April 17, 2012

Algae-based Biofuel: Pros And Cons

There is no perfect energy source. Each and every one has its own advantages and compromises. This series will explore the pros and cons of various energy sources. Learn about other forms of energy generation here.

Algae–based biofuel is a new energy source that has been getting a lot of attention lately. Certain types of algae contain natural oils that can be readily distilled into a vegetable oil or a number of petroleum-like products that could serve as drop-in replacements for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

But because it’s a bio-fuel, it is essentially carbon-neutral because the carbon emitted when it is burned had just recently been absorbed as food, which means that the net CO2 emission is essentially the same as if the algae had never been grown. That does not include CO2 utilized in production. Industry claims assert that algae-based bio-diesel has a GHG footprint that is 93 percent less than conventional diesel. Some algae production is sited near sources of CO2 such as power plants, in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Algae-based fuel yields considerably more energy per unit area than other bio-fuels. It can also be grown on land otherwise unsuitable for agriculture. The technology is quickly moving out of the lab and into commercial scale production. A number of companies developing refineries include Solazyme, Sapphire Energy (which just last week announced another $144 million in funding) and OPXBIO. Aviation trials with several airlines including United and Qantas have been successfully completed using fuel blends of up to 40 percent algae-derived fuel.

Algae was initially raised in large shallow ponds which produced about 5,000 gallons per acre-year and required a fair amount of water to compensate for evaporation. More recently, companies have migrated to vertical photo bio-reactors (PBRs) that are gravity fed, with no evaporation, and in which 85 percent of the water is recycled along with excess nutrients and CO2.

Here is a list of pros and cons for algae-based biofuels.


  • Bio-based fuel with essentially carbon neutral combustion
  • Drop in replacement for petroleum-based liquid fuels
  • Inherently renewable
  • Absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows
  • Both waste CO2 and wastewater can be used as nutrients
  • Higher energy per-acre than other bio-fuels
  • Can be grown on land unsuitable for other types of agriculture
  • Scalable: Study found that 17 percent of U.S. oil imports could be met with algae
  • Investments are being made
  • Production is presently scaling up (Navy buying 100,000 gallons this year)
  • Research has been underway for 50 years


  • Need to be grown under controlled temperature conditions
  • Requires a considerable amount of land and water
  • Cold flow issues with algal biofuel
  • Some researchers using genetic engineering to develop optimal algae strains
  • Requires phosphorus as a fertilizer which is becoming scarce
  • Fertilizer production is carbon dependent
  • Relatively high upfront capital costs
  • Not clear yet what the ultimate cost per gallon will be. Presently too high.

In summary, algae-based bio-fuel is a promising energy source that is in the latter stages of development. A number of issues related to the ultimate cost of the product need to be resolved, but there is a good deal of research money going into this as production is beginning to scale up. Land issues can be addressed using marginal land. Water can be recycled in reactors. Cold flow issues might result in the fuels being blended with other fuels or possibly additives. Fertilizer issues could be addressed using waste streams, thereby recycling the critical nutrients. Time will tell, though I believe this is an important technology to watch.

Original post available here.

NASA one step closer to turning algae into fuel

NASA has been working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and it's now getting some help from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Tuesday the space agency showed off its efforts to turn algae into fuel.

Imagine an oil well of the future as a kind of oil farm where the humble micro algae is grown in such vast amounts that it reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.

"It moved it from basically a 20-gallon system to a 450-gallon system and now the next step will be, can we put this offshore somewhere with not four bioreactors, but 400 bioreactors," said Jonathon Trent, Ph.D., the NASA scientist behind the OMEGA (Off-shore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) Project. The project's goal is to produce a sustainable, renewable, carbon neutral fuel, bio-diesel from algae, farmed in plastic containers off-shore.

After two years, $10 million from NASA and $800,000 from the state, Trent and his team think they've found a way, using wastewater as fertilizer. A San Francisco PUC water treatment plant loaned NASA some tanks and wastewater to experiment.

"We have flue gas, gas that's rich in CO2 that we can feed to the algae and we have saltwater in these tanks to test our ideas of keeping algae afloat and test the idea that we might be able to kill algae if they escape in sea water," Trent said.

It's no accident Trent comes from NASA's life support division where they figure out ways to keep astronauts in space for a long time.

"How you can recover waste for real long duration from space flight? You can't just take a lot of stuff with you, you have to recycle things, and so there are scientists working on that problem right now -- how do you recycle waste and turn it back into food and oxygen and things that the astronauts need for their trip?" NASA OMEGA project manager Stephan Ord said.

The next step is for another team of scientists and engineers to take over where OMEGA leaves off, and figure out if making big enough offshore algae farms is truly possible.

Original post available here.

Algaedyne plants a future for renewable fuels

Driving around Kauai, Hawaii, several years ago, Toby Kinkaid spotted a series of smokestacks from a coal-fired electric plant and began wondering what could be done “with all that carbon.”

The Wisconsin-based entrepreneur had already established a national reputation as a solar developer by operating Solardyne.com and Solarquote.com as well as inventing two solar-related products that have been tested at Sandia National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.

The idea that started in Kauai led him to study algae and to launch a company with a biomass investor and a St. Paul-based construction company. The result, the Algaedyne Corp., is one of Minnesota’s first efforts in the burgeoning field of algae.

Although still in the developmental phase, the startup has attracted Preston, Minn.-based biofuels investor Thomas Byrne of Earth Renewable Investments LLC. Byrne also helped found the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), a national group promoting algae companies.

The Harris Cos., a mechanical construction and engineering business, is the other partner in Algaedyne. Chief engineer Nick Rosenberry said his company’s interest is “to understand algae from the ground up.”

“We think algae has a place in our energy future, and we want to be able to know how to build plants for the industry,” Rosenberry says.

Harris has built eight 2,000-liter bioreactors, six of which were sold to New Jersey-based Garden State Ethanol for a pilot project using municipal waste to grow algae. Two units also reside at St. Cloud State University, where students and professors in the biology department use them in their research.

Garden State Ethanol found Algaedyne and decided to try the bioreactors in the pilot project. Otherwise, Byrne said, the Preston-based company does not actively court sales.

“We haven’t really done anything to sell the bioreactors,” Byrne said. “It’s really still in the experimental stage. We’re not guaranteeing it can do anything just yet.”

Besides investments from the three partners, Algaedyne has received funding from the Southern Minnesota Initiatives Foundation and Minn-Cal Investments LLC, according to its website.

Although growing algae to produce fuel may be the ultimate goal of Byrne and his partners, that’s not where the money is right now in the industry. Byrne said algae producers can make money in pharmaceuticals and in the aquaculture industry as a potential replacement for fish feedstock.

For now, he’s raising money for Algaedyne with an aim to run a larger demonstration project that would lead to a commercial operation — “without spending millions of dollars.”

That kind of money is being spent by the algae industry’s bigger startups in California, Arizona and Florida. Those companies, along with Algaedyne, are perfecting ways to grow algae just like any agricultural crop.

Mary Rosenthal, executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization, said ABO has grown from a handful of organizations to more than 200 companies. A recent ABO survey showed 70 percent of its members think algae biofuels will be commercially available and competitive with fossil fuels by 2020 — and half say algae will cost $3 per gallon or less by then.

