AlgaeVenture Systems of Marysville Ohio announced they have released patented information about their new method to harvest, dewater and dry mature algae production at a fraction of one percent of other processes in common use.

AlgaeVenture Harvester Block Diagram. Click image for a larger view.

AlgaeVenture Harvester Block Diagram. Click image for a larger view.

Ross Youngs, CEO of Univenture, the parent corporation of AlgaeVenture Systems said, “For nearly 40 years, it has been widely accepted that if the cost of removing, harvesting and dewatering algae could be reduced to $50 a ton, algae could become a significant source of fuel. Today we have demonstrated a truly disruptive technology that reduces that cost by more than 99 percent – from $875 per ton to $1.92 per ton. We believe that this breakthrough moves algae back into the spotlight as an economically viable, plentiful source of fuel in the future.”

If this works, scales up and is low cost to buy and install, “disruptive” might be a vast understatement. As the following chart form AlgaeVentures shows, and its loaded to their favor but not by far, the cost to gather, separate out the water and dry down algae so the oil can be harvested is a huge capital and ongoing expense.

AlgaeVenture Cost Chart. Click image for a larger view.

AlgaeVenture Cost Chart. Click image for a larger view.

It’s well known that algae could, if the problems could be worked out, deliver huge quantities of oil for diesel and jet fuel use. The issues of growing algae are seeing intense efforts and improvements, but once you have a mass of the stuff, getting the processing to saleable product has been the downstream issue of great consternation. That said, if Youngs is right, and beats the $50 goal down to under two bucks – well, things are changing fast now.

It seems the brilliant innovation lies in choosing to go stone simple, filter the algae out and then using a special filter media that not just passes out the water, but using the capillary effect, sucks the algae nearly dry. Using two films, a membrane and a capillary film that for a short period of the cycle simply pulls out the water as they roll around a set of rollers. The water, presumably with nutrients onboard is cycled back to production.

AlgaeVenture Harvester Dewaterer Dryer Prototype. Click image for a larger view.

AlgaeVenture Harvester Dewaterer Dryer Prototype. Click image for a larger view.

It is an attempt to go straight at a significant problem that bedevils the algae industry. The phones have to be busy there, as noted a centrifuge separation could run over $22 a gallon whereas this technology runs only 1.2¢ or $0.012.

That $33 dollar per gallon algae oil looks to be history.

The beauty of the system is using gravity to flow the algae and water to the unit and then keeping the gravity effect at work as capillary action is added with “cohesion-adhesion absorption and transpirational pull.” I can buy that explanation, as demonstrations have taken place now. Even more interesting to algae production people is AlgaeVenture is saying the process uses no pressure other than provided by gravity so that dry algae releases from the membrane. Final full dry down can be accomplished with evaporation and/or adding some heat.

AlgaeVentures Dryed Algae Example. Click image for a larger view.

AlgaeVentures Dryed Algae Example. Click image for a larger view.

Clever fellows there – as they are offering units both for scale and for lab bench type of use. With uncounted production systems in research, hundreds of thousands of algae strains and genetic variations to research the first market is a lab bench size unit.

This has to put a giant grin on the faces of the production leaders. It’s now possible to get a worthwhile first to market position staked out.

A look through the AlgaeVenture site shows they are busy researching many algae production elements. It has to feel really good to have one great idea working, demonstrated and set to sell that will make an enormous difference across the algae industry. The AlgaeVenture people seem to know that algae production will be a vastly diverse field from the algae used to the locations, weather and temperatures, feedstocks, added CO2 and other inputs that will make the production side very diverse.

There is a lot of room in the algae industry – all across the planet. I suspect that continued development on the harvest-dewater-dryer is very smartly time spent. The market for this technology could get very big very fast.

It seems to this writer that wherever an algae grower might be, getting in touch with AlgaeVenture is worthwhile. As a look through their website shows they have a good handle on the local aspects of production. Keep in mind that the harvest-dewater-drying process they offer just revolutionizes the algae business such that is can become a worldwide industry serving a growing worldwide market.


Comments

13 Comments so far

  1. Matt on March 30, 2009 6:47 AM

    We talk about algae for oil. But, this may open up opportunities for algae to be used to produce a host of industrial and agricultural chemicals and feeds. Why can’t chickens eat algae? Why can’t bio-engineered algae grow chemicals – or, be used to extract minerals from water?

    I also wonder how this process works in relation to Electroporation – where an electical charge is introduced to break open the cell walls and free the trapped fat/oil.

  2. jp straley on April 3, 2009 7:45 AM

    The machinery looks very much like a Fourdrinier machine, used in the paper industry to quickly dewater and dry pulp (on the way to becoming paper.) Certainly these people would have a leg up on exploiting the technology reviewed in this article.

    One might think paper machine companies and their engineers would be interested in this potentially very large boost to their business.

    JP Straley

  3. unimpressed on May 2, 2009 3:14 PM

    There are dozens if not hundreds of patented systems of machinery that this device probably infringes – nothing new here.

  4. bill on May 12, 2009 6:34 PM

    Patents or not at least they seem to have a way of doing something for the planet. I don’t care if the tech. is 500 years old if it works.

  5. FDDoty on August 22, 2009 8:13 PM

    I just ran across this garbage. I can’t believe you guys (and General Atomic, if true) are so gullible. So this guy who doesn’t know the difference between power and energy, defines some new units, does a calculation of electrical energy cost to run some small motors for 667 hours, ignores heat of evaporation (which is two orders of magnitude larger than the motor requirements) and you’re conviced! You should have at least realized he hadn’t considered maintenance and capital equipment costs – but then he couldn’t do that because he had no idea as to how long the equipmnet would last.

    But on the subject of sustainable fuels that work, there is a real answer coming – maybe not as quick as you’d like, but real. Take a look at the WindFuels website for a real way to make competitive, transportation fuels from CO2.

  6. MGar on February 12, 2010 4:44 PM

    Quite an arrogant comment Mr. Doty. “Gullible” and “garbage”? Not a very nice way to promote your website. Your system uses fossil fuel CO2 as well as some fossil derived electricity. That’s not clean, it contributes to global warming.There isn’t enough installed wind power to use that exclusively. Capital costs are high to build turbines too.

  7. technician jobs on November 8, 2010 8:14 AM

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  8. b cole on November 16, 2010 5:15 PM

    To learn more about the fast-track commercialization of the algae production industry you may want to check out the National Algae Association.

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  12. fatalgae on September 22, 2011 1:37 PM

    Solydra story is opening a huge can of worms at the DOE LOAN GURANTEE LOAN PROGRAM. Its not just about the Solar loan guarantee program. Look at all the millions in fees collected by the DOE LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM with projects 20% completion. Also, an audit needs to be done on DOE GRANTS to individuals from the DOE that are now working in provate industry. There needs to be an audit on each individual loan program for amount funded and results!
    The US taxpayer has spent over $2.5 billion dollars over the last 50 years on algae research. To date, nothing has been commercialized by any algae researcher.

    The REAL question is: Does the DOE BIOMASS PROGRAM really want the US off of foreign oil or do they want to continue funding more grants for algae research to keep algae researchers employed at univesities for another 50 years?

    In business, you are not given 50 years to research anything. The problem is in the Congressional Mandate that says the DOE can only use taxpayer monies on algae research, NOT algae production in the US. So far, research has not got the US off of foreign oil for the last 50 years!

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