November 18, 2011

Culturing Solutions CEO Pitches Algae-to-Biofuel Demo Plant

The system could generate products from algae, including, down the line, biofuel

By Alex Tiegen

Potential investors got a look Thursday at a demonstration plant in Southeast Pasco County that, its owner says, can use algae to produce oil and, in the future, biofuel.

Dean Tsoupeis, CEO of Culturing Solutions, pitched his algae-to-fuel demonstration plant, billed as the first in Florida, to an audience of about 20 people, including business people, employees of the city of Dunedin and staff from Pasco County utilities.

“We have seven acres we can develop, and we are looking for partners,” Tsoupeis said.

Tsoupeis is the former owner of a screen printing company. He has also been in the biodiesel industry, he said. He said Culturing Solutions is based in Tampa, and he lives in South Tampa.

The demonstration plant is in the Bass Lake area, which is outside New Port Richey but has New Port Richey address. At the plant, algae is kept in a vat and fed carbon dioxide. The algae is circulated into tubes suspended in a frame that can withstand 130 mph wind.

These tubes expose the algae to sunlight particles to stimulate photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight to sugar and create energy. The algae is circulated through underground pipes back into the vat then pumped to a covered above-ground pond, where it grows. That pond is now dry.

The pond water with the algae is put into a high-pressure homogenizer that “cracks” the algae cells, which allows cultivators to better tap its oil, Tsoupeis said.

“We have what we believe is the best process for cultivating the algae and then treating the algae cells to crack them open,” Tsoupeis said.

Tsoupeis wants to see algae used to create fuel for transportation. Companies have found biofuel creation from algae to be cost prohibitive, but Tsoupeis hopes his system can change that. The ideal size of an algae cultivation farm is 1,000 acres, he said.

Right, now, Culturing Solutions is pursuing using algea to produce oil for nutritional supplements, such as vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

He said he has a venture in South India with such a purpose.

Culturing Solutions products have been used in Rhode Island, Australia, Romania, Hungary and Russia.

“My heart lies in displacing petroleum, but we need to make some money first,” he said.

One guest pointed out that finding 1,000 acres could be difficult. Tsoupeis said that there are agricultural properties with that large an acreage. A site near a power plant, where algae can feed off the waste, could be a good spot.

Algae can also be used for other purposes. One is pigment creation. Another is sewage treatment, which is what the employees from Dunedin told Tsoupeis they were curious about.

Original article available here.

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