“Innovative companies such as Algaedyne are part of a dynamic, 50-state job creation engine that will be tapping into markets for fuel, agricultural products, renewable chemicals — the list goes on,” said Rosenthal in a prepared statement.

Still, it’s a young market. In a column headlined “What’s the Worst Green Tech to be in?” Green Tech Media’s Michael Kanellos wrote last year that separating algae from water “has been an unsolved technical issue since the late ’70s.” Distribution will likely be expensive, too, he wrote, citing former Chevron executive Don Paul’s estimate that a new fuel requires $3 billion and 15 years to get to the market.

So what does algae production look like now? In general, algae companies take one of two approaches involving large, open ponds or enclosed bioreactors, the latter of which is Algaedyne’s method.

One of the key ingredients for algae is carbon dioxide, which helps it flourish. That drew the interest of Kinkaid, who works in the renewable sector because of a passion for reducing global warming. He began experimenting with different sizes of bioreactors to determine which would grow algae the fastest.

His work began with a small 10-gallon bioreactor. Then he experimented with a 500-gallon tank, the size that was sold to Garden State Ethanol. The algae are in water supplemented with specific nutrients and carbon dioxide to assist their growth, he said.

A light-emitting diode (LED) in the bioreactor emits red and blue wavelengths in a process Kinkaid calls “controlled photosynthesis.” Different algae species are deployed for different applications including biofuels and nutraceuticals, he said.

One of Kinkaid’s challenges was to figure out how to avoid inhibiting the growth of the algae below other algae in the controlled environment of a bioreactor. His solution, which he is trying to patent, was light injection technology that moves those red and blue wavelengths into the lower reaches of the tank.

By using the nutrients and the light injection, Kinkaid can harvest half his algae crop every 24 hours. The biofuel is harvested and the remaining biomass — the algae — can be dried and used for livestock feed or pharmaceutical products.

The Algaedyne Corp.’s bio-reactors are being built in the Harris Cos.’ fabrication facility in Zumbrota, Minn. (Submitted photo: Harris Cos.)

Byrne, who earns his living as a consultant to ethanol companies and other renewable energy businesses, has another algae endeavor called Aquaviridis. That company recently signed a deal with Los Angeles-based OriginOil Inc., which developed a technology to extract oil from algae.

Together, the companies say they will build a pilot project this year in the Mexicali Valley in Mexico.

“The algae industry looks a lot like the ethanol industry did in the early years, and I think it has the same potential, maybe even more, as a source of fuel and other products,” Byrne said.

Original post available here.

Sapphire Energy Gets $144 Million To Turn Algae Into Gasoline

Algae [source: VentureBeat]

Sapphire Energy, a company that creates algae-based fuel, just announced a whopping $144 million in funding.

In recent years several startups have emerged to create fuel out of plant material, all hoping to lure people away from gasoline made from crude oil. Solazyme, Algae.tec, and Sapphire Energy all dominate the space, trying to edge out not only each other but oil companies as well.

All three companies covert algae into a petroleum replacement, one that can work with the traditional cars we already have on the road.

Creating green crude, a substance that can be converted into jet fuel, automobile gasoline, and diesel, is a process that has been around for several years. However, Sapphire’s recent investment proves that the technology is still going strong and that we could all very well be driving around on algae-based gas sometime.

Sapphire has gained a lot of traction by signing deals with Continental Airlines and Boeing to test out algae-based jet fuel, and the company provided fuel for an algae powered Toyota Prius.

“It has never been more critical to invest in a long-term energy solution in order to wean us off of foreign oil, improve our nation’s energy security, and provide jobs,” said Cynthia Warner, president of Sapphire Energy in an statement to VentureBeat,

”Due to the significant funding we announced today, as well as government support, Sapphire Energy is on track to commercialize algae-based fuels within this decade.”

Algae and biofuel

Algae and biofuel

Seed company Monsanto was one of the investors in this round and the company has been using Sapphire’s technology for its own genetic modification needs.

Arrowpoint Partners and other private undisclosed investors led the round as well. This $144 million third round brings the green tech company’s total to $300 million.

The funding will be used to expand its Green Crude farm in New Mexico, an algae energy demonstration plant. Sapphire expects the plant to produce 1.5 million gallons of green crude by 2014.

Sapphire Energy was found in 2007 and has been funded by Arch Venture Partners, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Wellcome Trust, Venrock, and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment.

Original post available here.

New method grows algae sustainably

NASA has devised an innovative method called Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA). It is used to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and ultimately generate biofuel without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land.

The system is made up of large flexible plastic tubes called photobioreactors. They float in seawater and contain freshwater algae growing in wastewater.

Among the fastest growing plants on Earth, the algae use energy from the sun, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the wastewater to produce biomass that can be turned into biofuels and other valuable products such as fertilizer and animal food. In the process, the algae clean the wastewater by removing nutrients that otherwise would contribute to forming marine deadzone.

Offshore membrane enclosures for growing algae. (Picture: NASA)

With this project, NASA intends to investigate the technical feasibility of a unique floating algae cultivation system and set the way for commercial uses. Research by scientists and engineers has shown that OMEGA is an effective way to grow microalgae and treat wastewater on a small scale.

NASA is analyzing the OMEGA system as an alternative way to generate aviation fuels. Potential implications of replacing fossil fuels include reducing the release of green house gases, decreasing ocean acidification and enhancing national security.

Reporters are being invited to attend a one-hour guided tour of NASA’s Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae (OMEGA) system this week in San Francisco, where they will see various prototypes of the innovative method.

Original post available here.

March 19, 2012

W2 Energy Initiates Plans to Develop Two Acres of Recently Purchased Property for its Algae Bio Reactor

Development Of Its Patent Pending SunFilter To Expand Plans To Market Food, Nutraceutical and Bio- Fuel Markets

GUELPH, Ontario, March 15, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- W2 Energy, Inc. WTWO +4.14% is pleased to announce that it has begun procedures for the development of its recently purchased property for the purpose of utilizing its patent pending algae bio reactor the SunFilter.

As previously reported, W2 Energy made a patent application for its SunFilter algae bio reactor in March 2010. The SunFilter is a low cost, scalable reactor that has high productivity capabilities. It also uses less water, has less harmful contamination and maximizes the sequestering of carbon dioxide and other feed gases. The SunFilter is W2 Energy's second generation model and has optimum light distribution because of the diameter of the tubes and its novel construction. The modular system can be built from one unit (cell) to multiple units occupying many acres.

Plans call for the initial construction of six 5,000 sq. ft. greenhouses for the purpose of using the SunFilter to farm, harvest and distribute nutraceutical grade algae for the food, health and bio-fuel markets. Algae will be cultivated from the CO2 generated by the combustion laboratory that is currently being manufactured.

In a press release dated June 10, 2011, W2 Energy reported that it had begun construction of its new combustion laboratory and installed a NT Plasmatron system running a 50 Kilowatt steam ray which will be fed by bio mass as a feed stock. The CO2 gases emitted from the combustion laboratory will be used as fuel to farm the high grade algae.

To date, billions of dollars are being spent on virtually every continent for the research and development of algae. Algae, a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, is mostly known for its rich content in nutrients and oil, as well as, its food and health benefits. However, most recently, algae has been looked at as a source of bio-fuel.

