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March 25, 2008

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Comments

ike

Maybe we can now get the DOE or the NSF to restore funding for the U.S. algal biofuel program, which was axed in 1996. Here is the obituary of that program:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/ biodiesel_from_algae.pdf

"From 1978 to 1996, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fuels Development funded a program to develop renewable transportation fuels from algae..."

"In 1995, DOE made the difficult decision to eliminate funding for algae research within the Biofuels Program... This report is a summary and compilation of all the work done over the last 16 years of the program."

"When the time is right, we fully expect to see renewed interest in algae as a source of fuels and other chemicals. The highlights presented here should serve as a foundation for these future efforts."

eric

Starting on April 1st?? Groan..

And the company is a penny stock.

Maybe what they say is true, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

fjh

Spirolina farms have a lower cost/unit and they are operating in Mexico....in other words, they can 'do it' cheaper and have the expertise at growing algae...Apparently, it's rather labor intensive and you need large quantities of algae; unless this company has that magical plant which is 90% oil I keep hearing about.

A penny stock...hmmmmm.

nath

Biomass from algae has the added advantage of capturing carbon di oxide and can be grown on all kinds of water and grow fast. This is an excelelnt approach to produce green energy especially when combined with solar and tidal energy power for electrical needs of the plant.

Carl Hage

If what PetroSun says about biofuel yield experience in Alabama is true, 5-8000 gal/pond-acre/yr, then that is an order of magnitude more yield than corn, soy, or switchgrass. Plus seawater can be used as the growth medium. The Nebraska University switchgrass test calculated about 500 gal-ethanol/hectare/yr, vs the Petrosun claim of 7-12,000 gal/site-hectare/yr.

Only time will tell. I was not able to find information on the method of extraction-- either algae from water (the Greenfuel failure) or oil from algae.

The energy/acre from photovoltaic is still an order of magnitude more than algae, so I still think electric is the future for the majority transportaton energy.

I always wondered if algae farms would be a good way to remove excess nitrogen from sewage or farm runoff.

Troy

"...sheer luck or a redneck can-do attitude..."

LOL! I like that! Sounds like they're going to need a lot of coat hangers and duck tape.

sandy

All PetroSun's "algae farms" are existing shrimp farms that have existing algae waste. Nothing new there, just a penny stock trying to pump and dump. Beware, beware

sandy

All PetroSun's "algae farms" are existing shrimp farms that have existing algae waste. Nothing new there, just a penny stock trying to pump and dump. Beware, beware

GreyFlcn

Well, good luck to em.
They are going to need it.

http://greyfalcon.net/algae4

Innovation Catalyst

Anyone know how much refinement this algae oil requires before its usable as engine fuel?

Regardless, if you put biofuels into the same ol' inefficient ICE you aren't going to provide much incentive to go electric.

Bob Wallace

Most likely "going electric" isn't going to be a transportation system that is free of liquid fuels.

We haven't been able to imagine a way to fly long distances with battery powered airplanes, but we have tested jet flight with biofuels.

Additionally we are likely to use hybrid vehicles for longer distance road travel. Large trucks may remain liquid fuel propelled far into the future.

If the graph presented here ( http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1454/70/ ) is even close to correct, then algae oil is pretty much a no-brainer.

We've seen the problem created by utilizing food crop land for biofuel production. Even moving to switchgrass on marginal land doesn't compete with algae oil. And algae oil can apparently be produced using salt or brackish water thus avoiding a further drain on our aquifers.

PetroSun might not be the solution. But let's hope that someone finds out how to make algae oil a reality.

Bill Larson

One word: scam. Until I see Richard Branson and his pals, plus some independent media investigating PetroSun's claims, my skepticism will runneth over. How come Al Gore isn't all over this one? It sounds like insider trading to me - on a worthless stock.

Clee

Richard Branson's Virgin Airline biofuel flight was only 20% biofuel and 80% conventional jet fuel. But someone else did a 100% biofuel jet flight back in October 2007.

Don B.

