The Quest for a Sustainable Highway

The Mission Zero Corridor Project in Troup County West Georgia is trying to build a ‘green highway’. The travel corridor would, according to Innovia Technology, who has been commissioned for the project, rethink the purpose and function of infrastructure to generate social, environmental and economic value.

Ray-C-Anderson-Memorial-Highway-Exit-14-artist-impressionSome of the technologies being looked at for the project include algae biodiesel gas stations, smart solar-powered roads, moon-cycle adjusting lights, wildlife bridges, driverless cars, electric-car charging lanes and cultural greenways.

“Worldwide the highway infrastructure is continuously maintained, rebuilt and expanded at considerable economic and environmental cost. The Mission Zero Corridor Project is proposing an alternative future where highways have a positive impact on our communities. It’s very exciting to be involved in making this vision a reality,” said Alastair MacGregor, CEO of Innovia Technology, of the challenge ahead.

The late Ray C. Anderson, founder of Interface, Inc. developed the Mission Zero framework to eliminate Interface’s environmental impact while maintaining productivity and still turning a profit. The aim was a promise to “eliminate any negative impacts the company may have on the environment by 2020” and the framework created a blueprint for business sustainability. As a memorial, the Ray C Anderson Foundation is using a 16 mile stretch of Interstate 85 as the living experiment of the “regenerative, restorative and sustainable highway”.

To get the project started the Foundation and Interface funded a vision study through The Georgia Conservancy’s Blueprints for Successful Communities program. Using Interface’s Mission Zero framework as a roadmap, graduate students in the School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with studio instruction from a team of architects from Perkins+Will in Atlanta, explored how a highway could be a tool of change. The outcome was an inspirational report that identifies a broad range of potential technologies and opportunities. Innovia’s role is to provide a creative exploration of new opportunities, evaluate the technologies for viability and scalability, and to propose a strategy to bring the vision to life.

Scottish Scientists Identify Algae Best for Biofuels

stephenslocombe1Scientists in Scotland have identified which algae are the best for biofuels. This article from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) says the researchers used a new technique to figure out which ocean-based strains had the highest oil content.

The screening revealed two marine strains, Nannochloropis oceanica and Chlorella vulgaris, which had a dry-weight oil content of more than 50 per cent. This makes them ideal sources of biofuel for vehicles and aircraft.

The results of the screening, part of the BioMara project, have been published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports and are likely to help bring forward research into algae as a source of biodiesel and other biofuels by a number of years.

SAMS scientists have demonstrated that Nannochloropsis, for example, is very efficient at converting nutrients, so it has the perfect combination of high levels of oil and high productivity.

The report’s lead author, Dr Stephen Slocombe, SAMS research associate in molecular biology, said: “In order to produce biofuels from micro-algae we will have to generate high yields, so we need to know which strains will produce the most oil.

“While there is a lot of work being done on micro-algae biotechnology – currently around 10,000 researchers across the world – no-one has identified a shortlist of the best performing strains and how their properties could be used.”

The research also identified algae varieties best for the health food industry.

Bacteria to Help Grow Better Algae for Biodiesel

rotifer1We hear a lot about probiotics when it comes to nutrition for people. But research in California is developing probiotic bacteria that will help protect algae that can be turned into biodiesel. This article from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory says scientists there have received an additional $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the bacteria to combat pond infestation and increase ecosystem function and resilience.

Annual productivity is a key metric for algal biofuel production that, if optimized, could significantly decrease and stabilize biofuel price per gallon. Since grazers can result in a 30 percent loss in annual biomass productivity, a consistent mechanism for preventing predators will increase productivity and in turn decrease biofuel cost per gallon.

“We are only just beginning to understand that the pond microbiome is not only an indicator of health but also a tool for crop protection,” said Rhona Stuart, one of the team members from LLNL.

The goal of the project is to identify and employ “probiotic” bacteria to increase microalgal survival by two-fold when under attack by rotifers or chytrids in mass algal cultures.

Rotifers and chytrids are common culprits of algae grazing. By using probiotic bacteria to increase algal resistance against these grazers, the team estimates at minimum a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in annual productivity. The proposed tool has several advantages over the baseline, including minimal risk of pest evolution, tailored microbiome diversity to increase ecosystem resilience and productivity, and probiotics that can increase algal productivity and outgrow pests.

The lab says this work will help overcome the barrier that exists in translating laboratory success to open pond success.