Recently, President Obama talked with students at the University of Miami about algae as potentially one of the most productive ways to address our fuel needs as the price of gas continues to rise.

To see President Obama's speech go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbjdXxJLgLw&feature=related

In the U.S., a national alliance of scientists led by a U.S. Dept. of Energy national lab is focusing on producing bio-crude oil from algae. Experiments aimed at producing bio-fuel from algae are currently being conducted worldwide because algae can be cultivated anywhere and grow very quickly.

In January 2012, The Munich Technical University (TUM) in Germany announced the development of a new catalytic process that they say allows the effective conversion of bio-petroleum from microalgae into diesel fuels. The process was presented in the most recent issue of the German journal Angewandte Chemie (Applied Chemistry).

Mike McLaren, W2 Energy President and CEO, stated, "We are very pleased with the progress we have made with our SunFilter algae bio reactor system. A tremendous effort has been made by our engineers to insure that we have both the ability and opportunity to tap into the multi-billion dollar algae industry. Upon completion of this project, we are confident that this segment of our business will not only have a positive impact on our company, but will eventually lead us to new prosperous business ventures." He also stated, "Right now we have several exciting projects in sight for the near future and we look forward to keeping our shareholders abreast as these situations unfold."

The Company plans on funding the project through a combination debt and equity financing.

To see the SunFilter algae bio reactor go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBmAo7EQoFI&feature=related

To see "Turning algae into fuel" go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoiAKcIls6s&feature=related

About W2 Energy:

W2 Energy, Inc. develops renewable energy technologies and applies it to new generation power systems. Specifically, W2 Energy's plasma assisted biomass to energy plants utilize state of the art technologies to produce green energy both fuel (sulfur free diesel) and electricity at the most efficient cost in capital investment and production per/barrel, per/Megawatt. W2 Energy, Inc. has seasoned management, cutting edge technology and owns a large technology portfolio of patents and know-how that has been extensively validated and ready for commercial production.

Original post available here.

World Biofuels Markets Opens with Debates on Aviation, Food Versus Fuel, Algae, Waste-to-Fuel, Emerging Markets and more

More than 1,500 delegates converge on Rotterdam to address global energy issues across the three day

A round up of three intense days of networking and insightful conference sessions at Europe's largest congress & Exhibition

"Biofuels continue to grow in importance as the rising price of oil impacts every aspect of the global economy, so today's sessions covering the latest in aviation, sustainability, and investments were critical to finding solution to our global energy needs,"

Future in Review Names Heliae a FiRe X FiReStarter

FRIDAY HARBOR, WA, Mar 19, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Strategic News Service is proud to announce that Heliae has been selected as a 2012 FiReStarter company to be featured at its tenth annual Future in Review (FiRe) technology conference. FiReStarter companies are selected based on their potential to bring positive change to the world, and are showcased during the conference both at an exclusive investor reception and in panels throughout the event.

Heliae is developing and designing cost-effective technology solutions that will enable sustainable industrial-scale production of food, fuel, and bio-chemicals from algae. As innovators and integrators of technology, their processes will help companies worldwide convert free sunlight and industrial waste streams into the affordable, renewable food and drop-in transportation fuels that our growing world requires.

"We're very pleased to have been selected as a FiReStarter company," said Daniel Simon, Heliae President and CEO. "Heliae's mission dovetails neatly with FiRe in our aim to drive technology innovation that translates into positive global change. We're eager to be involved with FiRe and look forward to offering a timely perspective on the role algae can play in meeting some of society's most pressing needs."

Future in Review is an annual gathering of world-class thought leaders in technology and economics. FiRe attendees convene each year with the goal of using technology to solve major world problems, a goal that is consistently met through FiRe's collaboration across disparate industries and through active support by the FiRe community. Now in its tenth year, Future in Review 2012 will take place May 22-25th at the beautiful Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, California. The Economist calls FiRe "the best technology conference in the world."

"We have been looking for a firm like Heliae for a long time. Their approach to linking bio systems to commercial demand may well be the model that brings this long-held dream of systems balance and commerce to a profitable conclusion," said Mark Anderson, FiRe Chair and SNS CEO.

To register, and to see the draft agenda, go to http://www.futureinreview.com .

Strategic News Service was founded by Mark Anderson in 1995 as the first paid online news service. Since its inception, SNS has proven the most accurate predictive newsletter covering the computer and telecom industries. Its subscribers include top managers at technology companies across the globe, including Microsoft, Dell, HP, Cisco, Intel, Sun, Google, Telstra, Orange and others.

SNS has been operating the annual FiRe Conference for nine years. The Economist calls FiRe "the best technology conference in the world." FiRe exposes world experts and participants to new ideas, producing an accurate portrait of the future, and focuses on creating technology solutions to current local and global problems. FiRe 2012 will take place May 22-25, 2012 at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, CA. For more information go to www.futureinreview.com .

Future in Review(TM) is a Strategic News Service(TM) conference. Future in Review(TM) and Strategic News Service(TM) are registered international trademarks. The SNS newsletter is the most accurate publicly ranked predictive newsletter in computing and communications.

Original post available here.

February 28, 2012

Obama touts algal biofuels; $14M in new R&D funding; $2.28 per gallon algal biofuels in sight?

As President Obama highlights the role of algal biofuels in the long-term energy strategy, critics and supporters duke it out over the nearer-term prospects, as R&D spending increases.

In Washington, the Obama Administration outlined a new $14 million round of R&D grants for algal biofuels, as the US President highlighted algal biofuels in a speech at the University of Miami which focused on energy policy.

In Miami, the President said: “We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance — algae. You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States. And that means greater energy security. That means lower costs. It means more jobs. It means a stronger economy.”

$14 million for algal biofuels R&D: DOE

Through ARPA-E, the Energy Department will make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae, which it said has the potential to replace up to 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil for transportation. In addition, algae feedstocks offer additional benefits, such as an ability to be grown in ponds near industrial facilities where algae can feed off the carbon emissions from power plants or digest nitrogen and phosphorous from municipal waste water. The Department is currently supporting more than 30 algae-based biofuels projects, representing $85 million in total investments.

Through the new funding announcement, the Department will seek proposals from small businesses, universities, and national laboratories to modify existing facilities for long-term algae research and test new production processes that could lead to commercial biofuels made from algae. Specifically, the new projects will establish and operate research “test beds” for algal biofuels that can facilitate development, test new approaches to algae production, and discover innovative ways to minimize the water and nutrients needed to mass produce algae for commercial biofuels.

This research will support the Biomass Program’s goals to model pathways for significant (>1 billion gallons per year) volumes of cost-competitive algal biofuels by 2022.

A copy of the full funding announcement can be downloaded here.

Obama’s algae program “weird”: Gingrich

In Washington, Newt Gingrich rebutted Obama’s algae program, deeming it “weird”. Gingrich has been mocking the speech since Thursday night, when he stood in front of an Idaho crowd suggesting that he should take a bottle of algae with him and “go around and we can have the Obama solution.” The Republican candidate indicated concerns that algae would end up the next Solyndra “You know the President had this magnificent solar power investment and took 500 something-million of your money, (he) visited the plant because it was the plant of the future,” Gingrich said. “I suspect in the next few weeks we’ll see him at some algae plant.”