BioDiesel still has a decent energy density and meshes in well as a "transitionary" liquid transportation fuel. Once the algae (which can be ~50% lipid content) has been separated from the water; it (the oil) is expressed from the cellulose (plant fiber?). The water is re-used and the leftover cellulose is supposed to be a high protein feed supplement (as I've read...think beancake?)
One company in the Netherlands uses cavitation of the oil as a means of greatly accelerating the separation of the glycerine from the oil. Another process call the Mcgyan process (www.freeenergynews.com march 7, 2008) promises to cut the raw algal oil-to-fuel process down to even further efficiency.
Diesel engines have a ~30% avg fuel economy advantage over equivalent gasoline motors,....yet this advantage is quickly eliminated when you have to pay 1/3 more for the product....A product that is easier to refine than gasoline. There is your SCAM!....Why did diesel REALLY become more expensive than gasoline over the last several years? In Europe, diesel is cheaper than gas and 60% of new car sales are diesel. With the new BluTech (Daimler) urea injection diesel technology that is out now...diesels meet the new (more stringent) emissions rules. Volkwagen has a decent new diesel motor too!
Could you imagine what oil consumption would drop to in N.A. if over 50% of new vehicle sales were diesel?!

Don B.

Pankaj

http://Does it even make sense to go for Biofuels? Is it really sustainable long term?

Shell,Virent JV To Develop Sugar-Based GasolineLast update: 3/26/2008 1:27:08 PM(Adds details and executives' comments) By Benoit Faucon and Ian Talley Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES LONDON (Dow Jones)--Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) Wednesday said it was developing sugar biofuels suitable for standard car engines with a U.S. fuel technology company, in its latest move to bring new energies closer to mass consumption. The research and development program could overcome several major hurdles in the existing biofuels market, including eliminating the need for costly new pipeline infrastructure and reducing feedstock competition in the food market. Because of their corrosive characteristics, biofuels are typically transported by rail or truck, undercutting their competitiveness against conventional crude products, decreasing their life-cycle energy efficiency, and adding to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions per gallon of fuel. Also, competition for biofuels feedstocks such as corn has been a major contributor to inflated food prices. Shell said it had started a five-year joint research and development effort with Virent Energy Systems, Inc., a Madison, Wis., company, to convert plant sugars directly into gasoline and gasoline blend components, rather than ethanol. Shell's vice president for future fuels, Graeme Sweeney, said the company aims to start construction of a commercial demonstration project in about two years, if laboratory results are positive. The facility would produce around 50,000 to 100,000 liters a day. Production of biofuels, plant-based fuels considered a cleaner form of energy than fossil fuels, has been boosted by rising oil prices. But the development of such blends has been hindered by the need for special fuel distribution infrastructure and modifying vehicle engines. Shell said the move could potentially eliminate such needs. "It's a game-changing technology ... and will transform the way we think about biofuels ... on a broad scale," said Eric Apfelbach, Virent president and chief executive. The U.S. and other countries have recently instituted biofuels mandates, requiring an increased portion of the energy portfolio to come from fuels such as ethanol to help cut greenhouse gases and increase security of supply. Late last year, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill requiring production of 36 billion gallons of biofuel a year by 2022. Although the early years rely on ethanol production, the mandate phases in advanced biofuel levels. Analysts have raised concerns, however, about whether new technology will come on line soon enough to meet the mandate. "This technology could change the rate at which these feedstocks could be brought into the marketplace," Sweeney said. Virent's Apfelbach said the technology uses catalysts to convert sugars into hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery, instead of fermenting and distilling them. The new molecules produced as a result can be blended seamlessly to make conventional gasoline. Apfelbach said the process could also potentially produce diesel and jet fuel in the future, allowing increased access into the aviation and diesel-rich markets such as Europe. The companies said they had so far collaborated for one year on the research but declined to comment on the value of the investment. Speaking on a conference call, Sweeney said the research phase to develop the product would last around two years, but wouldn't say how long it would take to bring it to the market. Asked about the cost compared to ethanol - currently around $2 to $3 a gallon for production and distribution - the executives said the new process was competitive, particularly because of a much lower energy input for processing and transportation of the product. Those factors would also lower the product's carbon emissions compared to ethanol. Given the smaller carbon footprint, the increased blending capacity compared to ethanol and the higher energy content per gallon of fuel, the fuel could offer an attractive alternative in the marketplace in an increasingly carbon-constrained environment. The U.S., like many countries, is considering enacting laws that would limit carbon dioxide emissions, potentially crimping gasoline consumption. "It would command a premium over RBOB," Sweeney said, referring to the most commonly traded gasoline blendstock used to mix with ethanol. The news comes after Shell announced last year that it was teaming up with U.S. biotech company HR Biopetroleum to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into biofuel in a Hawaii-based project. It also signed a deal with another U.S. company, Codexis Inc., to develop new "super enzymes" that can convert a range of raw materials into high-performance fuels. Shell is diversifying into biofuels as crude prices - which jumped over $100 a barrel this year - squeeze refining margins and hurt its profits. The oil giant says biofuels will represent 5% to 7% of global transport fuel demand by 2030 compared with 1% now. Other major oil companies have also joined the fray. In June, BP PLC (BP.LN) formed joint ventures with U.K. biofuel producer D1 Oils PLC (DOO.LN) to grow oilseed-bearing trees to make cleaner burning diesel fuel and with Associated British Foods PLC (ASBFY) and DuPont Co. to build a $400 million biofuel plant in the U.K. Biofuels, though, have been accused of encouraging deforestation and pushing up food prices. But Shell said the sugars can be sourced from non-food sources like corn stover, switch grass, wheat straw and sugarcane pulp. Company Web site: http://www.shell.com -By Benoit Faucon, Dow Jones Newswires; +44-20-7842-9266; [email protected] and Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9285; [email protected]