USDA Accepting Applications for Biobased Products

Following a webinar this morning, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced they are accepting applications for funding under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. It was formerly known as the Biorefinery Assistance Program. The webinar discussed changes to the program as well as opportunities available to produce more biobased products.

USDA logo“This critical financing will enhance our efforts to build a robust, rural bioeconomy by helping to expand the availability of biobased products and to increase the number of commercial-scale biorefineries in the country,” Vilsack said. “In addition to the available funding, I am proud to announce that USDA has significantly improved the biorefinery program to help create lasting job opportunities in rural America.”

There will be two funding cycles. Applications for round one are due October 1, 2015. Applications for the second round are due April 1, 2016. For information on how to apply, see page 38432 of the July 6, 2015 Federal Register.

USDA has made significant improvements to the program. Biorefineries are now able to receive funding to produce more renewable chemicals and other biobased products in addition to advanced biofuels. In addition, biobased product manufacturing facilities are eligible to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs into “end-user” products. Further, USDA has streamlined the application process.

USDA released a report on June 17, 2015 that shows America’s biobased industry is generating substantial economic activity and creating American jobs. According to the report, the U.S. biobased industry contributed four million jobs and nearly $370 billion to the American economy in 2013 alone.

Take a Ride on the Waves with Algae

It’s time to start surfing the waves with algae. One of the hottest technologies during the BioEnergy 2015 conference was the algae surfboard developed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funded scientists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) California Center for Algae Biotechnology.

algae surfboardTraditionally surfboards have petroleum, aka fossil fuels, as a component. However, these algae surboards are made from algal oil, produced by Solazyme (also a San Diego-based company). According to DOE, the algal oil is converted to polyols by UCSD chemists and then sent to surboard manufacturer Arctic Foam. Once here, the company shapes the foam boards and then coats them with fiberglass and a renewable plant-based resin.

Does it work? DOE said early surfer reviews have given the prototype a “perfect ten”. The “surfboard of the future” is a bit more flexible than traditional surfboard and this appeals to many surfers.

The team of scientists along with Solazyme and Artic Foam are planning to continue their work and the hope is that polysols will eventually be able to replace components of not only surfboards, but other products that require similar petroluem-based chemicals.

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album. 

DOE Invest $18M in Algae

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $18 million to six projects aimed at reducing the costs of algae-based biofuels to less than $5.00 per gallon equivalent by 2019.

The funds are being used to help meet the DOE’s goal of $3 per gallon for advanced algal biofuels by 2030. These biofuels can be used as replacements for petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels as well as products derived from algae can be used as petroleum replacements for products such as chemicals, beauty products, plastics and more. In the near future, algae-based technologies can achieve higher yields of oils. However,  to achieve the goals set forth by the DOE, barriers that still remain in place such as efficient cultivation, harvesting and conversion to bioproducts must be deconstructed.

The projects selected include:

  • Producing Algae and Co-Products for Energy (PACE), Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO – Colorado School of Mines, in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Reliance Industries Ltd., and others, will receive up to $9 million to enhance overall algal biofuels sustainability by maximizing carbon dioxide, nutrient, and water recovery and recycling, as well as bio-power co-generation.
  • Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium (MAGIC), Duke University, Durham, NC – Duke University will receive up to $5.2 million to lead a consortium including University of Hawaii, Cornell University, Cellana and others to produce protein-based human and poultry nutritional products along with hydrotreated algal oil extract.
  • Global Algae Innovations, Inc., El Cajon, CA – Global Algae Innovations will receive up to $1 million to increase algal biomass yield by deploying an innovative system to absorb carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a nearby power plant.
  • Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ – Arizona State University will receive up to $1 million for atmospheric carbon dioxide capture, enrichment, and delivery to increase biomass productivity.
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA – The University of California, San Diego will receive up to $760,000 to develop an automated  early detection system that can identify and characterize infestation or infection of an algae production pond in order to ensure crop health.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will receive up to $1 million to protect algal crops by developing “probiotic” bacteria to combat pond infestation and increase ecosystem functioning and resilience.

Williamsburg Students Win BioenergizeME Challenge

BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge winning team from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. From left to right: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge winning team from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. From left to right: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

The future looks bright for the bioenergy industry as the next generation is already showing great enthusiasm and talent for sustainable fuels and products. This past spring, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) kicked off a pilot program for high school aged teams (grades 9-12) to use technology and their creative mojo to design bioenergy-based infographics. The BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge theme was “Exploring the Future of American Energy Landscape,” and the winner was announced during the BioEnergy 2015 Conference to great applause.