Obama responded to critics, thus: “You know there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices. If we’re going to take control of our energy future and avoid these gas price spikes down the line, then we need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more.”

Smearing the sector

But CJ Ciaramella penned a scathing critique of the US Government’s algal biofuels, in an article focused on Sapphire Energy and Obama Administration support, entitled “SAPPHIRE IN THE ROUGH: $100M in federal money; 36 jobs created,” which highlighted Sapphire Energy lobbying expense and drew attention to Democratic-leaning political donations by the company and its executives.

Reversing itself, the article then pointed out that the Algae-based Renewable Fuel Promotion Act of 2010 was co-sponsored by Republican House member Brian Bilbray, whose district encompasses the algae-tech corridor in San Diego, a bill which was passed in the House but stalled in there Democratic-controlled Senate.

The article has been getting some forwarding attention within the algal biofuels community.

$2.28 per gallon algal biofuels?

Also in California, OriginOil announced a new company study indicating a potential production cost as low as $2.28/gallon ($0.60/Liter) for gasoline or diesel using a blend of algae and waste feedstocks, using the latest growth, harvesting and fuel conversion technologies from OriginOil and other innovators. OriginOil’s comprehensive model analyzes the entire algae production process at scale, integrating the latest advances in growth, harvesting and fuel conversion.

In the lowest-cost scenario, algae harvested using OriginOil’s Algae Appliance is blended with waste feedstocks and converted onsite to achieve a modeled production cost of $2.28 per gallon for gasoline or diesel. This cost roughly doubles to $5.44/gallon ($1.44/Liter) when using pure algae feedstocks. The model assumes a production footprint of at least 50 hectares (124 acres).

Can lowest-cost biofuels even qualify as renewable fuels?

A friend of the Digest writes: One topic worth discussion as the USDA’s BioPreferred [and other programs] are rolled out is the use of fossil carbon. For example, the use of waste CO2. What if the CO2 comes from a coal burning power plant? This is a great use of the CO2, perhaps better than sequestering it underground, but would the resulting succinate be biopreferred? What if a company like Proterro makes sugar from coal plant CO2? Can that sugar be used for biobased materials? My concern is that the program may hinder the types of novel innovation we need to creatively and effectively deal with waste CO2 and to have options other that sequestration.”

Continue the discussion forward

The Digest has re-ignited its commentary section, here at Biofuels Digest: The Community.

Many of you will recall that the Digest maintained a lively comments section for its articles for a long time. So many spam comments were coming in – as much as 5% of the entire size of the Digest article database, in a matter of a few hours, that it was crashing the website, forcing us to shut down the Comments section.

We’ve re-established a commentary section here, where you can respond to articles, start your own commentary threads, and interact directly with other members of the Digest community. Right now, there are threads on “Waste CO2, should it count?”; the Renewable Fuel Standard; the Cleantech Conservative, and new ideas for financing aviation biofuels.

Original post available here.

U.S. funds alternative fuel research

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- More than $40 million will go into new research to encourage the development of alternative fuels for automobiles in the U.S. market, the government said.

The White House announced it was making $30 million available for developing technology for the use of natural gas in automobiles and another $14 million to support research and development of biofuels derived from algae.

The natural gas program in part targets technology needed to build fuel tanks for passenger vehicles that can handle the high pressures of natural gas. The funding for algae-based biofuels will help develop technology the White House said could replace as much as 17 percent of the oil imported into the United States for transportation use.

"Through the new programs announced today, we can help revolutionize the way Americans fuel their cars, saving money for families and businesses while building new industries here in the United States," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

Tensions between Iran and countries leery of Tehran's suspected nuclear ambitions helped push oil prices to nine-month highs, sending U.S. retail gasoline prices to more than $3.60 per gallon. Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama blame his energy policies for high gasoline prices.

The United States is a net exporter of gasoline.

Why Did Obama's Favorite Algae Biofuels Company Break Up With Dow?

An innovative algae biofuels company favored by Obama’s Energy Department was also once a darling of Dow Chemical.

But Florida’s Algenol Biofuels ended its partnership with Dow in 2010, shifting its pilot project from Dow facilities in Freeport, Texas, to Algenol’s laboratories in Lee County, Florida.

“Algenol felt that Dow had contributed as much as it could,” Algenol CEO Paul Woods said in an e-mail.

Algenol's plastic bioreactors prevent water from evaporating and collect ethanol naturally produced and released by algae.

President Obama highlighted algae as an vehicle fuel source in an energy address he delivered at the University of Miami last Thursday, drawing mockery over the weekend from Newt Gingrich and other conservatives.

Algenol Biofuels was behind the reference, having received $25 million in stimulus funds to develop an innovative process for collecting ethanol naturally emitted by living algae.

Dow touted the process as its own in this 2009 press release:

In line with Dow’s sustainability efforts, the project exemplifies the Company’s commitment to providing solutions that improve energy efficiency, promote renewable energy and advance the environmental performance of its existing energy sources. According to Rich Wells, Dow vice president, Energy & Climate Change and Alternative Feedstocks, “This is yet another way that Dow is helping to solve world energy challenges with our expertise in sustainable chemistry that is good for the world, and good for business.”

via Dow Announces Plan to Build and Operate a Pilot-Scale Algae-based.

Dow was terse about the breakup this week, sending this official statement via email:

Dow and Algenol mutually agreed to terminate the Joint Development Agreement between our companies. Dow leaves open a positive relationship and the opportunity for future sales of film and plastic developed during the program.

The company did not respond to a request for elaboration.

But Algenol Biofuels CEO Paul Woods did:

Algenol felt that the development agreement had run its course and that Dow’s help in developing its plastic photobioreactors was completed. Algenol wanted to use different partners to further develop its plastics and photobioreactors and to no longer be open to sharing its intellectual property with Dow.

Algenol grows blue green algae in saltwater in sealed plastic bioreactors. The containers prevent water from evaporating—a problem that has dogged more conventional efforts to produce ethanol from algae. A government study concluded those conventional efforts require up to 350 gallons of fresh water for each gallon of algal ethanol.

The study also found that domestic ethanol produced from algae could replace 17 percent of U.S. oil imports.

Original article available here.

The Secrets Of Algae, Continued

Northwestern University

Image via Wikipedia

Nuclear energy holds great promise if, among other things, its radioactive waste can be better disposed. Compared to solar panels, wind farms and biofuels, it produces a large amount of energy with low carbon dioxide emissions at a relatively small cost; the technology is mature. In addition, river and ocean habitats need not be disturbed as in the case with hydro power.

But nuclear plants also produce a lot of spent fuel and suffer from the latent risk of a meltdown. Human and design errors like the 1986 Chernobyl explosion and natural catastrophe like last year’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster have led some countries to shutdown old plants and cease building new ones.

The Chernobyl incident made a huge impression on a young Derk Joester, now the Morris E. Fine Junior Professor of Materials and Manufacturing at Northwestern University. Back then he was a teenager living in southern Germany, when the radioactive dust started raining down. Today his research includes finding materials that can help with a clean-up.

The difficulty lies in finding a cost-effective, efficient solution that separates radioactive elements from non-radioactive ones. But Joester is hopeful that last year’s discovery in his lab will lead to a novel solution in the near future.

