May 30, 2008
The four-year study will involve scientists at Wageningen conducting fundamental research into algal biology, growth parameter testing, separation and the subsequent upgrading of algae fractions. In addition, a pilot project will begin at AkzoNobel's Delfzijl site in order to scale up the processes. Factors that influence the economics of algae-based chemical building blocks algae will also be investigated.
"With the Earth's natural resources running out it's becoming increasingly important to look for more sustainable alternatives," explains Hans Feenstra, who has been making preparations for the project since last year. "Algae offers the possibility for us to create value from renewable feedstock. It grows at a prodigious rate, can be used to rebate C02 emissions and has the potential to treat waste water streams. There are also no concerns regarding the food versus energy biomass debate."
He adds that the planned Delfzijl demonstration unit is expected to be up and running by September. Consisting of two, 1,000 square meter ponds linked to the site's cogeneration unit, it will be used to test conditions and methods for growing algae (there are more than 80,000 known types) on a larger scale in an industrial environment. "It will be a good opportunity for us to familiarize ourselves with bio-based processes," notes Feenstra.
The concept of creating value by obtaining certain fractions from renewable feedstock has been christened biorefinery. In the case of algae, it has been identified as having the potential to provide a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, proteins and polysaccharides - all of which have important links to the chemical industry. Already creating enthusiasm because of what it can offer to the bio-fuel industry and power producers, algae could also have higher end value as a source of raw materials for coatings.
According to one source there may be as many as 200 companies developing algae as a biofuel feedstock, Sears said. By his own estimate, there may be as many as 35 viable companies working in the field. Despite all the investments and excitement in the industry, commercial production of algae oil is still a dream. “With all those companies chasing this, no one has successfully commercialized algae,” he continued. “No one yet knows how to do this in a way that makes sense in the long term. However, there are some very large companies working on this so I am confident that we will be there.”
A2BE is developing a system that will be marketed to electrical generation facilities and other carbon dioxide emitters as a way to capture greenhouse gas for sequestration or conversion into biofuels. Sears envisions that eventually there will be a national grid similar to the Interstate Highway system where carbon dioxide would be collected and transported to huge algae farms for conversion into algae-based biomass.
There are more than 200,000 known species of algae and scientists say that is a fraction of the total species. They are as different as field mice and zebras, Sears said. Whether the intended result is oil for biofuels or protein for livestock or people, there is a species of algae that can maximize production of the desired product. “We add solar energy and through the miracle of photosynthesis, we get hydrocarbons,” Sears said. “These hydrocarbons can be separated into products for industry such as fertilizer that contains nitrogen that is fixed in the process or methane that can be used to make just about any chemical or plastic.” Other potential products include transportation fuels and industrial oxygen, which Sears said can make any combustion based process much more efficient.
Sears framed the production of algae as an industrial process for converting carbon dioxide into fixed carbon compounds. A2BE’s system will use plastic bags 40 feet wide, 400 feet long and 12 inches thick. Motorized rollers clean the bags and agitate the water to mix the algae to make sure it receives adequate sunlight. “These units will cover about a half acre and will consume about 100 tons of carbon dioxide per year,” Sears said. The enclosed systems avoid the problems associated with open pond production such as contamination, evaporation and temperature control.
Separating the algae from the water can be a technical challenge, Sears said. Rather than try to design a system from the ground up, he is looking to natural algae collectors to do the work for him, such as brine shrimp or small crustaceans known as copepods that are natural algae collectors. After the animals eat the algae, they are easier to filter out of the water than the algae. “The animals and algae synergistically work with each other in a multiorganism community that is sustainable,” he said.
Despite the difficulties, Sears foresees algae production as being a good investment. A2BE’s economic projections show that a ton of carbon will produce products worth more than $200 after being fixed by algae. “People talk about the price of carbon as if it something we have to have hauled away,” Sears said. “Carbon dioxide is not a waste product. It is something you can reprocess into something that has $200 worth of value.” He estimated the system would pay for itself within six to 10 years.
Sears spoke at the Renewable Energy Action Summit in Bismarck, N. D., last week. For more information on A2BE Carbon Capture, visit http://www.algaeatwork.com/.
Airbus is jumping onto the alt fuel bandwagon, working alongside Honeywell, International Aero Engines, UOP and JetBlue Airways to develop technology for turning algae and vegetable oil into fuel. Airbus is betting pond scum and veggies could provide 30 percent of all jet fuel by 2030.With the air industry under increasing pressure to rein in emissions and airlines taking it on the chin from rising fuel prices, the incentive to find an alternative to kerosene has never been higher. Although modern commercial jets are more efficient - and cleaner- than ever, many in the industry agree they've still got a long way to go.
"Over the last 40 years, aviation has reduced fuel burn - and therefore carbon dioxide emissions - by 70 percent, but more needs to be done," says Sebastien Remy, head of alt fuels research at Airbus. "Millions of barrels of kerosene are used each day for aircraft fuel, and worldwide demand is growing."
Airbus and its partners are a little late to the alt fuel party. Boeing and Virgin Atlantic made the first bio fuel-powered flight in February, and Chevron is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to figure out the best way to make fuel from algae. But Airbus and its partners are well-positions to catch up quickly.
Airbus is one of the world's largest commercial jet makers, so its involvement lends credence - and a sense of urgency - to the project. UOP, a gas and chemical processing company, has already developed technology for converting natural gases and oils to military jet fuel under a project bankrolled by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). UOP says the technology could be applied to commercial jets.
International Aero Engines builds the engines used on many of Airbus' planes, and Honeywell is providing its engine technology expertise. JetBlue will test potential fuels in its planes. Beyond the environmental benefits, Airbus and its partners say biofuel makes good business sense because it has the potential to increase aircraft payloads and range, reduce fuel consumption and extend engine life.
There's no denying that any effort to sink time and money into new fuel development is a good thing, but some environmentalists see the recent Virgin biofuel test flight as nothing more than a big publicity stunt designed to make the airline look good. They note that any benefits associated with using biofuels would be offset by just one year's growth in the airline industry. These kinds of announcements give the industry a chance to regurgitate some eco-friendly sound bites like this:
"This has the potential to benefit every world citizen beyond those involved in our business," Russ Chew, president and CEO of JetBlue, said in a statement. "Each of our companies has the social responsibility to work toward developing a cleaner way to do business."
That's a big promise. You guys better get on it.
A San Diego start-up says it is using algae to make oil that can be refined into gasoline and other fuels that are both renewable and carbon-neutral, and it plans to produce 10,000 barrels a day within five years.
That's a fraction of the 20 million or so barrels of petroleum the United States consumes each day, but Sapphire Energy says "green crude" production could ramp up to a level sufficient to ease our dependence on foreign oil, if not end it altogether.
Company CEO Jason Pyle says the algal oil is chemically identical to light sweet crude and compatible with America's $1.5 trillion petroleum infrastructure, making it a direct replacement for oil. Although the algal fuels refined from it emit as much carbon dioxide as conventional fuels, the company says the emissions are offset by the photosynthetic process that uses sunlight, water and C02 to create algal crude.
