Welcome to the Energy Blog


  • The Energy Blog is where all topics relating to The Energy Revolution are presented. Increasingly, expensive oil, coal and global warming are causing an energy revolution by requiring fossil fuels to be supplemented by alternative energy sources and by requiring changes in lifestyle. Please contact me with your comments and questions. Further Information about me can be found HERE.

    Jim


  • SUBSCRIBE TO THE ENERGY BLOG BY EMAIL

After Gutenberg

Clean Break

The Oil Drum

Statistics

Blog powered by Typepad

« Biobutanol - Cobalt Biofuels Raises $25 Million to Accelerate Commercialization of Biobutanol Process | Main | Qteros - Raises $25 million, Changes Company Name »

November 19, 2008

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b5da69e2010535f8d5f5970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Aquaflow Algae:

Comments

JackRussell

When you read press releases, it is easy to get excited about the possibilities. And I don't intend in any way to belittle the research that is going on, and cleaning up wastewater is certainly a positive externality that can't be disregarded.

My skepticism is caused mainly by the fact that we have seen many such developments over the years. Lots of stuff that sounds good on paper that never seems to pan out.

But at the end of the day, I care about the economics of all of this. What is or will be the $/gallon cost of algal biodiesel? When will we reach a point where one can even talk about commercialization? Because until these questions are answered, I am going to have to remain a skeptic.

One development I find interesting is that people seem to have abandoned closed systems. The supposed advantage was that one could try and grow a monoculture that is high in natural oils, but closed systems are very expensive. All of the approaches cited above are letting nature grow whatever happens to want to grow.

Rick L.

I think this can work. I am very excited to see what happens with this. This could be the wave of the future. Thanks a bunch, Rick L.

Finite Resource
The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel 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, or 1.3 Belgiums.

According to the CIA factbook, 40,000 sq. km. is also a tenth of the total water surface area of the US, which is kinda fully booked at the moment. It might be more practical to invade Belgium and Holland and flood them...

Ben Levi

FYI, Aquaflow is out of NELSON, New Zealand (on the top of the south island), not Melbourne, which is in Australia.

theodore malnick

"HOW MUCH DESERTS AREAS DO WE HAVE WHICH COULD BE LEVELED AND DAMMED AND FLOODED ;ALSO HOW MUCH SWAMP LAND IS AVAILABLE IN THE USA {HOW ABOUT LOUSIANA OR MISSISSIPPI OR STATES IN THAT AREAS}THE FLOOD ZONES ! HOW ABOUT LEVELING THE GRAND CANYON AND PUT IT TO GOOD USAGE FINALLY;ITS NOTHING BUT DEAD GULLIES AND WEEDS AND ITS LARGE ENOUGH TO HELP USA FOOD PRODUCTION EFFORTS {JUST REMEMBER THE WORLD IS INCREASING THE POPULATION FACTOR AND WE NEED MORE GROWING AREAS TO USE FOR FOOD PRODUCTION}!!!!!!!!!

nathn

Large scale cultivation of appropriate strans of algae could significantly help in sequestering carbon di oxide and algae can grow using brakish water or even salt water, depending on strain. One can incorporate cellulase gene in as well to help use of dried algae as sugar source.

Martin

Is harvested algae likely to cause an imbalance or reduction in the food chain?

Richard

It really doesn't matter what idea you come up with, there's always going to be people who bitch about it and make out that it's a really bad idea. As usual, many of the comments here are just that.

Cyril R.

One wonders what the investment cost and material requirements will be of 40,000 square kilometers of these facilities, and how fast that could be built.

Organic Grog

Thanks for the thread!
I think that this is not only doable, but will create millions of jobs right here in this country.

Cyril R.

If oil demand can be reduced, say, 80% then that cuts the land requirement down to 10,000 square kilometers. Still much but a bit more realistic. Electrification of transport, efficiency and conservation can probably get that 80% reduction in oil use.