One of the hardest selectivity problems to solve has been calcium strontium-90 versus calcium. Calcium is common in the environment, but has similar properties to strontium-90. During remediation efforts, scientists have to separate the strontium from calcium, whether the elements are in water, soil or elsewhere. Commercial ion-exchange materials are mostly non-organic and expensive to make. They also create a large amount of waste.

But he and Minna Krejci, a recently graduated PhD student in Joester’s lab and lead scientist on the research findings, along with Lydia Finney and Stefan Vogt of the Argonne National Laboratory, found that the pea-pod-shaped green algae Closterium moniliferum is highly selective and can be concentrated to a much smaller volume before and after the selection process.

“The algae right now aren’t better than the available materials but they have significant advantages,” explains Joester. “Once these get developed further you can take a test tube of them anywhere in the world and let them grow and divide without having to have to airlift in a large volume or weight of material. The use of living organisms that reproduce themselves can be advantage.

C. moniliferum shuttles strontium, barium and calcium through circular vacuoles located at the tips of its pod. The vacuoles can act like a liver and remove waste product from the organism. (Vacuoles have many functions this being one of them.) Specifically, they create strontium, barium sulfate crystals using a co-precipitation process.

“The presence of aqueous [barium] lowers the solubility product of the precipitate relative to pure [strontium sulfate] (which does not precipitate) and enables the sequestration of strontium in the barite crystals,” wrote the authors. By controlling the amount of sulfate in them, the vacuoles control how much strontium is sequestered.

Afterward, the algae can be easily filtered and burned in a controlled process, leaving only the crystals.

Argonne’s Vogt, who is also an adjunct professor at Northwestern, says, “The interest in the project is very fundamental. How the algae go about doing this, there may be other ways to exploit that.” He adds that the research institution partially funded Krejci’s PhD research in order to address a question that is relevant to both the institution and the US Department of Energy, and at the same time develop methods that would improve the techniques the scientists use such as interfaces. The research is mainly funded by the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).

Joester’s lab is now looking at how to make the algae more efficient and scale the process.

Original post available here.

OriginOil Study Concludes Algae Producers Can Make Gasoline And Diesel For As Little As $2.28/Gallon

OriginOil, Inc. (OTC/BB: OOIL), developer of a breakthrough technology to convert algae into renewable crude oil, today announced a new company study indicating for the first time that algae producers worldwide can now make transportation fuels cost-effectively themselves.

The Company’s analysis points to a potential production cost as low as $2.28/gallon ($0.60/Liter) for gasoline or diesel using a blend of algae and waste feedstocks, using the latest growth, harvesting and fuel conversion technologies from OriginOil and other innovators.

“In his recent energy address, President Obama cast an unconditional vote for U.S. energy security using algae to replace up to 17% of our imported oil,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil’s CEO. “This is no pipe dream: we now know that any algae producer can make gasoline and diesel right at the point of production, and compete with petroleum.

“The Administration’s policy commitment, combined with the U.S. Defense Department’s long-term commitment to include biofuels in its operations, will help bring about the wide adoption of algae-based fuel in this decade," added Eckelberry.
The company cautions that this is a first look at the impact of these new technologies that is subject to large-scale revision. OriginOil will make the model available to algae producers at no charge for their business planning and intends to solicit private input from the algae industry to improve it continuously.

“Yesterday President Obama spoke about the potential of algae biomass to displace 17% of our current consumption of petroleum”, said OriginOil scientific advisor, Dr. Thomas H. Ulrich, previously an Advisory Scientist at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL). “This is not unreasonable given recent improvements in biomass harvesting and collection efficiencies and other technology enhancements being made by companies like OriginOil in partnership with the INL for further developing and validating these technologies.”

OriginOil’s comprehensive model analyzes the entire algae production process at scale, integrating the latest advances in growth, harvesting and fuel conversion. In the lowest-cost scenario, algae harvested using OriginOil’s Algae Appliance™ is blended with waste feedstocks and converted onsite to achieve a modeled production cost of $2.28 per gallon for gasoline or diesel. This cost roughly doubles to $5.44/gallon ($1.44/Liter) when using pure algae feedstocks. The model assumes a production footprint of at least 50 hectares (124 acres).

Low cost and ready availability of waste products are behind U.S. plans to implement a blending strategy that includes algae for its high energy content and petrochemical profile. In December 2011, the Defense Logistics Agency announced the single largest purchase of biofuel in US history, using a blend of algae and waste cooking oil.

Dr. Ulrich, a key contributor to developing the Blendable Feedstock Standard in which OriginOil is collaborating with the Department of Energy, went on to say, “The lowering of these costs is the result of integrating harvesting and collection preprocessing strategies that can benefit from the blending of the physical and chemical properties of different combinations of biomass feedstocks and other waste products.”

“What we need now are well funded and coordinated efforts by industry and government to integrate and test the best of these diverse technology enhancements. It is very important to validate these promising technologies at the pilot as well as at the commercial production scales. Government support of such scaled projects is appropriate and critical to our nation’s energy independence," concluded Ulrich.

Original post available here.

February 21, 2012


While biofuels made with ethanol and soybean oil dominate the renewable energy debate, not everyone is aware that single-celled algae can also provide a valuable fuel source. Microalgae, the bright green “scum” most often observed on lakes and ponds, contain the same kinds of organic oils as corn or soybeans that make them viable for biofuel production. In fact, most of the petroleum we currently rely on is made from fossilized algae. But innovations in recent years have enabled scientists to convert non-fossilized algae into crude oil, a development which may provide a solution to our reliance on petrochemical energy.

OriginOil, an American company responsible for several breakthroughs in algae-based biofuel technologies, announced a commercial agreement last week with Aquaviridis, an algaculture company based in Minnesota with several sites in Mexico. The new agreement (made possible by the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA]), will create green jobs in both countries by introducing technology developed by OriginOil to Aquavirids’s algae processing facility in Mexicali, Mexico. While the agreement deals with algae production for a range of uses, OriginOil’s new technology promises to improve the efficiency of algal-oil fuels in a commercial capacity.

Thomas Byrne, president of Aquaviridis, explained, “After evaluating OriginOil’s portfolio, our technical team felt that OriginOil had some novel, scalable, and potentially game-changing technologies for algae harvesting and growth enhancement. We are excited about the opportunity to work closely with them as a partner during our research and planning stage. Having the right partners and technologies is critical, as our expectation is to have this facility in revenue this year.”

The newly modernized facility intends to proceed from research and development to a 10 acre pilot algae farm by the middle of the year, and commercial scale algae production is scheduled for the second quarter of 2013. Assuming commercialization is successful, the deal could pave the way for a series of algae farms and production facilities in both the US and Mexico. OriginOil’s vice president of marketing, Ken Reynolds, has high hopes for the project.

“The Mexicali Valley is a great place to develop an algae industry, given its climate and access to industry research and resources throughout North America. With the U.S. as a neighboring market for high value exports, Mexico is in an excellent position to take the lead in areas such as research and production of algae for nutritional products, animal feed, and oil for biofuels, which would create long-term regional economic growth and job production,” he said.


