Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation (ABC), Melbourne, New Zealand, states on its website: The world is expected to move from the cultivation of corn and sugar cane for energy purposes to the cultivation of marine algae. Aquaflow has set itself the objective to be the first company in the world to economically produce biofuel from wild algae harvested from open-air environments, to market it, and meet the challenge of increasing demand.
They are trying to simplify the algae to biooil process used by most others in the field by collecting wild algae growing in open-air sludge ponds and waste streams.
UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, and Aquaflow 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.
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.
Aquaflow currently sources its wild algae from oxidation ponds in Marlborough, New Zealand. It doesn’t add carbon dioxide to the wastewater.
“We have now achieved commercial scale continuous harvesting of tonnes of wild algae at the Marlborough oxidation ponds so we can take the step up to commercial scale production of biocrude,” said Aquaflow chairman, Barrie Leay in March.
In September Aquaflow announced it had produced the world’s first of green-crude, a crude-oil equivalent, from wild algae
ABC harvests algae directly from the settling ponds of standard Effluent Management Systems and other nutrient-rich water. The process can be used in many industries that produce a waste stream, including the transport, dairy, meat and paper industries.
The two-step process firstly optimises the ponds' productive capacity, and secondly, determines 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 remove the remaining contaminant. A last stage of bio-remediation, still in development, will ensure that the water discharge from the process exceeds acceptable quality standards.
Leay further commented, “An extraordinarily beneficial by-product of the Aquaflow process is potentially releasing a clean water resource of millions of litres of clean water - to be recycled and available for use in irrigation, industrial washing, cooling, and so on.”
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. This is less than 1/7th the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.
Other recent activities in the algae to oil industry, as reported by Biofuels Digest, include;
- In Texas, PetroSun will open the first US commercial-scale algae farm for biofuels near South Padre Island. The 1,831 acre site 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 the Netherlands, AlgaeLink announced a new process for extracting algae oil without using chemicals, drying or an oil press. The company said that its patent-pending 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.
- In Texas, the state’s Emerging Technology Fund will provide $4 million to Texas AgriLife Research and General Atomics to conduct microalgae research and development.
- In Virginia, researchers at Old Dominion University have successfully piloted a project to produce biodiesel feedstock by growing algae at municipal sewage treatment plants. The researchers hope that these algae production techniques could lead to reduced emissions of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide into the air and surrounding bodies of water. The pilot project is producing up to 70,000 gallons of biodiesel per year.
- In Minnesota, Xcel Energy has pledged $150,000 to assist in funding an algae-to-biodiesel research project sponsored by the University and the Metropolitan Council. The grant is a follow-on to more than $4.5 million given to five other University of Minnesota projects from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund.
- The US Department of Energy recently partnered with Chevron in a research effort to develop higher-yield strains of micro algae. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on a project with Honeywell, General Electric and the University of North Dakota.
- In Texas, US Sustainable Energy is awaiting lab results from a test of biocrude production using 20 pounds of algae as a feedstock. 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.
- In Arizona, PetroSun BioFuels Refining recently signed a joint venture to develop and operate a 30 Mgy algae biodiesel facility in Coolidge. Construction was projected to commence in the third quarter of this year. Late last fall, PetroSun announced a letter of intent to supply 54 million gallons of algal oil to a new 54 Mgy Bio-Alternatives biodiesel plant in south Louisiana. The initial delivery to Bio-Alternatives refinery was to be in the third quarter of 2008.