"At the very worst, it's carbon neutral," Pyle says, calling the fuels a "benchmark for an entire new industry" and "a paradigm change."
Energy experts and air quality regulators say they'll withhold judgment on those claims until they've seen a production-to-combustion analysis of the fuel's emissions. But they say Sapphire could be on to something.
Making fuel from algae is nothing new, and everyone from the smallest start-up to the biggest oil companies is trying to find the best way to do it. But most of the effort has been on replacing diesel fuel or kerosene. Sapphire wants to replace petroleum.
"We designed it to be a completely fungible product with crude oil," Pyle says. He says the company has refined its algal crude into 91-octane gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene chemically identical to conventional fuels. He wouldn't disclose how the process works or what it costs but said it is competitive with deep-water oil drilling and extracting petroleum from tar sands.
Sapphire also avoids the food-for-fuel debate that has plagued crop-based biofuels because it uses algae and works on non-arable land with non-potable water. Pyle wouldn't say where Sapphire plans to build the demonstration plant it will have running later this year, but it reportedly is working in Oklahoma and may locate its facilities in the south and southwest. It hopes to have a full-scale plant up and running within five years, producing 10,000 barrels of green crude a day. The company has lined up more than $50 million in funding from investors like ARCH Venture Partners.
Ramping up to that level of production without killing the algae can be tricky, one expert said, and the environmental impact of green crude remain to be seen. Even if it is carbon neutral, the algal fuels will emit pollutants that contribute to smog and ozone, says Don Anair of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"You're still going to get combustion emissions. You aren't eliminating those with algal fuels," he says, echoing a point the California Air Resources Board made. Still, Anair is cautiously optimistic.
"The fact that there is a lot of interest in finding a better way to fuel our transportation system is encouraging," he says. "This is one avenue to pursue that has very good potential."
May 29, 2008
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced $166,000 government funding for a project to convert sea algae into biodiesel.
The Australian-first project, a joint initiative of James Cook University (JCU) and MBD Biodiesel Ltd, aims to develop a sustainable green alternative to fossil fuels by producing biodiesel for transport and industry.
The project would produce 290 million litres (250,000 tonnes) of biodiesel by 2010.
“Considering the current debate about agricultural land being used to produce biofuels, algae may well be a significant future alternative fuel source as we set about tackling climate change,” Ms Bligh said.
“While most other biodiesels come from agricultural crops like canola, soy and palm oil, algae can be grown with ease in ponds or tanks on poor quality land.”
According to Ms Bligh, the process, now being trialled in Europe and the United States, can also produce algal cake as a by-product for animal feedstock which could help drought-proof Australia's livestock industry.
MBD Biodiesel director Marc Stammbach welcomed the Government’s funding plan, saying it was a significant step towards establishing a biodiesel plant and algae farm in Townsville.
“The first stage will be the identification and development of suitable algae strains to achieve stable, continuous, high yield algae production,” Dr Stammbach said.
”Next year we plan to build a 35,000 tonne algae pilot farm followed by a 400 hectare algae farm by 2010 which can ultimately consume in excess of 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and provide algae oil for a 250,000 tonne biodiesel plant.”Professor Rocky de Nys, head of aquaculture at JCU, said the environmental benefits of using algae to create biodiesel and feedstock are enormous.
“Algae require large volumes of carbon dioxide to grow which means less carbon dioxide is release into the atmosphere so it will make sense in future to situate such farms near major industry and power station,” Prof de Nys said.
“Companies that do produce carbon dioxide will eventually be able to claim carbon credits as the carbon dioxide can be stored or captured and released into algae farms.”
May 29, 2008
The year-old company, called Sapphire Energy, uses algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and non-potable water to make "green crude" that it contends is chemically equivalent to the light, sweet crude oil that has been fetching more than $130 a barrel in New York futures trading.
Chief Executive Jason Pyle said that the company's green crude could be processed in existing oil refineries and that the resulting fuels could power existing cars and trucks just as today's more polluting versions of gasoline and diesel do.
"What we're talking about is something that is radically different," Pyle said. "We really look at this as a paradigm change."
Sapphire's announcement is the latest development from companies and researchers focused on finding ways to cut harmful emissions from the nation's giant fleet of cars, trucks, trains and planes.
Sapphire's process would help curb the nation's reliance on imported crude and alleviate concerns about the world's dwindling supply of oil, Pyle said. And by using carbon dioxide spewed out by such things as coal plants, the production process would help remove harmful emissions from the atmosphere.
The green crude also would produce fewer pollutants in the refining process and fewer harmful emissions from vehicle tailpipes, Pyle said.
The company wouldn't give details about the production process or where its pilot project would be located. It expects to introduce its first fuels in three years and reach full commercial scale in five years.
Pyle wouldn't cite the price tag for producing a barrel of green crude, but he described the expected cost as competitive with extracting oil from deep-water deposits and oil sands. The company already has produced green versions of jet fuel, diesel and clear, premium-grade gasoline, he said.
Today's biofuels -- in the United States, that's biodiesel and corn-based ethanol -- have helped displace petroleum but also have troublesome characteristics that reduce their appeal. Corn-derived ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel eat into land used to grow food, and their production and distribution consume large amounts of energy.
Many companies are making strides in producing ethanol from nonfood sources such as switch grass, plant waste or recycled paper.
Virent Energy Systems Inc., based in Madison, Wis., in March unveiled a joint venture with Shell Oil Co. that would produce "biogasoline" from plant sugars -- creating fuel that could be distributed through existing pipes and stations and used in existing vehicles.
And there are plenty of companies working toward producing oil from algae. The idea isn't new, but interest and research have grown so significantly that websites such as Oilgae.com are devoted to the topic.
"One thing that is encouraging is the level of attention and the investment that's happening to really try to find better ways to fuel our transportation system," said Don Anair, vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Anair said he was encouraged by Sapphire's reported research results. But he said he'd want to see the greenhouse gas effects of the entire process, from production to combustion, before passing judgment on Sapphire's green crude.
"Changing to this green crude could certainly have very good benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but it may not address some of the traditional tailpipe pollutants that are responsible for smog or ozone," he said.
Even if the fuel doesn't contain nitrogen, Anair added, the combustion process adds air to the mix and generally creates harmful nitrogen oxides.
That caveat was echoed at the state Air Resources Board, which is charged with guiding California's goal of reducing the carbon content of fuels and sharply cutting statewide greenhouse gas emissions.
"The emissions reductions may be coming from the refining process but we would still have emissions issues in and from the vehicle," air board spokesman Dimitri Stanich said after reviewing Sapphire's news release. "We wish them luck and look forward to their technical studies that demonstrate the cost and feasibility of their production processes."
The emissions from Sapphire's fuels are being tested by an outside company. Pyle said that because the fuels don't contain sulfurs or nitrogen, "our expectation is that there will not be those kinds of emissions."