British economist Lionel Robbins coined the classic definition of economics: the study of scarce resources which have alternate uses. Indeed, both the “scarcity” and “alternate uses” of conventional biofuel sources seem to present obstacles for their long-term cost competitiveness. This is because soybean and corn oils necessarily demand an important tradeoff—to produce fuels like ethanol, farmland and crops must be designated specifically for fuel instead of food. The price of soybeans, for example, has soared in recent years to reflect direct competition between biofuel producers and manufacturers of a multitude of other soy-based products. These competing interests within the agricultural industry have prevented soybean and corn fuel from becoming price competitive with petroleum, despite biodiesel and ethanol typically receiving the lion’s share of renewable energy subsidies. (The legislation providing for the ethanol subsidy expired on Dec. 31.) Moreover, political pressure from the petroleum industry could complicate any meaningful changes toward renewable energy in the long-term—such a fundamental shift would cost countless oil refining jobs, a prospect which has sparked opposition to emerging fuel sources from the multi-billion dollar oil industry.

But algal-oil fuel production may avoid these economic pitfalls. While countless food products are composed from corn and soybeans, pond scum has substantially fewer alternate uses. And fewer competing interests within algae markets means potentially lower prices on fuels made from algae biomass. Furthermore, because algae grow in an aquatic environment which is unsuitable for conventional agriculture, cultivation doesn’t require a tradeoff with farmland which would otherwise be viable for food. In fact, commercial algae production can take place in ocean water or even wastewater. Almost the entire organism is devoted to converting sunlight to oil, or lipids (not the case with corn or soy), compelling one biofuel company to claim that an area of algae the size of a two car garage could potentially produce as much energy as an entire football field of soybeans.

But perhaps most impressively, representatives from OriginOil claim that their technology can be implemented in existing petroleum refineries which could be overhauled and converted to algae oil production. This means that the infrastructure necessary for a complete transformation of our energy market may already be in place, a distinction which could present two potential advantages for proponents of algae fuel: it could ease the transition from petroleum to renewable fuel sources, saving potentially billions of dollars otherwise necessary to build a new energy infrastructure, and it could go a long way toward quelling opposition from the petroleum industry, who could conceivably still profit from algae produced in existing petrochemical refineries.


For now, algal-oil fuels are still far from being cost-competitive with petroleum. There are three primary obstacles to efficient algae production. First, since algae are aquatic, individual cells must be separated from water and concentrated. Second, single-celled algae have a tough outer cell wall which must be cracked before oil can be harvested from the cell. Both of these processes are energy intensive, and therefore costly. OriginOil has addressed these problems with a patented process called Quantum Fracturing, which combines technology involving electromagnetic fields with pH modification. According to OriginOil, this “Single-Step Extraction” process is less costly than conventional techniques, and necessarily results in the separation of water, oil, and biomass. A time lapse video of this separation process can be seen at OriginOil’s website. Finally, because algae processing is inherently energy intensive, energy use must be extremely efficient at all stages of production. OriginOil hopes to sequester and reuse gas byproducts like hydrogen produced by algae growth in order to make harvesting as energy-efficient as possible. Additionally, OriginOil claims that oil-depleted algae cells can be used to supplement cattle feed.

All of which suggests a promising future for OriginOil and algaculturalists across the board. But if algae-based fuels are to meet our growing energy demands, there are still technological hurdles to be cleared. Privately funded research and development from innovative companies like OriginOil and Aquaviridis is yielding exciting results. Before deciding whether to renew ethanol subsidies, the federal government may be wise to give thought to incentivizing investment in emerging energy technologies like algal-oil extraction.

February 20, 2012

Why Algal Biofuels May Never Hold the Key to the Future

The depletion of world rock phosphate reserves will restrict the amount of food that can be grown, a situation that can only be compounded by the production of biofuels, including the potential large-scale generation of diesel from algae. The world population has risen to its present number of 7 billion in consequence of cheap fertilizers, pesticides and energy sources, particularly oil. Almost all modern farming has been engineered to depend on phosphate fertilizers, and those made from natural gas, e.g. ammonium nitrate, and on oil to run tractors etc. and to distribute the final produce. A peak in worldwide production of rock phosphate is expected by 2030, which lends fears over how much food the world will be able to grow in the future, against a rising number of mouths to feed [1]. Consensus of analytical opinion is that we are close to the peak in world oil production too.

One proposed solution to the latter problem is to substitute oil-based fuels by biofuels, although this is not as straightforward as is often presented. In addition to the simple fact that growing fuel-crops must inevitably compete for limited arable land on which to grow food-crops, there are vital differences in the properties of biofuels, e.g. biodiesel and bioethanol, from conventional hydrocarbon fuels such as petrol and diesel, which will necessitate the adaptation of engine-designs to use them, for example in regard to viscosity at low temperatures, e.g. in planes flying in the frigidity of the troposphere. Raw ethanol needs to be burned in a specially adapted engine to recover more of its energy in terms of tank to wheels miles, otherwise it could deliver only about 70% of the "kick" of petrol, pound for pound.

In order to obviate the competition between fuel and food crops, it has been proposed to grow algae to make biodiesel from. Some strains of algae can produce 50% of their weight of oil, which is transesterified into biodiesel in the same way that plant oils are. Compared to e.g. rapeseed which might yield a tonne of biodiesel per hectare, or 8 tonnes from palm-oil, perhaps 40 - 90 tonnes per hectare is thought possible from algae [2], grown in ponds of equivalent area. Since the ponds can in principle be placed anywhere, there is no need to use arable land for them. Some algae grow well on salt-water too which avoids diverting increasingly precious freshwater from normal uses, as is the case for growing crops which require enormous quantities of freshwater.

The algae route sounds almost too good to be true. Having set-up these ponds, albeit on a large scale, i.e. they would need an area of 10,000 km^2 (at 40 t/ha) to produce 40 million tonnes of diesel, which is enough to match the UK's transportation demand for fuel if all vehicles were run on diesel-engines [the latter are more efficient in terms of tank to wheels miles by about 40% than petrol-fuelled spark-ignition engines], one could ideally have them to absorb CO2 from smokestacks (thus simultaneously solving another little problem) by photosynthesis, driven only by the flux of natural sunlight. The premise is basically true; however, for algae to grow, vital nutrients are also required, as a simple elemental analysis of dried algae will confirm. Phosphorus, though present in under 1% of that total mass, is one such vital ingredient, without which algal growth is negligible. I have used two different methods of calculation to estimate how much phosphate would be needed to grow enough algae, first to fuel the UK and then to fuel the world:

(1) I have taken as illustrative the analysis of dried Chlorella [2], which contains 895 mg of elemental phosphorus per 100 g of algae.

UK Case: To make 40 million tonnes of diesel would require 80 million tonnes of algae (assuming that 50% of it is oil and this can be converted 100% to diesel).
The amount of "phosphate" in the algae is 0.895 x (95/31) = 2.74 %. (MW PO4(3-) is 95, that of P = 31).

Hence that much algae would contain: 80 million x 0.0274 = 2.19 million tonnes of phosphate. Taking the chemical composition of the mineral as fluorapatite, Ca5(PO4)3F, MW 504, we can say that this amount of "phosphate" is contained in 3.87 million tonnes of rock phosphate.

World Case: The world gets through 30 billion barrels of oil a year, of which 70% is used for transportation (assumed). Since 1 tonne of oil is contained in 7.3 barrels, this equals 30 x 10^9/7.3 = 4.1 x 10^9 tonnes and 70% of that = 2.88 x 10^9 tonnes of oil for transportation.