Roger Brown

4.4 million gallons/acre works out to almost exactly 1 gallon/m2. If we assume that algal oil has the same energy density as gasoline then the energy yield is 36.7kWh/m2. The Union of Concerned Scientists claims that the global average insolation averaged 365 days/year, 24 hours/day is 4.2kWh/day. Let's assume that Petrosun sited their ponds on a location with 5.0kWh/day of insolation. A simple calculation shows that the the claimed efficiency of sunlight to bio-oil is 2.0%. Until I see some data, I will remain extremely skeptical that they can achieve these kind of yields in open ponds.

From my understanding of the algal growth process highly concentrated levels of CO2 are needed to achieve high growth rates. What source of CO2 is Petrosun using? Coal plant emissions are the most commonly proposed source of CO2. Tying liquid fuel production to coal burning is obviously not sustainable in the long term. Such a fuel production process can be regarded as a stop gap on the way to a nuclear buildup or a wind/solar super grid, or whatever your favorite version of an energy intense post-FF future may be. However, if these options are slow to materialized and the whole world aspires to OECD life styles, then a whole lot of coal is going to have to be burned to support a global automobile culture.

NiraliSherni

Biofuel is still in a nascent stage of development and needs both encouragement and funding for it to become commercially viable. One company who is doing its bit for alternative energy is ZAP who is working towards fuel-efficient transportation with new technologies including energy efficient gas systems, hydrogen, electric, fuel cell, ethanol, hybrid and other innovative power systems.

Carl Hage

Roger Brown posts some nifty calculations: [therefore] the claimed efficiency of sunlight to bio-oil is 2.0%. Until I see some data, I will remain extremely skeptical ....

Note that this is for bio-oil not total biomass, but a calculation comparing energy content of 25% oil yield and 75% other biomass, then the oil portion is about 50% of the biomass energy, meaning the biomass conversion would be about 4% (assuming the non-oil biomass was equivalent to wood).

This prompted me to read some reports on algae yield. From the 1998 NREL Report, reported yields varied wildly-- the middle range of one test from 4-23 g/m2/day extractable biomass, or .4-2 l/m2/yr. The high ranges were in august-september, low in winter. They claim 15 g/m2/day (1.3 l/m2/yr) is 2% solar effiency. This was from sewage treatment effluent with added CO2.

Some of the tests reported solar efficiency as high as 5% (about 10% photosynthesis effiency - only about half the light energy is usable to a plant).

So by Rogers calculation, the claim isn't way off some prior results (mainly summer yields), but is near the high end of prior tests.

By comparison, Greenfuel calculated yield (ave high of a summer test) was 2.25 gal/m2/yr, but this assumes a tilted collector not horizontal pond, and the extraction failed.

Some of this research was from 1977-- too bad the program was killed.

Engineer-Poet
Most likely "going electric" isn't going to be a transportation system that is free of liquid fuels.
True, but the difference between using biofuels to replace 100% of motor fuel or 20% of motor fuel is enormous.
We haven't been able to imagine a way to fly long distances with battery powered airplanes
Mass-market jet transport is probably doomed anyway.  The world can run on PHEVs with $8/gallon biofuels, but airlines probably can't stay in business.
Large trucks may remain liquid fuel propelled far into the future.
I think we'll see battery-powered vans and tractors for local deliveries, and the long-hauls will go increasingly intermodal if they don't go entirely rail.  If you can deliver a trailer by rail to within 20 miles of the destination and the round-trip from the railhead is within the capabilities of a battery-powered vehicle, the cost of liquid fuel may become irrelevant because you won't need any.
Don B.