Wind turbines integrated into the facilities can go a long ways in delivering the electricity while not blocking significant amounts of sunlight for the algae.

Cyril R.

Make that 8000 square kilometers for the algae facilities. A 75% reduction would be 10,000 sq km.

Pradeep

I did a basic process economic analysis of algal biofuel production from cement plant-CO2 capture (GreenFuel's process). Details are on my blog, but the upshot is that a doubling of oil prices are required to make this process economically justifiable. Interestingly, CO2 offset prices play only a minor role in the overall economics.

Cyril R.

Interesting blog Pradeep. Keep in mind that prices are not fixed for CO2 credits either, though. They might be several times higher than your assumed $20/ton CO2e. You only used a 2x higher case, but more is not at all unthinkable under an aggressive cap or tax.

bigTom

I think the real questions here involve, how much effort is needed to control the biological processes. Do you just harvest algae, and seaweed from open lake/ocean, or do you need intensively managed ponds? If it is the former, the cost per acre should be dominated by the harvest process. If the former, the cost per acre will go up greatly. I suspect the further you go towards letting nature work naturally, the less control you have over the balance of species, i.e. if you harvest from otherwise natural ocean/lake, you probably don't get a lot of oil -but perhaps the biomass can be utilized in other ways.

Cyril R.

Intensively managed ponds or even virtually closed bioreactors can have more yield but involve larger capital investment. Extensive harvesting has lower capital investment but lower yield per area. Neither are likely to be practical replacements for petroleum in any reasonable timeframe. We just use too much oil, the scale at which we'd have to harvest algae is huge. 40,000 square kilometers isn't necessarily a show stopper, but these algea facilities have intense materials use (concrete and steel) per square kilometer. And that's a problem when you're building 40,000 of them.

Of course we wouldn't try to replace all petroleum used for transportation with algae, but the scale suggests that getting even 10 percent will be very difficult. Scalability is not clear to me. Seaweed may be harvested less intensively but the yield is lower so you're looking at a multiple of 40,000 square kilometers.

The same amount of transportation can be serviced with less than 4000 square kilometers of mixed direct solar technologies, much of it on rooftops. And that will be difficult enough, even though direct solar systems require less servicing than an algae farm. There's also nuclear and geothermal which have very low land use requirements and materials use for servicing a given amount of transportation.

Algae or seaweed for foodproducts seems like a worthwhile investigation.

And there's all kinds of chemical markets which algae and seaweed could serve.

Don't get me wrong, though, this might work sometime in the future, with a lot more development. Since technology development is difficult to predict and surprises will occur, keeping a bunch or RD&D programmes seems prudent.

Cyril R.

I realise that algae produce liquid fuels which are compatible with existing infrastructure, that is essentially a moot issue when it takes too long to build substantial amounts of algae facilities. At the very least, we need to electrify as much transportation as possible.

benny

Glad to see this blog up and running. Best wishes to its editor.
When it comes to biofuels, palm trees may be the way to go. Yields going way up, per hectare. They are viable right now. Brazil has land that has been degraded, and will likely be converted to palm oil. Look for Brazil to produce more palm oil than ethanol in 15 years, as the yields are so much higher per acre. Cuba may have bright future too -- palm oil and 20 bbl of oil.

Chin Hsien

Comparing the solar to biomass conversion efficiency, I guess growing algae can be even higher than palm trees.

I am not sure what the major cost for the algae system, is that water removal?

Methane production seems to be a more economical process for treating biomass riched waste water, will it be easier to convert the algae biomass to methane rather than converting to bio-crude oil?

Cyril R.

As long as you don't cut down rainforest, palms are very interesting. Of course they are tropical crops, and for such climates there's a range of promising biofuel crops. Like the nypa palm for ethanol production that could be a better crop than sugarcane. It's labor intensive, but those countries are low wage and poor rural farmers can make good money with this.

Although terrestrial plants can't get the potential high yields of algae, many of them could scale to serious amounts much more rapidly than algae, I think.