The company is privately owned and backed with funding from Wellcome Trust, a British charity, and venture capital firms such as Arch Venture Partners and Venrock. Sapphire's technology was born out of collaborations with Scripps Research Institute, UC San Diego, the University of Tulsa and the Energy Department's Joint Genome Project. Pyle said the genome researchers helped the company pinpoint the kind of algae best suited to making oil.
Robert Nelsen, managing partner at Arch, could barely contain his enthusiasm for the venture.
"We want to displace the existing petroleum system with a continuous production system that is essentially an oil field on top of the ground that produces oil on a continuous basis for as long as you want it to," he said.
"You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the implications of this."
Algae is being researched as a source for renewable fuels and plastics.By Ed Stiles, College of Engineering
Most of us don't intentionally cultivate algae – that green slime that grows in stagnant ponds, and, if we're unlucky, our swimming pools.
But these single-celled plants are more useful than you might think – they can help in creating renewable fuels and plastics.
Several companies are doing research on algae-to-biofuels technologies, and a team of agricultural and biosystems engineering students at The University of Arizona also studied the process for a senior design project this year.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
The students focused on using supercritical CO2 as an alternative to harsher solvents for extracting oils from algae.
They grew Botryococcus braunii in a photo-bioreactor, pumped the algae into a pressure vessel and then used supercritical CO2 to extract the lipids. The oil floated to the top and the dead plant material sank to the bottom.
“We got the oil to separate, but the problem is that we had too much water content and we ended up with an oil slick that would have required another component to complete the separation,” said Sean Henry, an agriculture and biosystems engineering student. Unfortunately, that would have required some kind of solvent, just what the students were trying to avoid.
But their experiment did succeed as a proof-of-concept. The next step is to refine the process.
Supercritical CO2 is becoming more popular as a solvent in many areas because of its low toxicity and light touch on the environment. In fact, if you've had a cup of decaffeinated coffee lately, it's very likely that supercritical CO2 was used to extract the caffeine from the beans, said Darren Haskett, an agriculture and biosystems engineering student.
“Supercritical” means that the CO2 is kept in liquid form by pressurizing it at temperatures where it normally would exist as a gas. Supercritical CO2 behaves like a gas in that it can permeate the algae cell membrane, but it's actually in liquid form. Once the CO2 gets into the cell, it creates enough pressure to burst the cell wall, releasing the oil, which the cell has produced to allow it to float on the surface of the water where it's growing.
Grappling With Lots of Issues
Although the project focused on using supercritical CO2 to extract oil from algae, the students had quite a few auxiliary issues to grapple with, said Edward Moreno, the third member of the team.
While it seems that, given a chance, algae will grow anywhere, the students found Botryococcus braunii to be particularly finicky when it came to optimal conditions. The algae grow best at 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit but the students did manage to grow it inside the bioreactor chamber in a greenhouse where the temperature fluctuated between 73 and 90 degrees. The colder the water, the more oil the algae produces – up to 50 percent of its weight – but the warmer the water is, the faster the algae grows. “It's a balancing act,” Henry said.
Some researchers theorize that algae similar to Botryococcus braunii might have produced most of the world's massive oil deposits; it took a lot of heat, pressure and time to do so. “We're just trying to take the place of gravity and eons of time to speed up the process and extract the oil in an environmentally friendly way,” Henry said.
During the trip Carl Bauer, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a private university in Israel, for cooperation on several energy projects – including carbon management technologies, alternative fuels development, hybrid energy systems and advanced materials for energy systems. Groenewold said that as a strategic partner with NETL, and therefore tied to the MOU automatically, the EERC will be involved in the development and demonstration of many of the technologies.
Israel is the most developed country in the eastern Mediterranean region and has a highly technological economy. Yet it also has limited commercial energy resources and faces many of the same energy and environmental issues as the United States. Using 17 power plants, the Israel Electricity Corp. generates nearly all of the country’s power using imported resources.
“IEC’s 2000-megawatt Ashkelon Power Plant, which we visited, ships in coal from 20 different locations worldwide to ensure security of its supply and to keep the power on for the population of Israel. This poses significant technological challenges,” Groenewold said. “The Ashkelon Plant is also one of several Israeli facilities that uses waste heat and CO2 from the plant to grow algae. The EERC is particularly interested in algae as a feedstock for production of alternative fuels and anticipates joint projects with the Israelis.”
Groenewold was invited to participate in the energy delegation to Israel. Other participants included: Bauer; Robert Dixon, senior coordinator for energy security and climate change with the Executive Office of the President; Raymond Hobbs, manager of the Future Fuels Program at Arizona Public Service; Tim McNulty, associate vice president for government affairs, and Andrew Gellman, head of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University; and Scott Smouse, international group leader with NETL.
David Haberman, president of IF LCC, an expert in hydrogen and fuel cells, coordinated the visit. Isaac Berzin, an authority on algae-based technology production of biofuels, served as the delegation’s host during the weeklong visit. Eitan Yudilevich, executive director of the Israel–U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, cohosted the visit.
Oliver Lindstrom is home from his eight-day trek that took him across the country to Ottawa where he competed in the National Science Fair.
“It was very interesting,” said 12-year-old Oliver from his home in Fraser Lake on Friday May 23. “We had to make my project (about growing algae) something I could take as a carry-on. We heard horror stories about other projects that were ruined by careless baggage handlers.”
With the help of Streamline Signs, Oliver’s backdrop was fashioned from a single sheet of white vinyl. The data was printed on the two foot sign that ‘weighed about three pounds’ said Oliver.
“It was folded into a tent shape and I carried it on the plane with me.”
“There were pages and pages of instructions on how to handle the contents of the project,” said Mom Stephanie in the weeks leading up to the trip. The algae couldn’t be transported by air so they had them photographed using special microscopes at UNBC. “They were excellent about helping us,” said Stephanie.
Oliver said he had the idea to grow the algae because he thought it could be “something new from the classic plant growth experiment.”
“I started the experiment a few months ago. I put 250ml of water in mason jars with five milliliters of algae powder and 1/6 cup of algae culture. It took about three days before it grew and I let it grow for three more days before it was done.
“Amazing Algae” can be used for a lot of stuff,” says Oliver. “It can be turned into a bio-fuel, it can be converted into plastic, it can be used as a medication, and it has all the nutrients needed for sustainability except vitamin C. In the 1960s it was even used as food for the cosmonauts.”
At the science fair at the University of Ottawa the projects were set up in a gym ‘the size of Super Valu’ said Oliver. “There were 480 participants, 300 judges and about 900 administrators and university staff.”
There was lots to do every day, and Mom, Stephanie says they hardly saw Oliver. They tried to be in some of the places that Oliver was scheduled to visit, but other than that he stayed in the University dorms and they stayed at a bed and breakfast.
Oliver said there was lots of judging, and public viewing of the projects.
“I was probably one of the youngest there.”
While Oliver’s project didn’t win any awards, he is already working on next year’s experiment - using algae once again,
The Science Fair drew in all ages from Grade 7 to Grade 12.
