January 31, 2012

Pond Biofuels pilots unique algae bioreactor at cement plant

Toronto, Ontario-based Pond Biofuels Inc. is piloting a unique algae production system at St. Mary’s Cement with support of the Ontario government. According to Pond Biofuels, the new system will reduce greenhouse gases by absorbing dirty smokestack emissions to grow algae, which can be used in oil production, converted into biodiesel or bioplastics, or act as a renewable replacement for coal.

“Ontario is proud to support innovative companies like Pond Biofuels that are turning innovative ideas into great jobs,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Innovation. “We are proud to support the development of new technology that benefits the environment, provides an alternative source of energy and creates new, high-quality jobs in Ontario.”

Pond Biofuels is currently piloting a 16,000 liter (4,227 gallon) algae production facility at the cement plant. According to Pond Biofuels Project Manager Jaime Gonzalez, the company’s technology utilizes a unique bioreactor system. Unlike most traditional algae bioreactors, Gonzalez said Pond Biofuels’ system utilizes high-efficiency LEDs. “We use these LEDs to produce wavelengths of light that algae use for photosynthesis,” he said. LEDs, however, aren’t the only source of light energy the technology employs.

“To be even more energy efficient, we also use solar light during the day,” Gonzalez said. “We filter it so we don’t have to transmit all of the solar spectrum into the bioreactors. We only transmit the wavelengths in the spectrum that algae need for photosynthesis.” The remainder of the light can be used to produce electricity via photovoltaic systems. According to Gonzalez, the system is able to put almost as much power into the grid during the day as it pulls at night, making the energy balance nearly zero. Pond Biofuels has designed it’s systems to be even more energy efficient by utilizing waste heat from industrial hosts as energy to dry the algae.

“One of the main criticisms of bioreactors is they use a lot of energy [when compared to raceways or open ponds],” Gonzalez said. He noted, however, that Pond Biofuels has been able to significantly reduce the energy required to run its systems. The unique systems are also more suitable for co-location with industrial hosts, he said, due to the fact that the bioreactors require far less land than open ponds.

With the pilot plant already in operation, Pond Biofuels is preparing to scale up its system. According to Gonzalez, a 100,000 liter (26,417 gallon) demonstration scale facility should be operational by mid-2012. A commercial-scale facility could be operational at St. Mary’s by 2014.

Max Kolesnik, Pond Biofuels’ president, noted that his company is able to leverage two different business niches: reducing greenhouse gases at industrial emitters, and producing feedstock for the biorefining indsutry. “The two-sided coin of a business model has a very big potential in the marketplace,” he added.

Once commercial production is reached, Kolesnik said he expects Pond Biofuels will expand its operations in three ways. It will build, own and operate its own algae production facilities. It also plans to build, own and operate facilities in partnership with industrial emitters. Finally, he noted that his company plans to license its technology to third parties.

Original post available here.

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