Cyril R.

Chin, you're right, biogas is a very promising option for algae. One thing that might be done is process the oil from the algae, and convert the rest (which is at least half of the biomass) to biogas in large digesters. That way, the nutrients are also fairly easily recycled back to new algae batches, and the biogas digesters are proven and not too expensive. Cleaning the biogas is also pretty simple. The result is a very clean burning fuel, and there's a lot of experience and existing infrastructure for methane (natural gas).

Kit P

Anybody have experience with Cholera epidemics?

Sewage is laden with a whole host pathogens. Treating sewage is primarily a public issue. The dilute mixture of C, N, P, & K result in some significant environmental issues if released without treatment. In rural area septic tanks are used. Small towns use lagoons.

When a small town becomes a small city that has grown around the lagoons, odor becomes and issue. This requires adding energy intensive equipment to add oxygen or an expensive anaerobic digester (AD).

When a city reaches a certain size, adding very expensive ADs to the WWTP is the only options. The biogas produced is very difficult and expensive to clean. We do have a lot of experience demonstrating at tax payers expense that Cyril' idea is generally not practical.

The same technologies to treat human sewage can be applied to large agricultural activities. Many dairy farms and feed lots have large lagoon system for storing manure until it is used for fertilizer. We have discussed the ethanol plant in Mead Nebraska hear at the Energy Blog. The primary difference is that the in puts waste prepossessing system are controlled and there is a use for biogas that does not require cleaning.

Cyril R.
We do have a lot of experience demonstrating at tax payers expense that Cyril' idea is generally not practical.

We were talking about dedicated algae farms, which is the subject of this thread, not sewage plants. But then it is typical for you to twist other people's words so that you can have a chance at flaming them.

However, you have shown a high degree of correct, albeit off topic, information in you post, and make good off-topic points,so I hereby congratulate you Kit.

You're making progress, Kit P.

Pradeep

@CyrilR,
Thanks for the comment. You are correct, the price for CO2 offsets will be volatile. In the long-term, it will probably be up.

Now that you brought it, I do not know if one can get CO2 credits on producing algal biofuels from CO2 capture. This process just recycles CO2, and does not really contribute to long-term CO2 reductions. Does corn ethanol get co2 offset credits?

Cyril R.

Pradeep: The cap and trade proposed by Obama is on carbon fuels, so downstream rather than upstream (upstream would be on CO2 emitted).

It's easier to regulate the CO2 market with carbon fuels being traded rather than CO2, but it indeed has the disadvantage of omitting non-fuel CO2 emissions and offsets.

So methane emissions from eg agriculture and mostly CO2 neutral algae fuel would have to be credited seperately. This isn't too difficult, but must be well thought through, because loopholes and exceptions are things that make the carbon cap and trade rather unfair and less effective. Vested interests may even try to block the entire system with the argument that it isn't fair, so all the details require attention.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) takes into account offsets etc. and allows emissions reductions in other countries (getting reduction in developing countries is often cheaper than getting them in richer countries). It would be a good idea too look at experience with the CDM, what works and what can be improved, when setting up the US credits system.

Cyril R.

And I don't think that corn ethanol gets CO2 credits. It wouldn't get much anyway; current plants are so fossil fuel intensive overall that CO2 emissions are still large. This is slowly changing with more advanced, efficient plants coming on line.

Kit P

“We were talking about dedicated algae farms”

That is a picture of a sewage treatment plant. From Aquaflow web site:

“wild micro-algae sourced from local sewage ponds.”

Three of the other links were to sewage treatment plants.

Sewage, sewage, sewage.

When Cyril says something is simple and not too expensive it is because he has not training or experience doing it. It sounds grand to take sewage, agricultural wastewater, and industrial wastewater and process it into transportation fuel. Many have tried all have failed, so far.