“In the Advanced Science rooms they were doing experiments on stem cells and how to split atoms.” said Oliver with obvious interest.
Oliver and all other B.C. winners are invited to a banquet in Vancouver in October where they can meet the top scientists of Canada. Oliver can hardly wait.
“While I was in Ottawa I met the president of Via Rail and I was offered a job from a Fisheries of Canada official from Prince George,” said Oliver.
But Oliver doesn’t plan to start a job yet.
“I will be busy producing bio-fuel from algae,” he says of the summer stretching before him. “I have a few vital components to figure out, like how to extract the chlorophyll from the algae.”
With the $200 proceeds from his regional win, Oliver plans to replace the $50 microscope he got when he was six years old. “It’s a good little microscope,” he says, “And it has more options than some $2,000 ones.”
But the lure of getting something newer and a bit bigger is what’s in the back of this scientists mind, especially after checking what’s available on line.
Oliver is an E-Bus student.
Start-up Sapphire Energy is promising an innovation that sounds as miraculous as a water-to-wine transformation.
On Wednesday, the company took the covers off what it calls "green crude"--a liquid fuel chemically identical to gasoline but not dependent on either a food source or agricultural land. Even better, it promises to be "carbon neutral"; even though vehicles that burn the fuel will emit carbon, creating green crude involves pulling just as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as it will put back in.
Sapphire, based in San Diego, plans to make its fuel from algae microorganisms, salt water, carbon dioxide and the power of the sun. Chief Executive Jason Pyle was deliberately vague concerning how the technology works, but he says the company, which was formed in May 2007, has been able to produce 91 octane gasoline and has had it analyzed at a refinery.
"We created a process that relies on photosynthesis. It absorbs CO2 to produce a carbon molecule," Pyle said in an interview with Forbes.com. Pyle has been involved in two other start-ups and has a background in biotechnology, engineering and physics. "We believe we're setting the benchmark for an entire new industry."
Other alternative fuel companies such as Solazyme of South San Francisco, Calif., are using algae to produce biodiesel. Like ethanol, biodiesel attracts water and thus cannot be shipped in existing pipelines. Both ethanol and biodiesel also have lower energy density than traditional gasoline and diesel fuels. Pyle says Sapphire's green crude has the same energy density as gasoline and can be shipped in existing pipelines and refined the same way gasoline and diesel are.
Amyris Biotechnologies of Emeryville, Calif., is also developing renewable fuels that are chemically identical to gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. Amyris announced in April that it will develop a diesel fuel in Brazil from sugarcane, with a production target date of 2010. (See: "Sweet New Fuel.")
But Pyle asserts that Sapphire's technology can scale to a much greater degree than Amyris can, because Sapphire is not dependent on a food source as its fuel. "Agricultural land is of limited supply. We have a huge amount of land that is completely non-agricultural that we can use, desert land," says Pyle. His aim is to produce 10,000 barrels a day in facilities that may be located on desert land across the southwestern and southern U.S.
Sapphire has raised $50 million from respected venture capital companies ARCH Venture Partners and Venrock, as well as the Wellcome Trust of the U.K., the world's largest medical research foundation. The company has been doing some work in Oklahoma but has not yet announced where its first test facility will be located. It aims to have its first facility operational in three years.
The company has elicited technology help from the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Project; the University of California, San Diego; the Scripps Research Institute; and the University of Tulsa.
"Almost every other [alternative fuel company] out there is a refiner," says Robert Nelsen, managing director at ARCH Venture Partners. "They are taking something and refining it. We are producing something."
Nelsen and Pyle believe that biofuels dependent on a food source or agricultural land cannot be scaled to affect more than 1% of the gasoline we consume annually in the U.S. "When we started this company, we wanted to create a whole new category that didn't have a set of constraints preventing it from growing to a large scale. We're not against Amyris or any of these companies ... they will see success in their niches," says ARCH's Nelsen. "We wanted to find something that you could scale infinitely."
Nelsen wouldn't speculate what percent of the fuel supply Sapphire might replace, but he wants it to be a lot more than 1%. "We've talked to people in the oil industry who've said, 'This is the first thing I've seen that can change the game,'" says Nelsen. "We want to take it to a whole new level."
May 26, 2008
Dutch airline KLM has announced plans to fuel its planes with kerosene made from algae. The company has signed an exclusive contract with the Dutch company AlgaeLink to provide fuel for a pilot project which will begin this fall, when the first test flight will take place. AlgaeLink is opening two plants this year, one in the Netherlands and another in Spain.
The algal-based kerosene will in first instance be mixed with conventional fuel; KLM's goal is to fuel its entire fleet with kerosene from algae and other plant-based oils.
The Dutch carrier says if all goes according to plan 12 Fokker-50 planes - representing seven percent of KLM's fleet - will fly on fuel derived from algae by 2010.
Increased fuel costs
Recently the CEO of Air France-KLM, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, expressed his concern about an estimated increase in fuel costs to the airline of 1.2 billion euros a year. The price of kerosene has risen by 55 percent so far this year, a serious blow to the airline industry.
Moreover in 2012 European airlines will have to pay extra for their CO2 emissions. Since algal-based fuel is CO2-neutral and is cost-effective when the price of oil passes the 100-dollar-per-barrel mark (oil is now trading at 135 dollars per barrel) KLM expects the fuel will save the company hundreds of millions of euros a year.
AlgaeLink's Managing Director, Hans van de Ven, says he is negotiating with the world's largest cruise liner to build an algae-growing and oil-extraction system on a cruise ship.
"The emitted CO2 will be intercepted, and together with the biological waste of the ship will be used within the algae-to-oil system. The oil will be extracted on board the ship and can be used, after refining, directly in the diesel engines."
Premier Anna Bligh, in Townsville today for Community Cabinet, said the project was a partnership between James Cook University (JCU) and Australian company MBD Biodiesel Ltd. "Considering the current debate about agricultural land being used to produce biofuels, algae may well be a significant future alternative fuel source as we set about tackling climate change." Ms Bligh said. "While most other biodiesels come from agricultural crops like canola, soy and palm oil, algae can be grown with ease in ponds or tanks on poor quality land. The process, which is also being trialled in Europe and the United States, also produces a s a by-product 'algal cake' for animal feedstock which could help drought-proof our livestock industry. This sort of Smart State thinking is what will prepare Queensland for the future, it shows Government, business and universities working together tackling climate change."
Minister for Regional Development and Industry Desley Boyle said this offered an exciting alternative. "The new process will maintain carbon in the energy cycle and when placed beside a coal or gas fired power station the algae farm can consume 50% of the carbon dioxide in the exhaust gas." Ms Boyle said. "The process then produces algal oil which can easily be transformed into biodiesel and glycerine. The project is particularly exciting as it complemented the State Government's Townsville Centre of Enterprise tropical science initiative. This project uses Townsville's unique tropical conditions to its scientific and economic advantage. What is even more pleasing is that this project is a collaboration between private, public and education sectors - the sort of projects essential for the future prosperity of regional Queensland."