The figures that I have seen bantied-about are more on the line of 5000 gal/acre for algae biofuels....I don't know where someone is getting 4 million from?! The yield will vary due to: A) The algae strain being cultivated, B) The climate/feedstock that the algae is being raised in, C) The type of cultivation vessel that you use (open/covered pond, cylindrical tubes, hydroponics, etc) D) the efficiency of collection and separation of the plant and it's lipid content.
THE MATH!:
Based on 5Kgal/acre: you get 119 bbls of oil/acre (42 gal/bbl). The US imports ~12.4MM bbls of oil/day (Energy Information Administration, 7/2007). That's 4,526,000,000 bbls/yr...divide that number by 119 bbls/acre and you get 38,033,613 acres/640 acres per square mile = 59,427 sq miles (244 miles square). These numbers represent the replacement of IMPORTED oil.
Keep in mind, approximately 90MM acres (140,625 sq miles) were planted with CORN last year!.....and it's contribution to the American energy solution is a low, single digit percentage!
The writing is on the wall in a language that everyone can read! It seems the only illiterate ones are the GREEDY ones!

Don B.

Roger Brown
The figures that I have seen bantied-about are more on the line of 5000 gal/acre for algae biofuels....I don't know where someone is getting 4 million from?!

The claim posted above is 4.4 million gallons from 1100 acres which comes out to 4000gallons/acre. However, I am extremely skeptical that these yields can be achieved in open ponds.

Don B.

OOPS!
My Bad....

I would prefer to see desert algae production using some form of low-evaporative technology. Covers or containers will significantly add to start-up costs, but we can't trade water for fuel like we are presently doing with corn ethanol.

Don B.

Engineer-Poet

There's a lot of saltwater out there, and the halophytic algae which grow in saturated salt solutions would be able to exploit saline inland water that's otherwise a disposal problem (just evaporate it as part of fuel production and store the salts).

Cyril R.

If we get rid of coal fired plants, a lot of extra rail capacity becomes available for transportation of goods.

Kit P

Cyril, that has got to be the non sequitur of all time. From the old song,

“What is your plan, Stan???”

Does anyone but me get tired of hearing from those in California that we can conserve and and build renewable energy generation to get rid of nuke and coal plants? While I am certainly an advocate for conservation and renewable energy, having the inept get excited about the latest unproven technological while be anti anything that works.

Cyril R.

I didn't say get rid of nukes. Replacing the coal fired plants with nuclear, conservation, efficiency, wind, solar, whatever, will free up rail capacity, without too many major upgrades of rail infrastructure. Not sure how that's a non-sequitur. Brian Wong from Nextbigfuture estimates it at about 40% extra capacity freed up.

Kit P

Well Cyril, just what do you plan to do with this extra rail capacity? I know. We can ship the coal to port and sell it to other countries.

Cyril may want to spend some time over at the EIA and study the world coal market. The International Energy Outlook 2007 link is in the right hand column. Cyril take your meds first, reality sucks but go ahead and call the EIA a trill if it makes you feel better.

Cyril R.

just what do you plan to do with this extra rail capacity?

Transport goods that would otherwise require oil powered transportation. Some trains are diesel powered, but even they are more efficient than long distance trucking.

I already read the IEO 2007.

Cyril R.

Let me guess what Kit's response will be. Something like "the environmental impact of coal burning is negligible". Or maybe you think, reducing oil consumption is a bad idea?

Don't even bother Kit.

Kit P

“Or maybe you think, reducing oil consumption is a bad idea?”

If that is Cyril's goal, the logical way to achieve that is for people in California to drive less. Cyril has no clue about the environmental impact of making electricity with coal which is clearly less than needless activities driving to the beach or mountains on the weekend which is the custom in California. When I kept my boat near a coal plant, I never had a problem with black soot making my boat dirty. However, when my boat was moored near the freeway in California black soot was a daily problem.

