ABO Petitions White House on CO2 Recycling

ABOA group advocating for algae-based renewable fuels and other products is petitioning the White House to approve carbon dioxide (CO2) recycling as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) kicked off its 8th annual Algae Biomass Summit kicked off today with the group’s Executive Director Matt Carr challenging the algae industry to think:

Forest fires, flooding, shrinking ice caps and other environmental disasters are becoming more prevalent and severe due to climate change. Food pressures, energy supplies and water shortages are become more serious economic and security challenges the world over. Matt reminded the hundreds of Summit attendees that they have gathered in San Diego this week because the algae industry is part of the solution.

As a member of the algae community, you too can take action by signing ABO’s We the People petition to the White House.

The petition asks the White House to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits states to use carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies as they work to meet emissions reductions targets set by the agency.

ABO points out that farming algae requires large quantities of CO2, and using the waste CO2 from power generation to grow algal biomass that can be converted in to fuel, chemicals and other valuable products can flip the cost-equation that is traditionally associated with carbon capture. Recycling CO2 can simultaneously reduce emissions and stimulate economic growth.

You can sign the petition here.

Algae-based Biofuels to Get $25 Mil from Feds

US DOE Energy logoAlgae-based biofuels will be the beneficiaries of a government-backed effort to get the fuels made from microbes down to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. The U.S. Department of Energy announced $25 million to reduce those production costs, hopefully down to an eventual goal of $3 gge by 2030.

The funding announced today will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 1–3 selections) will range from $5–10 million and focus on the development of algae cultures that, in addition to biofuels, produce valuable bioproducts that increase the overall value of the biomass. Topic Area 2 awards (anticipated at 3–7 selections) will range from $0.5–1 million and will focus on the development of crop protection or carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost biomass productivity in ways that lead to higher yields of algae.

You can learn more about this funding opportunity here, including signing up for an informational webinar to be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

ASU Professor Recognized for Microbe-to-Biodiesel Work

rittmann1A professor from Arizona State University is recognized for his efforts to turn bacteria and algae into biodiesel. ASU announced that Professor Bruce Rittmann received the first presentation of the International Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME)/International Water Association (IWA) Bio Cluster Award in Lisbon, Portugal, for his work to promote research between the microbial ecology and the water and wastewater treatment fields.

Rittmann’s research focuses on the scientific and engineering fundamentals needed to manage microbial communities to provide services to society.

“It’s individual organisms comprising a community that’s working together,” said Rittmann. “And now we have a chance to really manage that community to get the right organisms doing the right job.”

His research team developed the membrane biofilm reactor, a technology now being commercialized to destroy a wide range of pollutants found in waters and wastewaters. This technology can remove harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, nitrates, and arsenate from water and soils – problems that are vital to the future of the Southwest, where Colorado River water is used by seven states.

Rittmann is also part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like biodiesel.

Rittmann and his colleagues are the first to link the modern tools of molecular microbial ecology to understanding and improving the performance of microorganism-based water technologies.

Schott, Algatech Ink Research Deal for Biodiesel Feedstock

durantubes1An international glass maker and a biotechnology company specializing in algae production have signed a deal that could improve cultivation of the biodiesel feedstock algae. Schott AG and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), studied new DURAN® glass tubes that significantly improved cultivation efficiency in the yields of Algatech’s AstaPure® natural astaxanthin and plan to present their findings at the Algae Biomass Summit, at the end of this month in San Diego, Calif.

Algatech sought to optimize cultivation of AstaPure, a premium natural antioxidant known as astaxanthin, as part of its goal to double production capacity. SCHOTT partnered with Algatech in 2013 to produce 16 kilometers—nearly 10 miles—of thin-walled DURAN glass tubes for testing in Algatech’s photobioreactor (PBR) production systems at its array in Israel.

SCHOTT reduced the wall thickness of the special DURAN tubes while maintaining their strength and stability. The thinner walls facilitate higher volume and increased sun exposure of the microalgae. The use of DURAN tubes resulted in an increase in algae production efficiency and higher yields of AstaPure astaxanthin.

“From energy to medicine, cosmetics to nutraceuticals, many different industries rely on algae,” said Raz Rashelbach, R&D manager at Algatech. “The success of the thin-walled DURAN tubing has helped increase the AstaPure production efficiency on a small scale that can now be replicated on a much larger scale.”