MBD Biodiesel Director Doctor Marc Stammbach said the Bligh Government funding provided from the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry was a significant step towards setting up a Biodiesel plant and algae farm in Townsville. "The first stage will be the identification and development of suitable algae strains to achieve stable, continuous, high yield algae production. MBD will provide the algae photo-bioreactor which will be situated at JCU. MBD has strong support from the Townsville business community and is delighted to be able to move forward with the support of the Queensland Government and JCU. Next year we plan to build a 35,000 tonne algae pilot farm followed by a 400-hectare algae farm by 2010 which can ultimately consume in excess of 2,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and provide algae oil for a 250,000 tonne biodiesel plant."
Professor Rocky de Nys, Head of Aquaculture at JCU, will lead the first stage of the project in Townsville with Doctor Kirsten Heimann, Director of the university's North Queensland Algal Identification/Culturing Facility. "The environmental benefits of using algae to create biodiesel and feedstock are enormous." Professor de Nys said. "Algae require large volumes of carbon dioxide to grow, which means less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere so it will make sense in future to situate such farms near major industry and power stations. "Companies that do produce carbon dioxide will eventually be able to claim carbon credits as the carbon dioxide can be stored or captured and released into algae farms."
Ms Boyle said that the alternative fuels and technologies sector was consider ed a priority industry by the Queensland Government. "In our view the production of biodiesel complements ethanol as an alternative renewable fuel for Queensland so this is the kind of project we are keen to support." Ms Boyle said. "Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel for diesel engines. It's produced from renewable resources, is biodegradable, virtually non-toxic, and as a blended product can be used in most diesel engines without engine modification. The production of biodiesel from algae is an exciting new concept and I believe Queensland can grow to be a world-leader in it."
Green Star Products, Inc. (OTC:GSPI) announced that a major breakthrough has been achieved which substantially increases the algae growth rate of certain strains of microalgae.
Algae scientists have long searched for a micronutrient formula to increase the growth rate of algae biomass. Now, Biotech Research, Inc., a consortium partner of Green Star, has confirmed a daily growth rate increase of 34% using the 'Montana Micronutrient Booster (MMB)' formula. This growth rate booster can increase the total biomass quantity in a harvest algae growth cycle by well over 100%. The tests where conducted at Biotech Research's lab facility at the UABC University in Ensenada, Mexico (see press release dated Nov. 20, 2007).
Joseph LaStella, president of Green Star Products, stated: 'This breakthrough formula is too important to the algae processing industry for any single company to hold for their personal use. Microalgae production holds real answers to the many serious problems facing the world today, including global fuel shortages, global warming and food supply shortages.'
It is the intention of Green Star to make this product available throughout the world.
The UABC testing has shown that 1:10,000 nutrient dilution rates were very productive (i.e. one gallon of MMB mixed with 10,000 gallons of water). Even at 1:20,000 dilution levels, the MMB was still effective.
Green Star will make available 12-oz sample bottles to all universities, research institutes and commercial facilities for testing on their specific strains of algae.
Mr. LaStella further stated, 'We do not know if this formula will work on all species of algae and Green Star intends to create a database that will be published on our website based on feedback from all entities participating in the sampling program. All participants will be asked to submit their results to Green Star and summaries will be published to the entire industry.'
Mr. LaStella also stated, 'If the algae industry works together we will all benefit by identifying which strains of algae can be improved collectively. Hopefully, the entire industry can be accelerated into near term production.'
Those universities and research facilities that have previously contacted Green Star will receive the samples at no cost. All others who wish to receive the 12-oz sample formula, which can treat 3,500 liters of algae culture, will be required to pay $50 to cover ingredients, bottling, packaging, and shipping. Please send an email to Green Star at info@GreenStarUSA.com to register.
A picture of the Biotech Research test is posted on our website. It identifies three sets of twin algae photobioreactors (each containing 80-liters) that contain three different concentrations of the MMB formula. The picture also includes two control photobioreactors. This picture indicates greater algae growth based on green color differential.
Green Star Products, Inc. (OTC:GSPI) is an environmentally friendly company dedicated to creating innovative cost-effective products to improve the quality of life and clean up the environment. Green Star Products and its Consortium are involved in the production of green sustainable goods including renewable resources like algae biodiesel and clean-burning biofuels, cellulosic ethanol and other products. For more information, see Green Star Products' Web site at http://www.GreenStarUSA.com or email info@GreenStarUSA.com. Information about trading prices and volume can be obtained at http://www.bloomberg.com.
May 15, 2008
Aviation’s cleaned up its act like few other sectors in recent years, but it still can’t catch a break. Earlier this month, Congress looked into greenhouse-gas emissions from commercial aviation, just as news got out that commercial aviation’s unchecked growth means it will contribute more GHGs than expected. Europe continually and toothlessly threatens to include aviation in its emissions-trading scheme, spooking Euro carriers and angering U.S. airlines.
But at the same time, the oil price rise is killing airlines. There’s no way to hedge against high fuel costs when jet kerosene costs $150 a barrel. So what’s the beleaguered airline industry to do?
Unlike cars, airplanes can’t turn to electric power, and hydrogen power is still a pipe dream for planes. So the question for the industry is what kind of biofuel comes closest to regular jet kerosene—and at what cost?
Petroleum Review this week has a big takeout on the industry’s connundrum. Planes need high-density, high-octane fuel that withstands freezing temperatures and which is uniform the world over. Easier said than done, especially with fears over deforestation, rising food prices, and worries over water and arable land. Petroleum Review says:
What’s needed, in other words, is an exact replica of fossil jet kerosene - a so-called ‘drop-in’ replacement - which also emits substantially less carbon. ‘Meeting all these conflicting demands is a very tall order,’ says Dr Mike Farmery, Global Fuel Technical and Quality Manager at Shell Aviation. ‘There are lots of exciting ideas, but it will be hard to achieve quickly.
Some companies have already taken baby steps. Virgin’s much-ballyhood flight from London to Amsterdam used 5% coconut-oil biofuel (the part Sir Richard Branson didn’t drink for the photo-op) to show biofuel could take the high-altitude cold. But the test flight alone used 150,000 coconuts, Petroleum Review says—and at least 3 million would have been needed for a full biofuel flight. Multiply that by world air traffic, and the problem comes into focus.
The other options? Flavor-of-the-month jatropha biofuel would be fine—except aviation would require a land area twice the size of France to grow the stuff. What about natural gas-to-liquids technology? No food worries, but that would increase CO2 emissions by 50%. How about biomass, like bits of wood and useless plants? Well, they still need to grow somewhere—and commercial aviation would need to harvest an area three times the size of Germany.
Sir Branson suggested algae—something oil companies like Shell have started working on as a biofuel panacea. It might do the trick, Petroleum Review says, but don’t get your hopes up. Even harvesting oil from algae would require pond scum filling a space twice as big as Belgium.
As much as aviation needs to cut its fuel bill and emissions footprint, there are no easy answers in the short term. Get braced for more fuel surcharges at the airport.