So this would need twice that mass of algae = 5.76 x 10^9 tonnes of it, containing:
5.76 x 10^9 x 0.0274 = 158 million tonnes of phosphate. As before, taking the chemical composition of phosphate as fluorapatite, Ca5(PO4)3F, MW 504, this amount of "phosphate" is contained in 279 million tonnes of rock phosphate.

(2) To provide an independent estimate of these figures, I note that growth of this algae is efficient in a medium containing a concentration of 0.03 - 0.06% phosphorus; since I am not trying to be alarmist, I shall use the lower part of the range, i.e 0.03% P. "Ponds" for growing algae vary in depth from 0.3 - 1.5 m, but I shall assume a depth of 0.3 m.

UK Case: assuming (vide supra) that producing 40 million tonnes of oil (assumed equal to the final amount of diesel, to simplify the illustration) would need a pond/tank area of 10,000 km^2. 10,000 km^2 = 1,000,000 ha and at a depth of 0.3 m, this amounts to a volume of: 1,000,000 x (1 x 10^4 m^2/ha) x 0.3 m = 3 x 10^9 m^3.

A concentration of 0.03 % P = 0.092% phosphate, and so each m^3 (1 m^3 weighs 1 tonne) of volume contains 0.092/100 = 9.2 x 10^-4 tonnes (920 grams) of phosphate. Therefore, we need:

3 x 10^9 x 9.2 x 10^-4 = 2.76 million tonnes of phosphate, which is in reasonable accord with the amount of phosphate taken-up by the algae (2.19 million tonnes), as deduced above. This corresponds to 4.87 million tonnes of rock phosphate.

World Case: The whole world needs 2.88 x 10^9 tonnes of oil, which would take an area of 2.88 x 10^9/40 t/ha = 7.20 x 10^7 ha of land to produce it.

7.2 x 10^7 ha x (10^4 m^2/ha) = 7.2 x 10^11 m^2 and at a pond depth of 0.3 m they would occupy a volume = 2.16 x 10^11 m^3. Assuming a density of 1 tonne = 1 m^3, and a concentration of PO4(3-) = 0.092%, we need:

2.16 x 10^11 x 0.092/100 = 1.99 x 10^8 tonnes of phosphate, i.e. 199 million tonnes. This corresponds to 352 million tonnes of rock phosphate.

This is also in reasonable accord with the figure deduced from the mass of algae accepting that not all of the P would be withdrawn from solution during the algal growth.

Now, world rock phosphate production amounts to around 140 million tonnes (noting that we need 352 million tonnes to grow all the algae), and food production is already being thought compromised by phosphate resource depletion. The US produces less than 40 million tonnes of rock phosphate annually, but would require enough to produce around 25% of the world's total algal diesel, in accord with its current "share" of world petroleum-based fuel, or 88 million tonnes of phosphate. Hence, for the US, security of fuel supply could not be met by algae-to-diesel production using even all its indigenous rock phosphate output, and significant imports of the mineral are still needed. This is in addition to the amount of the mineral needed for agriculture.

The world total of rock phosphate is reckoned at 8,000 million tonnes and that in the US at 2,850 million tonnes (by a Hubbert Linearization analysis). However, as is true of all resources, what matters is the rate at which they can be produced.

I remain optimistic over algal diesel, but clearly if it is to be implemented on a serious scale its phosphorus has to come from elsewhere than mineral rock phosphate. There are regions of the sea that are relatively high in phosphates and could in principle be concentrated to the desired amount to grow algae, especially as salinity is not necessarily a problem. Recycling phosphorus from manure and other kinds of plant and animal waste appears to be the only means to maintain agriculture at its present level, and certainly if its activities will be increased to include growing algae. In principle too, the phosphorus content of the algal-waste left after the oil-extraction process could be recycled into growing the next batch of algae. These are all likely to be energy-intensive processes, however, requiring "fuel" of some kind, in their own right. A recent study [4] concluded that growing algae could become cost-effective if it is combined with environmental clean-up strategies, namely sewage wastewater treatment and reducing CO2 emissions from smokestacks of fossil-fuelled power stations or cement factories. This combination appears very attractive, since the impacts of releasing nitrogen and phosphorus into the environment and also those of greenhouse gases might be mitigated, while conserving precious N/P nutrient and simultaneously producing a material that can replace crude oil as a fuel feedstock.

It is salutary that there remains a competition between growing crops (algae) for fuel and those for food, even if not directly in terms of land, for the fertilizers that both depend upon. This illustrates for me the complex and interconnected nature of, indeed Nature, and that like any stressed chain, will ultimately converge its forces onto the weakest link in the "it takes energy to extract energy" sequence.

The is a Hubbert-type analysis of human population growth indicates that rather than rising to the putative "9 billion by 2050" scenario, it will instead peak around the year 2025 at 7.3 billion, and then fall [5]. It is probably significant too that that population growth curve fits very closely both with that for world phosphate production and another for world oil production [5]. It seems to me highly indicative that it is the decline in resources that will underpin our demise in numbers as is true of any species: from a colony of human beings growing on the Earth, to a colony of bacteria growing on agar nutrient in a Petri-dish.

By. Professor Chris Rhodes

Original post available here.

NUI Galway joins €14m algae project

Researchers at NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute are involved in a major €14 million European initiative to develop the potential of algae as a source of sustainable energy.

As a partner in the project, NUI Galway is responsible for the initial step of producing some of the biomass required for conversion to biofuel. This will be accomplished by cultivating macroalgae (seaweed) biomass at sea in a one-hectare pilot facility.

NUI Galway’s part of the ‘EnAlgae’ project is valued at almost €1.2 million, over the next four years. Currently, algal bioenergy technologies are immature, but rapid advances are being made in the field.

The project will focus on the cultivation of some of Ireland’s native kelp species, including large brown seaweeds, commonly seen cast up on the beach after a storm. Growth of the seaweed crop occurs in two phases, the first phase of which is being carried out at the Ryan Institute’s Carna Research Station in Co. Galway.

“In our facilities here, microscopic stages of the algae are cultured and sprayed onto ropes. Once the seaweed has been ‘seeded’ onto hundreds of metres of rope, they are deployed at sea in the one-hectare experimental plot in Ventry Harbour, Co. Kerry,” said Dr Maeve Edwards, Research Scientist at the Martin Ryan Institute’s Carna facility.

Seaweed will also be cultivated in Northern Ireland and Brittany in France, with NUI Galway coordinating the cultivation efforts between all three institutions.

Professor Colin Brown, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said he was delighted by the institution’s involvement in the project.

“Ireland and the European Union recognise the need to reduce our dependence on dwindling petroleum stocks and are promoting the use of biofuels. I am delighted to see that bright young researchers in the Ryan Institute have spotted the opportunity to engage in international and innovative research into a source of biomass - in this case, seaweed - whose conversion to biofuels could help in the transformation of the transport sector.”

Original post available here.

Lone Star College-Montgomery students seek cutting-edge energy solutions for master-planned community

In just months, Michelle Coleman, an LSC-Montgomery graduate who now volunteers in the Biotechnology Institute, has seen results in the quest to remediate the brackish aquifer water (on left) using various strains of algae (on right).

THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- The students at Lone Star College-Montgomery are putting a lot of energy into finding low-energy solutions for what hopes to be the first-ever environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable master-planned community in the U.S.