The first conference I went to for producing energy from waste water was a shock. The keynote speaker was an environmental journalist who pointed out that making up new names does not fool the public. It is sewage, not wastewater. It is a sewage treatment plant, not WWTP. Sludge is produced not biosolids. The public has a natural and very rational aversion to waste water. Did I mention cholera?

“We were talking about dedicated algae farms,”

Call you whatever you want, if I try to build a 'dedicated algae farm' in Cyril's backyard, Cyril will show up with his team of lawyers and call it a sewage treatment plant.

Cyril R.
“We were talking about dedicated algae farms”

That is a picture of a sewage treatment plant. From Aquaflow web site:

“wild micro-algae sourced from local sewage ponds.”

Three of the other links were to sewage treatment plants.

Sewage, sewage, sewage.

Limited, limited, limited. I was talking about the claimed 40000 square kilometers of algae facilities to replace all petroleum use, for which they can use dedicated algae, sourced from sewers or not. There's not enough sewage to replace serious amounts of petroleum Kit. Sewage energy is niche, hardly relevant in the grand world of energy. If it's a serious human health problem, then don't do it. Big deal.

Oh my god, am I actually arguing with Kit P? What was I thinking. I'm going to go back to ignoring you again.

Elmo the Electric Bikes Guy

Ravi,

Excellent and in depth article on the pluses and minuses of all of the alternative energy sources. I know that China has a deal with Westinghouse to build 200 nuclear plants in an effort to quell their dependence on fossil fuels. Anyway, necessity is the mother of invention and as we do more research into different methods of manipulating different sources of energy newer hurdles will emerge as well as solutions.

God Bless!
ELMO

Dick

May I remind the readers that the city of Los Angeles has completed a water treatment plant - that is, sewage treatment plant - that will supply drinking water to the city? Sewage is, indeed, an ugly topic, which may explain why the above is news to some of you, but the use of unconventional fuels will be an important segment of our power system moving ahead. And by unconventional, I mean sewage, animal manure, biomass of various forms including, probably, algae.

As to the economics of algae, don't ignore the opportunity to use the de-oiled biomass as fuel for power production. Developing technologies, specifically external combustion engines, will be able to convert this biomass to energy very efficiently. If you can cover your costs by selling bio-diesel, the fuel for the power generation is "free". I think the economics of such a facility will be very compelling, and require zero government subsidies.

Full disclosure: my company, ReGen Power Systems, is developing an external combustion engine for such applications. We have recently received $5 million in an initial equity funding round from private investors and have cranked our development program up to full power.

Cyril R.
As to the economics of algae, don't ignore the opportunity to use the de-oiled biomass as fuel for power production. Developing technologies, specifically external combustion engines, will be able to convert this biomass to energy very efficiently.

If you have a very large algae plant, converting the leftover biomass into biogas or syngas, cleaning it up, and burning it in a modern combined cycle gas turbine would be very clean and efficient while using proven off the shelf technology.

The algae facilities have to be very low cost and use as little materials as possible. Forget concrete and steel for open ponds. Maybe digging long shallow troughs in the soil, covering it with water retaining plastic underneath and clear UV resistant plastic cover on top?

mr.khani

Dear Sir
Hello
I am managing director of a company called ‘Mehr Pakhsh.
We are planning to produce Bio diesel , using alga oil. Nice to know that until now there has been no one working on alga production in an industrial way and oil extraction of that in IRAN.
I have visited your web site and have some questions
1- if you have any interest to have a representative in IRAN?
2- if yes, under which situation?
It will be great if you will answer as soon as possible.


Best regards

Roohollah Khani

Russ

That is just way too cool, good to see this type of technology working.

Andy Olsen

Put me down as a skeptic. This is not a near-term energy source. If people think cellulosic ethanol has been a long time pulling into the station, algae biodiesel will be longer. Maybe beyond the window for action on climate change.

Hey, I'd be tickled to see it, but we're not seeing enough facing up to the technical challenges. It is a research priority at this point, not a ready energy source. How is the algae environment maintained for the critters to survive? How is the biodiesel tapped efficiently?