GreenFuel Technologies on Wednesday said that it has completed a round of funding to ramp up its algae-farming projects.
The company landed $13.9 million, which was led by Access Private Equity, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Polaris Venture Partners.
A portion of the money will retire debt the company borrowed following a corporate shakeup last year that put Bob Metcalfe in as interim-CEO. The remaining $7.6 million in new capital, which completes its series B round, will go to scale up technology projects.
In a statement, Metcalfe said the company will announce a new CEO, a C round of funding, and signed customers for its technology.
GreenFuel also disclosed that one algae-growing project began in January but declined to provide details.
GreenFuel builds bioreactors that grow algae at sites that emit a lot of carbon dioxide. Its first pilot was at an Arizona power plant.
The algae is harvested and can be turned into biodiesel or other forms of biomass that can be converted into electricity or other liquid fuels.
GreenFuel Technologies is a startup we’ve covered followed as it moved from high-flying newcomer, to apparent failure, back to spotlight darling. The “apparent failure” part began with problems in scaling. GreenFuel’s plan appears to work fine on a small scale, but when it tried to do a commercial-size project last year, the algae over-performed to the point of killing itself off, doubling costs and leading to layoffs of 50 people.
Instead of letting the company crumble, one of its investors, Polaris Venture Partners, sent in general partner Bob Metcalfe for emergency resuscitation. The move appears to have worked — a $5.5 bridge loan kept the company afloat until two months ago, when we were able to report a $92 million project financing for the company to build a bioreactor in Europe. Now $13.9 million more has been provided in an extension to its second round of financing, for further development.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean blue skies ahead. In fact, a full $6.3 million of that amount will go toward retiring debt — likely the same bridge the company took to survive. The $7.6 million remaining isn’t much, especially considering that part is going toward construction of a project the company has not yet announced.
The big question is what will happen in Europe. The company is likely moving at a frantic pace to re-prove the technology and get a third round of funding, not to mention staving off competitors with the same idea (but more opportunities left to screw up).
The round was provided entirely be existing investors, with Access Private Equity leading, alongside Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Polaris. The company is based in Cambridge, Mass.
May 13, 2008
I-CAN is a not-for-profit consortium of ten Canadian research corporations who have joined together for key strategic projects. The organization held its annual meetings in Quebec City April 24 and 25 with an update on its CARS project - Carbon Algae Recycling System. CARS proposes to feed flue gas (CO2, NOx, etc.) directly from industry into ponds to feed the growth of micro-algae, which would then be harvested and processed into value-added products such as ethanol, bio-diesel or fertilizer.
"In essence, the goal of CARS is to fast-track Mother Nature's own process of using plants to soak up greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere," said John McDougall, vice-chairman for I-CAN from the Alberta Research Council. "Algae growth research isn't new, but our goal is. Other algae projects are aimed at creating bio-fuels. The goal of CARS is to provide industry with a sustainable, affordable way to deal with their greenhouse gas emissions."
The base case chosen for the preliminary CARS work is sized to consume up to 30% of the greenhouse gases produced by the average 300 megawatt coal-fired power plant. "That's the base case, and we'll work upwards to larger capacities from there," he added. He predicts the sale of byproducts like ethanol or fertilizer from harvesting the algae would help offset the cost of operating the CARS algae systems.
Since announcing the CARS project last year, scientists from four different provinces have made head-way in proving this concept could work in Canada in a cost-effective way.
"Until now, it was believed Canada's climate and light conditions wouldn't support these kinds of algae projects," notes Denis Beaulieu, chairman for I-CAN and a special consultant for the Centre de Recherche Industrielle du Quebec (CRIQ). "We've now discovered the less intense sunlight in Canada is actually beneficial to the growth of algae, and we are devising concepts of how covered pond systems could work economically in our climate."
The comprehensive research program is taking a two-pronged approach. The biological piece of this puzzle will identify a strain of algae that thrives on the specific chemical composition of flue gas, at a target temperature, given the angle of sunlight in Canada. On the engineering side, the researchers have already determined that neither the existing photobioreactor nor the open pond systems would deal with large enough volumes of CO2. I-CAN partner researchers are now developing a hybrid covered pond system that maintains the consistent environment required by the chosen strains of algae.
National demand for such a project is mounting. Governments are targeting industries to reduce their greenhouse gases in the coming years, leaving industry scrambling for ways to cut their emissions in a way that's good for the environment and their bottom line.
Participating organizations for the CARS project include Centre de Recherche Industrielle du Quebec (CRIQ), Alberta Research Council (ARC), Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) and Manitoba Industrial Technology Centre (ITC). The project is currently funded by the Government of Canada through Natural Resources Canada, the Province of Alberta through the Alberta Energy Research Institute, Alberta Bio-fuel Fund and the Alberta Life Sciences Institute, as well as the Province of Quebec. Industry partners include Mosaic Potash, Suncor Energy, EnCana, Graymont Mining, New Brunswick Power, EPCOR, Petro-Canada and Shell Canada.
Energy options such as algae are years away
The Arizona Republic
May. 11, 2008 12:00 AM
Ethanol is now a staple in gasoline, used as an additive that reduces the amount of crude oil and cuts back on vehicle emissions.
The 134 ethanol refineries in the country are expected to produce about 9 billion gallons of the fuel this year. Even with some cancellations, dozens of plants are expanding or being built, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Many have direct ties to corn, with farmers owning 49 plants.
Even if lawmakers succeed in repealing or reducing ethanol-production subsidies, it is required as an additive in some places, including metro areas in Arizona. A 10 percent ethanol blend is added to gas in the Phoenix area in the winter to fight pollution, with a similar requirement in Tucson. It's allowed but not required to make up to 10 percent of fuel blends year-round in the rest of the state.
The Arizona Department of Weights and Measures estimates statewide demand of 100 million gallons a year as an additive, and some stations sell an 85 percent blend that can be used in many American-made vehicles.
"We believe corn ethanol will continue to be an important part of the fuel supply," said Ron Lamberty, a vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol.
But even its supporters recognize that corn can't power the country. The ethanol production goal of 36 billion gallons set in the recently passed U.S. Energy Bill can't be met with corn alone, Lamberty said.
"You get to somewhere around 15 billion gallons and you've got problems," he said. "Then you've got to have some other sources."
Algae for energy?Beyond the dilemma of using food for fuel, ethanol has efficiency issues. High-concentration blends get about one-third fewer miles to the gallon than gasoline, although the ethanol industry promotes "optimal" blends of 20 or 30 percent that can raise mileage in some engines despite the lower energy content of ethanol.
Ethanol proponents tout corn as a steppingstone to "cellulosic" ethanol. In the cellulosic process, enzymes are used to break down the woody part of plants, rather than just the sugary parts, like corn kernels.
But critics say that technology still won't be efficient enough to justify using cropland and water for fuel. Other potential energy sources are algae and bacteria. At Arizona State University, the Biodesign Institute is working with British oil company BP to study photosynthetic bacteria that can be grown with brackish water to produce oils for biodiesel.