“Further testing and development of new products in partnership with Algatech will allow us to continue finding new ways and methods to improve algae production,” added Nikolaos Katsikis, Director, Business Development at SCHOTT Tubing.

The agreement signed is expected to expand the two companies’ joint cooperation on new microalgae-based products.

Boise State’s Biodiesel Truck to Take Its Shot at Salt Flats

greenspeedtruck1As one truck from Utah State University running on biodiesel just finished tearing up the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, another truck from another school out west is out to prove its power running on vegetable oil and biodiesel. Boise State University’s Greenspeed club is looking at breaking the land speed record for its class of truck at Bonneville at more than 215 mph later this month.

“We’re just using vegetable oil as proof of the concept,” said Dave Schenker, mechanical engineering student at Boise State and co-founder of the club. “It’s in its raw state, not even a fuel. Here we are beating petroleum at its own game.”

According to Schenker, their diesel engine has only been modified for power, which is a testament to the value vegetable oil has as a fuel source. When vegetable oil is heated to 175 degrees, it becomes the consistency of regualar fuel, which can then be used with their diesel engine.

However, this isn’t the only fuel source they use. They also run on diesel and a biodiesel, which they hope to start making on their own soon.

“Vegetable oil is not a good fuel for over the road use, which regular people use in their vehicles,” said Patrick Johnston, graduate of Boise State’s mechanical engineering program. “What we really advocate is biodiesel derived from algae.”

The truck has a computer that reads 70 points of contact on the truck between the chassis and engine, allowing the team can see exactly how each fuel type works with the truck to choose the most efficient.

Team members hope to be running on their own algae-biodiesel next year.

OriginOil to Take Demo System on the Road

As extreme drought continues to grip most of California, the maker of a system that cleans up water to gather algae (for later applications, such as biodiesel) and take out contaminants from industries such as oil and gas, will be taking a demonstration of its technologies on the road. OriginOil says it will show off an industrial system already cleaning up frack in the Bakersfield, Calif. area and hopes to cash in on the state’s $7.5 billion dollar bond issue to address water issues.

OriginOilbakersfieldwatersampleEckelberry also reported that OriginOil and its partners are preparing to benefit from portions of this bond issue, with an industrial demonstration system already processing Bakersfield-area frack and produced water.

In response to industry requests, Eckelberry also said that the company plans to take a demonstration system on the road starting as early as September.

You can read OriginOil’s full take on the situation here.

Algae-Biodiesel By-Product to Power Electric Grand Prix

formulaeA grand prix racing series, the world’s first to run on electric power, will get its energy from a by-product of algae-biodiesel production. This article from GreenBiz.com says the Formula E races will use U.K.-based Aquafuel’s glycerine to power generators.

“It’s a very innovative compound,” [Formula E’s sustainability manager Julia] Pallé said at an event at Donington Park last week to unveil some new technologies used by Formula E. “It comes from algae so it’s a first generation compound and it uses glycerine so it has no CO2 emissions, no smoke, no noise, no smell. It’s something that isn’t harmful at all. It’s super-efficient and we’re really happy to be working with [Aquafuel] on that.”

Aquafuel chief executive Paul Day told BusinessGreen in 2011 that glycerine could power everything from generators to ships, calculating that a saltwater algal pond the size of Switzerland would meet global energy demand.

The Formula E races start Sept. 13 in Beijing, and include locations such as Miami, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo, Berlin, and London.

Algae Systems Converts Algae to Biofuels, Clean Water

Algae Systems has completed a biofuel production demonstration project in conjunction with Japan’s IHI Corporation. The demonstration plant is located in Daphne, Alabama and the process combines wastewater with algae to produce the world’s first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both biofuel and drinking water.

Algae Systems Daphne projectMatthew C. Atwood, president and CEO of Algae Systems explains that while algae is a component in a number of worldwide experimental production strategies, their approach differs by using a system that can apply a variety of algae types to production, adding value by treating wastewater, and producing a drop-in fuel solution using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce fuels that do not need to be blended.

“This is the first demonstration of producing clean water and biofuel from wastewater and algae. We have demonstrated that we can treat wastewater at a low-cost while beating the current price of fuel,” said Atwood.