The wBioEnergizeME infographic challenge winnerinning team was a group of 14 year old freshman students from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design located Brooklyn, New York: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. There were 76 teams that submitted entries and 50 teams shared their infographics through social media channels including Facebook and Twitter garnering more than 12,000 page views. Infographics from all competitors can be viewed on the BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge Map.

Teams were given four topic areas to choose from: Bioenergy History, Workforce and Education, Science and Technology and Environmental Impacts. Once a team selected their topic area, they conducted research and then developed an infographic that visually explained a specific area within a topic such as cellulosic energy or how algae is used to produce biofuels. With the success of the program, the BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge will be rolled out nationwide next spring.

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album. 

Process to Make Renewable Fuel for Under $1/Gallon

duckweedusaA new process looks to make renewable fuel out of algae, waste water and even vegetable for under $1 per gallon. Duckweed USA says its new thermodynamically reversible process can make clean jet fuel, diesel fuel or gasoline from the less common feedstocks.

Using the patented Linear Venturi Kinetic Nozzle changes the aquatic-mass-to-energy process to one that requires no high-heat processes nor chemicals. 90% of the energy used in production is recoverable and feedstock is self-replenishing. With 3 variables in production cost nearly eliminated, the ideas of energy independence and financial self-sufficiency are now viable options at any level. For investors, no plummet in oil prices can spoil profitability projections when production is under $40 per barrel. Domestically and globally, this breakthrough opens doors to new opportunities of growth never before seen.

For stakeholders at any level, the bottom line is, as Michael Rigolizzo states, “Our system turns energy liabilities into assets. Every school bus that needs gasoline to every jet that needs fuel is a point of profit for synfuel-producing communities instead of a cost.” Duckweed believes its patented process could revolutionize the President’s action plan, the combination of energy types needed and especially the costs to be incurred by taxpayers. “By the time the 5-year initial phase of the action plan would be completed, the Duckweed process could be established – and turning profits – in every community along the Keystone Pipeline,” says Rigolizzo.

Duckweed says it already has interest from groups, such as Sparta, Georgia, Rutgers University and countries from Europe to Africa.

Researchers Make Biodiesel, Jet Fuel from Algae

woodsholeResearchers have figured out how to make biodiesel and jet fuel from a single algae. This news release from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in a common algae to make the two different fuel products at the same time.

“It’s novel,” says O’Neil, the study’s lead author. “It’s far from a cost-competitive product at this stage, but it’s an interesting new strategy for making renewable fuel from algae.”

Algae contain fatty acids that can be converted into fatty acid methyl esters, or FAMEs, the molecules in biodiesel. For their study, O’Neil, Reddy, and colleagues targeted a specific algal species called Isochrysis for two reasons: First, because growers have already demonstrated they can produce it in large batches to make fish food. Second, because it is among only a handful of algal species around the globe that produce fats called alkenones. These compounds are composed of long chains with 37 to 39 carbon atoms, which the researchers believed held potential as a fuel source.

Isochrysis had been dismissed by biodiesel makers because its oil is a dark, sludgy solid at room temperature, rather than a clear liquid that looks like cooking oil. But the researchers found a way to make biodiesel from the FAMEs in Isochrysis and then devised a method to separate the FAMEs and alkenones in order to achieve a free-flowing fuel. The method added steps to the overall biodiesel process, but it supplied a superior quality biodiesel, as well as “an alkenone-rich . . . fraction as a potential secondary product stream,” the authors write.

The scientists believe that by producing the two fuels from the single algae will help in commercializing the process.

Algae.Tec to Expand Biodiesel Ops into China

algaeteclogoAustralia-based Algae.Tec will bring its algae-biodiesel technology into China. This story from Proactive Investors says Algae.Tec will issue a $500,000 convertible bond to China Finance Strategies Investment Holdings (CFS), with another $5 million in conditional options to come.

CFS has extensive relationships in China with its key executives having completed over 250 fundraising and advisory transactions in Greater China Region and invested in over 20 projects involving around US$1.5 billion.

Both companies will jointly explore commercial scale opportunities for Algae.Tec’s technology across Greater China incorporating the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Algae.Tec expects its algae based renewable fuel and carbon capture technology to play a meaningful role in contributing to the Strategic Targets China has set for itself.

The potential for biodiesel projects could be helped by a recent U.S.-China agreement on greenhouse gas emission targets.