Algae and bacteria are getting lots of attention from energy startups and oil companies because they grow quickly and constantly and a much larger portion of their mass can be converted to fuel than corn.
Making biodiesel also uses the fatty part of algae or bacteria in a chemical process that doesn't require as much energy as distilling ethanol. "Moving to microbial systems, then you start to get real," said ASU researcher Bruce Rittmann, director for the Center for Environmental Biotechnology.
"Instead of the entire surface area of land (like with corn ethanol), it is something reasonable, and you can create energy on a big scale."
But even if the biodiesel technology were perfect today, it would take decades to replace oil with algae or bacteria.
"We are talking about replacing the worldwide petroleum industry," he said.
Replacing oilMany experts agree that no single technology will be able to replace oil. Lamberty suggests blends of 30 percent ethanol or more for cars in the corn-growing states, with other regions of the country playing their fuel strengths.
"These ideas must all be cumulative," said Bill Sheaffer, vice president of marketing for Amereco Biofuels Corp., which collects waste cooking oil from restaurants around the Valley and converts it to biodiesel at a West Valley plant.
"Waste oil has a limit," Sheaffer said. "Then there are non-edible seed oils. And algae has a huge potential."
Amereco is among the dozens of companies around the world growing algae in labs to test it as biodiesel.
Even with the potential of other biofuels, Sheaffer said he supports ethanol, if for no other reason than it reduces the country's need to import gas and oil. "It is a little maddening," he said. "I can't recall any type of alternative energy that hasn't been viscously attacked."
SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Green Star Products, Inc. (OTC:GSPI) today announced that it has publicly released the entire chronological technical report on its 2007-2008 algae (40,000 liter) demonstration facility.
The Green Star algae facility (located in Montana) is one of the world’s largest demonstration facilities and has served as a scientific and engineering milestone towards the commercial production of algae for energy and food.
The algae industry is in such an embryonic state that very few people even understand the real algae production problems, much less claim solutions for the production of algae.
Green Star’s 20-page report can be reviewed at GreenStarUSA.com.
The report clearly delineates the real problems and engineering solutions provided by the demo project without revealing the patent pending intellectual property provided by the program.
Today, more experts agree that a new algae production industry offers a real solution to simultaneously solve three major world problems: energy crisis, global warming and food production crisis.
It’s important to review the factors that make algae so competitive with other agricultural products:
Green Star’s business plan includes commercial production in the 2008-2009 timeframe.
Green Star Products, Inc. (OTC:GSPI) is an environmentally friendly company dedicated to creating innovative, cost-effective products to improve the quality of life and clean up the environment. Green Star Products and its Consortium are involved in the production of green sustainable goods including renewable resources like algae biodiesel and clean-burning biofuels, cellulosic ethanol and other products, as well as lubricants, additives and devices that reduce emissions and improve fuel economy in vehicles, machinery and power plants. For more information, see Green Star Products' Web site at http://www.GreenStarUSA.com, or call Investor Relations at 619-864-4010, or fax 619-789-4743, or email info@GreenStarUSA.com. Information about trading prices and volume can be obtained at several Internet sites, including http://www.pinksheets.com, http://www.bloomberg.com and http://www.bigcharts.com under the ticker symbol "GSPI."
Forward-looking statements in the release are made pursuant to the "safe harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, continued acceptance of the company's products, increased levels of competition for the company, new products and technological changes, the company's dependence on third-party suppliers, and other risks detailed from time to time in the company's periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Fred Tennant is Vice President of Business Development for PetroAlgae, LLC.
He says researchers at Arizona State University identified a hybrid species of algae that keeps roughly half its weight in oil. Tennant's company, PetroAlgae, has developed a system to extract the oil from each algae cell. The only byproduct, he says, is a powdery algae "meal" that is high in protein and can be used as animal feed.
Tennant says one of the most attractive aspects of algae as a biofuel is its speedy growth. To make ethanol from corn or biodiesel from soybeans it takes a year to grow a crop. But Tennant says with algae he can go from seed to harvest in just two days.
His Fellsmere farm is a research and development facility for PetroAlgae. He calls it "America's oil farm." Long tubes of bubbling green solution line the property. He feeds the algae with carbon dioxide, which he says is another one of its benefits - it consumes what most of us consider a waste product.
Once the algae is harvested, technicians run it through a series of machines, including a high-powered centrifuge, to break down the cells and separate the oil from the water, alcohol and solids.
Tennant says at peak efficiency, he can convert an acre of algae into 14,000 gallons of oil each year. He envisions building a PetroAlgae farm along side a power plant. He says the power plant could use the algae generated oil as fuel, and the algae could, in turn, consume the carbon dioxide that the plant burns off as emissions.
He says PetroAlgae is talking with power companies in the U.S. and abroad about forming partnerships. He expects his product will be ready to go to market some time in 2009.
Jerry Karnas of the Environmental Defense Fund, praises PetroAlgae as one of 9 Florida companies that are working on solutions to combat climate change. The Environmental Defense Fund is highlighting PetroAlgae in a statewide advertising campaign called "Florida's Faces of Climate Change."
The biggest question hanging over the algae to oil idea is whether it can be produced cheaply enough to compete with other sources of biodiesel or with standard diesel fuel. Tennant calls that the "hundred billion dollar" question.
Karnas says if the U.S. were to put caps on greenhouse gas emissions, then a technology like PetroAlgae's would achieve instant success because it burns cleaner than fossil fuels.
TUTICORIN: The Fisheries College and Research Institute (FCRI) here has made a breakthrough by standardising a research protocol for production of bio-fuel from marine micro algae.
A team of scientists at the Fisheries Biotechnology Centre of the FCRI, led by S. Felix, has extracted bio-fuel from marine micro algae using ‘Transestrification (conversion of an organic acid ester into another ester of that same acid) Method,’ involving catalysed chemical reaction on micro algal oil.
“We have used sulphuric acid as a catalyst for transestrification during our trials,” said V. K. Venkataramani, Dean. Marine micro algae isolated from seawater was first cultivated under autotrophic and heterotrophic culture systems. In autotrophic system, the algae were grown in a standardised culture medium. Culture vessels were thermostatically controlled at 25 degree Celsius in the air-conditioned laboratory of the institute and illuminated at 1,000 lux by cool white fluorescent lamps.
“The mass culture has been achieved by transferring algal broth culture to larger capacity tanks,” Dr Venkataramani said.
Under heterotrophic conditions, mass culture of algae was performed in a bioreactor of 3.1 litre capacity under ‘controlled state’ to achieve high lipid accumulation.
Micro algal cells harvested from the culture solution were pulverized and bio-lipid oil was extracted with suitable solvents. A standard reaction mixture consisting oil, methanol and concentrate was then heated for a specific period and transferred to a tailor-made funnel where the bio-fuel was separated.
The institute planned to develop an ‘industrial model plant’ for mass production of bio-fuel using this method.
