, officially launched UnderSea Energy in 2016.

He goes deep sea diving off the coast of Seal Beach every weekday morning around 3 a.m. to grow and collect the algae himself, with the help of a local fishing crew for nautical transportation.

He worked in operations in the trucking industry while getting an MBA at USC. That made him acutely aware of the enormous expense of fuel. He wanted to cut that cost and contribute to clean air. But he had no science background.

That didn’t stop him.

He developed what he calls an “orcasphere,” which he placed off the Newport Beach coast, to use as a controlled environment to grow algae. His website touts the operation as the “largest biodiesel project in history.”

His company develops biodiesel fuel for the transportation, marine and aviation industries, as well as the military. It’s working with the U.S. Navy and Defense Dept. to develop, test and certify algae-derived fuel that meets their standards.

He said that the process to convert algae to diesel has gotten a lot quicker and easier, while becoming less cost-prohibitive. He uses a warehouse in Commerce for the conversion.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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