The project approach takes local strains of algae to increase production rates and optimize wastewater treatment opportunities and focuses on a systems approach. Floating membrane photobioreactors accept wastewater from a local community municipal wastewater utility, drawing nutrients from the wastewater to Algae Systems Daphne project2promote algae growth. The algae consume nutrients in the wastewater, reducing the cost of treating wastewater. In this approach, municipal wastewater becomes an asset to produce energy, rather than a commodity to be expensively processed. Photosynthesis creates the chemical reactions that can power our future.

Atwood said the use of offshore photobioreactors means that a valuable land footprint would not be required to deploy the system commercially, and the motion of waves and wind provides ideal temperature and mixing controls as well as a reduction of operating costs. From an environmental perspective, ecological dead zones can also be eliminated.

Another feature of the demonstration facility, said Atwood, is significant advancements made in the production of fuels from biomass. Algae Systems has demonstrated a new proprietary technology for the conversion of wet algae and other biomass feedstocks into biocrude oil, and has successfully demonstrated upgrading the bio-crude oil into diesel, jet and gasoline.

“Building commercial plants around the world that will enable low-cost wastewater treatment and fuel production,” said Atwood when explaining what success looks like. “Our next steps are to find commercial sites and raise additional financing for the company to expand.”

Multi-tasking Could be Key for Algae-to-Diesel Ops

algaesystemsA company from Nevada thinks it has found a way to make a profit turning algae into renewable diesel: multi-tasking. This article from the New York Times says Algae Systems, which has a pilot plant in Alabama, believes it will be able to turn a profit by doing several other things while turning the algae oil into a usable fuel, namely, making clean water from municipal sewage, using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and generating valuable credits for advanced biofuels.

“We think it is a really elegant solution,” said Matt Atwood, the chief executive. At its heart is a “hydrothermal liquefaction” system that heats the algae and other solids in the sewage to more than 550 degrees Fahrenheit, at 3,000 pounds per square inch, turning out a liquid that resembles crude oil from a well.

The company sent the liquid to Auburn University, where scientists added hydrogen (a common step in oil refining) to produce diesel fuel. An independent laboratory, Intertek, confirmed that the diesel fuel met industry specifications. The thermal processing has caught the attention of independent scientists. The Department of Energy recently awarded a $4 million grant to a partnership led by SRI International for further work on Algae Systems’ hydrothermal processing system.

Engineers hope the system could dispose of a variety of unwanted or hazardous materials. It also destroys pathogens in sewage.

Developers of the high-temperature processing technology say this method is much less energy intensive than more commonly used practices that dried out the algae and broke down the cell walls to separate the oil from the microbes.

Algae, Power Tech Companies Collaborate for Biodiesel

RAEA company in the algae business is teaming up with a giant in power technology to produce algae for biodiesel at a commercial level. Tennessee-based Renewable Algal Energy, LLC (RAE) and Swiss-based ABB, a leader in power and automation technology, will collaborate to use ABB’s technology for control and efficiency of algae harvesting and conversion process.

“We are honored that ABB has selected to work with RAE in the development of infrastructure for RAE’s unique technology in complete integrated algal production systems,” stated Jeffrey S. Kanel, Ph.D. and CEO of RAE. “To have the global leader in power and automation technologies as a strategic partner is a huge endorsement of RAE’s ability to commercialize our technology in the creation of sustainable algal products.”

RAE will produce the equipment that harvest and extract algae and its co-products, including oil, for renewable fuels, as well as proteins and carotenoids for animal feed and nutritional supplements. The scalable systems are designed for medium to large scale algae farms, up to 2,000 hectares (10,000 square meters). ABB will supply 800xA control systems, instrumentation, low voltage electrical equipment and variable speed drives that will help those integrated algal production systems operate efficiently and reliably. In addition to process control, 800xA provides remote access to the base control room on each algae farm, so that multiple locations can be viewed and managed by one operator. The variable speed drives help the pumps and motors operate at their peak energy efficiency, using up to 10% less electricity.

Officials from both companies say this will make the harvesting of oil from algae, as well as other products for nutraceuticals and animal nutrition, a much more efficient process, one of the biggest hurdles algae growers have faced in trying to make algae oil commercially viable for biodiesel production.