A friend at work heats with oil. He used more oil in January than I do all year for driving to work. Since I heat with a new high efficiency heat pump power by cheap coal generated electricity, my heating bill is 1/3 of my friend at work.

Drama majors like Cyril are against things and make up a long list of reason most of which are a non sequitur. They get their information from other drama majors.

I am an engineer. Tell me your problem and I will provide a list of ways of solving that problem. If you need to heat your house in winter, I can list the best ways of doing it for your location and can rank them based on economics or environmental impact. I was showing the engineering intern at work how to use a slide rule. He thought it was much more complicated than his lap top. Go figure!!! Anyhow, one of things we learned to do when I was an engineering student was eliminate negligible terms from our equations. Once you have identified the problems and solutions 'you need a plan Stan'.

For example, heating my house. Coal generated electricity with a wood backup. Notice wind and solar do not even make this list because they are not solutions to the problem.

Cyril wants to reduce oil demand. Solution: Coal generated electricity with a wood backup. Notice wind and solar do not even make this list because they negligible terms in our equations.

I suppose Cyril wants to reduce AGW. Solution: New more efficient coal generated electricity, new nukes and waste wood biomass. Notice wind and solar do not even make this list because they negligible terms in our equations. Also AGW is a negligible terms in our equations for environmental impact.

One of the problems I would like to solve is the increasing use of imported LNG. Solution: New more efficient coal generated electricity, new nukes, waste wood biomass, higher cost conservation measures, wind, and solar. Here wind and solar are significant terms in our equations because every generated offsets a LNG MWhr.

I am an advocate of all those things that are on my list of solutions. Heating his home is not a need for Cyril. Lots of folks in warm climates without coal advocate banning new coal plants. What is their universal plan for maintaining their silly consultive life style? They talk about insignificant amounts of solar and wind and hope no one notices all the LNG they are importing.

George/Yuri

Sunday, April 06, 2008
Could Peak Phosphate be Algal Diesel's Achilles' Heel?

http://ergobalance.blogspot.com/2008/04/peak-phosphate-algal-diesels-achilles.html

"..I remain optimistic over algal diesel, but clearly if it is to be implemented on a serious scale its phosphorus has to come from elsewhere than phosphate rock mineral. There are regions of the sea that are relatively high in phosphates and could in principle be concentrated to the desired amount to grow algae, especially as salinity is not necessarily a problem. Recycling phosphorus from manure and other kinds of plant and animal waste appears to be the only means to maintain agriculture at its present level, and certainly if its activities will be increased to include growing algae. In principle too, the phosphorus content of the algal-waste left after the oil-extraction process could be recycled into growing the next batch of algae. These are all likely to be energy-intensive processes, however, requiring "fuel" of some kind, in their own right.."
(Written by Chris Rhodes.)

Dr Yogendra Kumar Tripathi

Biomass from algae has the added advantage of capturing carbon di oxide and can be grown on all kinds of water and grow fast. This is an excelelnt approach to produce green energy especially when combined with solar and tidal energy power for electrical needs of the plant.

ROBERT WIENER

I teach the manufacture of cast acrylic tubing and can produce A TO Z.40 yrs exp.I have a recent enquiry from a firm that actually has a series of twenty foot long extruded acrylic tubes[18] for the production of oil from algea.Cleans out with air pressure and a big sponge like a piston.Please see my website and feel free to pass this info around.www.angelfire.com/pro2/frisky
912 462 7212 Please feel free to call me.Thank you.

ROBERT WIENER

A pond seems to me like a very crude container.Evaporation, lack of insulation from a unwanted temp,collection, elimination of unwanted mass, collection of your product,strikes me as crude and unprofessional.Take a cast acrylic tube,surround it with mirrors for the reflection of light,heat, temp control,PRECISION EASY COLLECTION OF PRODUCT, now you have something.www.angelfire.com/pro2/frisky 912 462 7212 please feel free to call.No charge.[PLASTPRO] ROBERT WIENER

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Alternative energy, such as the algae oil plant, will be good for the environment and decreasing the dependence on foreign oil.

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Anyone know how much refinement this algae oil requires before its usable as engine fuel?

Regardless, if you put biofuels into the same ol' inefficient ICE you aren't going to provide much incentive to go electric.

Huggable hanger

Alternative energy, such as the algae oil plant, will be good for the environment and decreasing the dependence on foreign oil.

BPMN,Australia

This is an excelelnt approach to produce green energy .........

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