9th May 2008
This one day seminar at the University of Southampto is focused on the use of algae as a sustainable fuel. The event will bring together research expertise in biology, processing and combustion, SMEs developing and deploying products, for cultivating algae through to oil extraction, companies seeking to engage and develop supply chains for sustainable fuel, funding and support organization, and networking organisations with specific expertise across the 'tank to tank' supply chain.
Organisations presenting include Virgin Atlantic Airways, Eco-Solids, the Renewable Fuels Agency, the University of Southampton, the Carbon Trust, First Light Energy, Bioscience for Business KTN, Regenatec, WRc , and the Marine Biological Association.
It's not either alternative energy sources or fossil fuels, Dr. Carl Bauer, director of the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, told The Jerusalem Post at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya this week.
"The reality is that it's got to be a combination. The largest percentage of energy comes from fossil fuels, and the capital resources to move just to alternative sources is huge," so it's unrealistic to think that we'll be doing away with fossil fuels anytime soon, Bauer said.
Armed with that philosophy, his lab both researches how to generate energy from fossil fuels in an environmentally safe and cost-effective way, as well as alternative and renewable sources of energy such as hydrogen, solar and wind.
During a round-table discussion open to the public, Bauer said the Arizona Power Company followed a similar model.
"Notice that it is all one facility. Fossil fuels, wind, solar, CO2 capture, hydrogassification and algae," all under one roof, he said.
Bauer was visiting Israel this week at the head of a delegation from his lab. On Tuesday, they participated in a day-long session on energy at the IDC and signed a memorandum of understanding with the school.
"We are the only wholly government-owned and operated of the 17 Department of Energy laboratories," he told the Post, "and that gives us an edge. Private industry is eager to work with us because we have no profit motive and are no threat to the proprietary technologies we develop together."
The National Energy Technology Laboratory conducts research at its three locations in the US and funds academic and industry research.
"We make the use of fossil fuels environmentally acceptable and economically viable," he said.
The lab develops energy technologies and then demonstrates to private industry that they are economically viable. They also enter into partnerships with private industry. Twenty percent to 50% of the research costs are usually borne by the private sector, Bauer said.
Among the laboratory's achievements is reducing emissions from coal-burning power plants to almost nonexistent. Emissions from earlier coal factories caused acid rain over wide areas. Israel has a coal-burning plant in Ashkelon and is considering building another.
"Nox [nitrogen oxide], particulate matter and mercury have all been brought under control. There have been several generations of advancement in the market already," he said.
That is particularly important because the US has abundant coal that can now be cleanly converted into electricity.
Asked about alternatives to oil, Bauer said that was more difficult.
One possibility was bio-fuels, he said, and a promising bio-fuel project focuses on algae. Dr. Isaac Berzin of the IDC has been working extensively with algae and Bauer said he was eager to see if some sort of collaboration could be worked out. Algae could also help reduce greenhouse gases because carbon dioxide capture can be used to accelerate the growth of algae, Bauer said. Algae has great potential to be rendered into fuel and doesn't use valuable resources like land and potable water, he added.
Captured carbon dioxide might also eventually be transformed into energy through some of the technologies under development, according to Bauer.
Some of the other projects focus on using hydrogen, solid oxide fuel cells and solid state lighting.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory also focuses on streamlining buildings and electricity transmission. A lot of energy can be saved through more efficient buildings and electricity, he said.
The laboratory seeks to bring together the best minds, Bauer said at the roundtable.
"We all have one piece of the answer, now how do we address the overall problem?" he said.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:37:00 05/09/2008
MANILA, Philippines—Amid the skyrocketing price of oil, the government can tap another potential source of biofuel—algae.
Algae can be a source of biodiesel, and there is a sufficient volume of algae in the country’s waters to meet the demand for oil, Dr. Teresita Perez of the Ateneo de Manila University said Thursday.
Perez, chair of Ateneo’s Department of Environmental Science, said that algae or seaweeds, known locally as “lumot,” produce kerogen, a type of petroleum or oil.
“The oil that is being mined off shore is mainly produced by the diatoms in the ocean. Diatoms are a kind of algae. They’re also called phytoplankton and majority of them exist in unicellular forms,” she said in a statement.
When millions and millions of these phytoplanktons decompose, their stored food in the form of oil actually goes down to the sea floor and is embedded in the sediments, the professor said.
“It’s this algae that is contributing to the ‘oil depot’ in the marine environment,” she said.
Perez, who is doing a study on the use of algae as feedstock for biofuel, said that algal oil as an alternative biodiesel was not new among energy scientists. She said Israel has been doing work on this.
The professor said that algae in unicellular form could yield “between 40 percent and 50 percent oil when manipulated.”
Manipulation of the medium involves altering the ratio of the major nutrients to enhance oil production in the cells, she said.
She said that at least 1,000 to 10,000 gallons of algae could produce a liter of biodiesel. She said that her team had isolated species of algae that could produce this.
Conducive to RP
Perez also said the country’s rich biodiversity was conducive to algal research. She said that algae could grow practically in any water body, and can thrive even in drainage canals.
Perez said that she and her team were looking at ways to propagate algae without using chemicals as fertilizer. She said that chicken manure or hog waste, and fresh water lakes could be a source of alternative growth medium.
No conflict with food security
“Algal mass production will not conflict with food security. At the same time, an integrated setup can be done in such a way that the carbon dioxide as a product of aerobic decomposition can be utilized to enhance the growth of the algal species,” Perez said.
“At the same time, since the alga is also a rich source of proteins and carbohydrates, upon extraction of oil, the algae can still be utilized as food for livestock or fish,” she added.
Canadian researchers hope algae offers them "la grande solution" to greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental havoc caused by oil extraction in the Alberta tar sands.
The project is called CARS, Carbon Algae Recycling System, and it's backed by a consortium of researchers.
The idea is to grow algae next to a source of carbon dioxide, like a power plant. A number of algae start-ups plan to or are already doing exactly that to "feed" their algae the CO2 they need to grow.
Algae can be used for toxic cleanup as well, researchers tell clean-tech reporter Tyler Hamilton.
The plan is to grow the algae on toxic tailing ponds that have attracted much scrutiny in the oil sands. The algae doesn't just consume CO2, they also love some heavy metals, nitrogen, and residual hydrocarbons. If the approach could be made to work--including the required management of algae growth, handling, and harvesting--the algae could be used to produce biofuels and a number of other products as they suck up CO2 and clean up other chemicals.
"Industry is incredibly interested in this, because they can see it has a potential to take a cost burden out of the equation and turn it into a revenue-generating device, which is huge," says John McDougall, CEO of the Alberta Research Council, adding that he sees a new industry spawning from this research. "I'm really quite excited about this. There aren't that many things that have the right buttons on them, but this one seems to have them."
Bioremediation may become something big in the agricultural business. I profiled a company called Bionvitas, which expects that the near-term business opportunity for its algae bioreactors will be for cleaning up toxics in water. Later it intends to make biodiesel.
While algae does have a lot of promise as a valuable fuel crop, it still remains experimental.