Through a recent partnership with Aperion, a property development company based in Arizona, students in LSC-Montgomery’s Biotechnology Institute are using algae to find biological processes for water treatment, waste remediation, and energy conservation that will directly impact Rio West, a developing community outside of Albuquerque, N.M.

“Our students are part of cutting-edge research and training that reflect brand new sustainable technologies being implemented around the world,” said Danny Kainer, director of the biotechnology institute at LSC-Montgomery. “This is a chance to diversify our institute and teach in the same manner that scientists conduct science, which is through hands-on research.”

The hopes of the community’s developer, David Maniatis, and its chief technology expert, George King, is to ensure the energy produced by the community is more than the energy consumed by the inhabitants, including electricity, materials, and the 65 million acre-feet of water in a newly-discovered aquifer beneath the site. (To put that into perspective, one acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons.)

While finding water in the middle of the desert seems like a simple way to sustain the community, the aquifer water is unsuitable for consumption and unusable for industries.

That’s where LSC-Montgomery students come into play.

Stepping out the classroom and into the lab, a group of students and faculty are developing new techniques for desalinization of the water and remediation of the waste produced.

“We’re taking the water (from the aquifer) and adding certain strains of algae to see which will survive and which will remediate the water,” said Tammie Porter, who after receiving her associate degree in biotechnology last August, is back at LSC-Montgomery working on courses to transfer to M.D.Anderson School of Health Professions.

“Already, we’ve seen results.”

Porter, along with other students, has been working since last fall to find strains of algae that can survive in and remediate the brackish aquifer water. As Kainer explained, even the byproducts of the algal growth can provide additional revenue streams and potentially, make the entire project sustainable.

“To have algae already growing in the lab is great news,” said King, who has more than 35 years of experience in energy, power, water, and waste management. “The living organisms (that students have placed in that water) have surprised us by their ability to survive in that environment. Nature has been doing this, and we’re just trying to figure out how and replicate it. Hopefully, we’ll implement an alternative to chemical remediation.”

To provide the students the equipment and resources needed to complete their analysis, Aperion has invested $82,000 in LSC-Montgomery’s biotechnology program.

“This investment is a catalyst to get all portions of this program—algae, biodiesel, fuel cell, and now water remediation, revamped and increased,” said Kainer.

The donation will allow the college to revamp its existing greenhouse to serve as a biorefinery and aqua-culture research center; to make specialized equipment usable, such as a scanning electron microscope donated by Rice University; and to purchase an infrared spectrometer and an automated cell counter, two analytical instruments in the industry that will aid the students in monitoring algal growth patterns.

Additionally, the donation will help further develop the algae photobioreactor (PBR) project initiated in 2010 when the National Algae Association (NAA) partnered with LSC-Montgomery to host the first commercial-scale, closed-loop PBR in the greater Houston area. Housed on campus, this system converts pond scum into biofuel and has provided students with research opportunities, on-site internships, and partnerships with energy industry professionals.

“Scientific research doesn’t normally happen at the community college level, but it happens here,” said Kainer.

Students, interns, and even local high school students are involved in project, including Michelle Coleman, who received her associate degree in biotechnology from LSC-Montgomery last August. Coleman has enjoyed the research so much that she has continued working with the biotechnology institute on a volunteer basis.

“This algae project really gave me a focus, and now this lab is my home-away-from-home,” said Coleman, who became more interested in biotechnology when she began to appreciate the diversity of the field. “I’ve had the chance to start on the ground floor of some amazing research, and I won’t get this opportunity anywhere else.”

Coleman and the other students at LSC-Montgomery are just building the foundation of a project in an ever-growing industry, where according to Kainer, the sky is the limit.

“These technologies and the discovery process accelerate the quest for carbon management in the food, fuel, and fiber industries,” said Kainer. “The management and remediation of organic waste streams is an absolute necessity for any community, region, or nation that aims to be truly sustainable.”

Original post available here.

Algae.Tec Congratulates Strategic Partner The Manildra Group on International Biofuels Certification

Algae.Tec congratulates its strategic partner the Manildra Group on being awarded the world's first commercial certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB)

Perth, Western Australia/Atlanta, Georgia (PRWEB) February 15, 2012

Algae.Tec Limited (ASX:AEB, FWB:GZA:GR, ALGXY:US) an advanced algae to biofuels company with a high-yield enclosed algae growth and harvesting system today congratulates its strategic partner the Manildra Group on being awarded the world's first commercial certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).

The RSB has developed a Global Sustainability Standard and Certification System for biofuel production. The RSB Certification System is approved by the European Commission, as proof of compliance with the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC).

The RSB Global Sustainability Standard represents a global consensus of over 120 organizations including farmers, fuel refiners, regulators and NGOs, and is intended to ensure the sustainability of biofuels production practices while streamlining compliance for industry.

The RSB has announced that Manildra Group of Australia has been awarded the first completed commercial certification.

Algae.Tec is currently deploying an algae to biofuels production facility at the Manildra Group complex in Shoalhaven south of Sydney, Australia.

Algae.Tec Executive Chairman Roger Stroud congratulates the Manildra Group saying: "Biofuels are the future transport fuels, and having internationally agreed sustainability certification is yet another sign of a maturing industry," said Stroud.

The RSB announcement stated:

The Manildra Group, through its subsidiary Shoalhaven Starches Pty Ltd, is producing bioethanol from starchy wastewater generated by their wheat-processing facility. The completion of RSB certification by Manildra offers tangible evidence that sustainable biofuels may be efficiently and economically produced at a large scale while adhering to ambitious social and environmental standards. The summary report of the audit is available here: www.ncsi.com.au/Roundtable-on-Sustainable-Biofuels-RSB.html

"This is the day we have been waiting for since the launch of the RSB, and we applaud Manildra for their leadership", says Barbara Bramble, Chair of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and Senior Advisor at the National Wildlife Federation. "This achievement justifies the hard work and the commitment of the stakeholders worldwide who supported the RSB and contributed to the development and implementation of the RSB Global Sustainability Standard."

The RSB Certification System allows farmers, feedstock processors and biofuel producers to demonstrate that their operations comply with ambitious yet practical safeguards, including, but not limited to, the protection of natural or rare ecosystems, food security, and the respect of human rights to land, water and decent work conditions, and the management of water resources.

About the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB)
The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) is a multi-stakeholder initiative launched and hosted by the Energy Center of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. More information about the EPFL Energy Center is available at energycenter.epfl.ch.

The full list of RSB members is available at www.rsb.org .

The RSB certification system is implemented and managed by the RSB Services Foundation, a non-profit established in the US.

About Algae.Tec www.algaetec.com.au
Algae.Tec, founded in 2007, is a publicly listed advanced renewable oil from algae company that has developed a high-yield enclosed algae growth and harvesting system, the McConchie-Stroud System. The company has offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Perth, Western Australia.

The Algae.Tec enclosed modular engineered technology is designed to grow algae on an industrial scale and produce biofuels that replace predominantly imported fossil fuels.

The technology has demonstrated exceptional performance in productivity, product yield, carbon dioxide sequestration, and production unit footprint requirements versus agricultural crops and other competitive algae processes in the industry.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/2/prweb9194700.htm