Too much optimism, too little rigor in this area.

amazingdrx

Hey Jim, nice to see you back here.

I agree Cyril, biogas is a better way to go at this time. Enough algae and weed overgrowth exists in rivers and lakes right now that if it were added to waste stream biomass, manure, sewage, crop waste, dead wood at risk of forest fire, and so forth, it would provide renewable power grid backup and GHG offset from prevention of waste stream methane release, to make wind and solar our main energy sources, and offset GHG from remaining sources.

Think organic fertilizer from biodigestion replacing the huge GHG release of CO2 and nitrous oxide from chemical fertilizer production and application. Nitrous oxide release alone equals 2/3 of the CO2 uptake of the crop fertilized.

The restoration of lakes and rivers from a state of fertilizer and waste stream run off is a huge side benefit. This also recycles waste water, making it suitable for irrigation.

Making biodiesel from algae would best be done with sea water in floating energy facilities. Combining floating wind/wave/solar power stations to harvest ocean algae and weed overgrowth and clean up huge floating trash mass acumulated by ocean currents would be a place to start.

This mess is reaching titanic proportions.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/19/SS6JS8RH0.DTL&hw=pacific+patch&sn=001&sc=1000

The plastic component of this toxic stew could be recycled into plastic pellets suitable for remanufacturing.

Growing algae on land for biodiesel is a waste of land that could produce a lot more sequestration and energy in other ways. Ocean based algae energy production uses sea water, only waste stream fresh water ought to be used for algae production on land. Water is too valuable to use to make fuel for gas guzzling ICE vehicles.

Renewabley powered plugin hybrids and electric mass transit are the way to replace 90% of oil use, replacing the present level of oil use with algae biodisel is just another boondoggle diversion.

Great thread Jim, as usual!

Home Based Business

I am not an expert and don't pretend to be in this area but am amazed at alternate sources of fuel and energy!

LifePath Unlimited

Great information.. Thanks for sharing!

tony

This is what its all about people! Lets get working we've got to start now!

German Dude

Sounds like there are some great strides being made, hopefully they won't get buried by Big Oil.

dell Inspiron E1705 battery

this very usefull!

Green Energy

According to the Energy Information Administration, Americans used approximately 15.2 million barrels of oil per day in 1983. That amount increased about one half of a percentage point each year until 1997, when the figure was 18.6 million barrels of oil per day. Thanks to a number of factors, Americans have been able to reduce that number. While we imported 10 million barrels per day, a number that has been steady for several years, our total oil consumption figure averaged 15 million barrels per day, down from twenty-five years ago.

EnergyBeta.Com

Nice Post with great detail. No Doubt Biomass is gaining in popularity as a renewable source for energy. It is nice to know people think about using something like algae without edible stuff to produce energy

Roberto

Let my suggest another interesting approach: sequestering the CO2 from biogas by growing algae (using algae to purify biogas).
Here an article that explains a research project called Efficiency increase of biogas use through solar energy:
Bioenergy News (2006) Using algae to purify biogas to NG pipeline quality

Trump Network

Wow, I didn't realize how powerful this is! Thanks for sharing the information!
~MD

exercise health fitness

Very powerful! it's amazing.

alisha

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.

Colon Cleanse

When a small town becomes a small city that has grown around the lagoons, odor becomes and issue. This requires adding energy intensive equipment to add oxygen or an expensive anaerobic digester (AD).

When a city reaches a certain size, adding very expensive ADs to the WWTP is the only options. The biogas produced is very difficult and expensive to clean. We do have a lot of experience demonstrating at tax payers expense that Cyril' idea is generally not practical.

Resveratrol

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.

Acai

I didn't realize how powerful this is! Thanks for sharing the information!

Extenze

Americans have been able to reduce that number. While we imported 10 million barrels per day, a number that has been steady for several years, our total oil consumption figure averaged 15 million barrels per day, down from twenty-five years ago.

The comments to this entry are closed.

. .




Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles