An Algae Update

December 10, 2008 | 2 Comments

New Zealand’s Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation and UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, have signed a memorandum of understanding to convert wild algae into fuel products using UOP’s processes and to develop a carbon dioxide sequestration storage model for Aquaflow’s algal oil production facilities. They are trying to simplify the algae to bio crude oil process used by most others in the field by collecting wild algae growing in open-air sludge ponds and waste streams. The companies will also study the feasibility of sequestering carbon dioxide from a refinery or power plant and adding it to wastewater streams in an effort to boost the productivity of the wild algae population.

View of an AquaFlow Pond Aerating

View of an AquaFlow Pond Aerating

Aquaflow currently sources its wild algae from oxidation ponds in Marlborough, New Zealand. They aren’t adding carbon dioxide to the wastewater. In September Aquaflow announced it had produced the world’s first production run of green-crude, a crude-oil equivalent, from its wild algae facility.

In a two-step process, first they optimize the ponds’ productive capacity, and secondly, determine the most efficient and economic way of harvesting the pond algae. Algae are provided with full opportunity to exploit the nutrients available in the settling ponds, thereby cleaning up the water. The algae are then harvested to enable removing the remaining contaminants. A last stage of bio-remediation, still in development, will ensure that the water discharged from the process exceeds acceptable quality standards.

PetroSun’s effort in Texas will open the first US commercial-scale algae farm for biofuels near South Padre Island. The 1,831-acre site (not quite 3 square miles, see below) includes 157 separate ponds, and the company said that extraction of algae from water and oil from algae were studied and solved at the company’s pilot farm in Opelika, Alabama.

In Arizona, PetroSun BioFuels Refining recently signed a joint venture to develop and operate a 30 million gallon a year algae biodiesel facility in Coolidge. Construction was projected to commence in the third quarter of this year. And late last fall, PetroSun announced a letter of intent to supply 54 million gallons of algal oil to a new 54 million gallon a year Bio-Alternatives biodiesel plant in south Louisiana.

AlgaeLink of the Netherlands announced a new process for extracting algae oil without using chemicals, drying or an oil press. The company said that its patent-pending pilot technique uses 26 kilowatts of power to produce 12,000 gallons of algae oil per hour, with a yield of 50 percent from the initial algae paste.

Old Dominion University in Virginia researchers have successfully piloted a project to produce biodiesel feedstock by growing algae at a municipal sewage treatment plant. The researchers hope that the new algae production techniques will lead to reduced emissions of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide into the air and surrounding bodies of water. The pilot project production is now up to 70,000 gallons of biodiesel per year.

California’s Chevron has partnered with The US Department of Energy in a research effort to develop higher-yield strains of micro algae.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the famed DARPA) is working on a project with Honeywell, General Electric and the University of North Dakota.

US Sustainable Energy is awaiting lab results from a test of biocrude production using 20 pounds of algae as a feedstock. In an effort to reduce refining costs the company recently ran its initial test of 20 pounds of 5% oil-content algae feedstock with 40 percent water content, and resulted in an ignitable oil product.

Xcel Energy has pledged $150,000 to assist in funding an algae-to-biodiesel research project sponsored by the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council. The grant is follow-on to more than $4.5 million given to five other University of Minnesota projects from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund.

The most interesting idea is out of AlgaeLink with their new process. In this new extraction method the algae paste is collected from the AlgaeLink reactor through filtering or centrifugation and directly, without any drying, processed in AlgaeLink’s newly developed oil extraction system for which patents are pending. This production process saves a lot of time and energy. This system not only makes the use of algae oil more eco-friendly but also the production of it. Total power consumption used in a 45m³ per hour oil extraction process is just 26 kW to turn 50% of the algae paste into oil.

Marco van de Ven, co-founder and co-CEO of AlgaeLink says, “Since we don’t use any chemicals, the whatever is left of the algae paste may be sold for it’s many specific and attractive compounds. Some compounds are very interesting as nutritional supplements, vitamins and antioxidants, such as β-carotene and astaxanthin. As well as important applications in the food industry, the paste can also be used in the pharmaceutical industry as it contains sterols, which can be used as building blocks for pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, cyan bacteria are a potential source of compounds with biomedical applications, such as antimicrobial, antiviral and anticancer compounds.”

More to our point is Hans van de Ven, the other co-founder and CEO of AlgaeLink saying, “We manufacture the best products available on the bio energy market today and sell them at very attractive prices. Our smallest 45m³ per hour oil extraction system only costs 70.00 euro to run. We invite potential buyers to visit our manufacturing plant in the Netherlands to evaluate our products, check the quality of the materials we use and see our demo plants. We are building a worldwide supply chain and network that is sustainable and which delivers value from “earth-to-engine.”

One has to do a quick check of 45 cubic meters of oil. That converts to 283 barrels of oil. Now its gut check time, I’m wondering just exactly what that 70 euros is buying, if its just extraction of the 45m³ per hour that would be only 4 euros a barrel. It’s no wonder these two fellows are quiet while they have a serious patent effort underway.

Algae is definitely looking good. Keep in mind the United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae biocrude replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers), which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland. That’s older data, too.

Keep an eye on those Dutch Guys!


2 Comments so far

  1. nursing jobs on November 8, 2010 8:38 AM

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  2. Lawyers in Perth on May 13, 2011 7:13 AM

    Pretty insightful post. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a great deal of my time looking for someone to explain this topic clearly and you’re the only 1 that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up

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