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January 12, 2006



These tube (versus lake or lagoon?) approaches strike me as something that is easy to demonstrate but dirty (and expensive?) to maintain. Must they encourage suspended algae while discouraging stationary types on the inner walls of their tubes? Or do they send a brush through to harvest the fixed types? Are there any production plants with multi-year (decade) experience?

A lot of questions, sorry.

Jim from The Energy Blog

These systems are primarily designed for power plant duty, where CO2 removal is the primary concern. The tube type of algae growth is the only game in town at the present. I don't quite understand why, but the argument is economic--it goes something like this, power plants have a CO2 problem and if they can run their biodiesel production at breakeven they get their CO2 mitigation for free--or however you want to split up the costs. The lagoon type of growth is supposed to be more expensive because of complexities of getting plug flow and getting proper contact beween algae and nutrients on a large scale. The required land area for a lagoon type system is 125 times as much as with the GreenShift system which is much to much land for a powerplant.

The Greenfuels system grows the algae as a suspension in a liquid flow and GreenShift grows the algae on a screen located within the tube, with no bulk liquid flow, only a small amount of liquid trickling down the screen. The algae does not need much sunlight to grow, so it will tolerate quite a bit of fouling or whatever you want to call any algae build up on the tube surface.

Neither of these systems have been operated long enough to have any long term experience on cleaning the systems (the most is lesss than 18 months for Greenfuels, on a prototype, from what I infer). In the Greenfuels system the flow regime is suposed to keep the surface clean: "the gas bubble will travel the tube along the inner upper surface. This will renew the liquid layer of the upper surface, making it difficult for algae to adhere." GreenShift plans call for "automatically hosing off and collecting the excess algae and thereby preventing fouling." I presume a periodic cleaning with a cleaning solution would be required with both systems. Both companies have rather long time period before commercialization, which should give them time to develop cleaning systems.


You can do the accounting for maintenance in energy terms or in dollar terms. If parts need to be frequently maintained or replaced, then the energy costs really go off the books somewhere else.

And as an old chemist, aquarist, and current goldfish pond owner, I'd ask why not bubble plant gasses through open ponds? The equation isn't really that different than tubes ... though the tubes probably strike observers as being more of a closed system than they really are.


BTW, I did some emissions monitoring work for power plants a few years ago, and visited gas plants in California, and coal plants in Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. In all but the Pennsylvania plant there was open acreage adjacent to the plants. FWIW.


Having worked for the fleet side of a large power company I can tell you they would be very interested in putting a dent in fuel costs. High fuel prices have hit them hard since this particular company has 4,000 vehicles, hundreds of them being 3 mpg trucks.

It is too bad they already installed SCR scrubbers to reduce NOx emissions to required levels at their bigger coal units. The biodiesel/ethanol production would have just been a side effect.

eric blair

One disadvantage of this process is that it requires sunlight to work, which limits it use to daytime operation. There are many natural gas peaking power plants that also work primarily in the day time, that the process could be used with.

1) The sunlight collection takes land and material. (You still have the low m2 vs watts for solar)
2) Not as useful outside the power-plant example as CO2 isn't normally at 40%+

Have they solved the seperation of oil from plant mass problem?

Jim from The Energy Blog

Eric--I think I addressed the land requirement in the post. Since this technology is proposed for use at power plants for reduction of CO2 a comparison to solar is not valid. It is not intended for use other than in exhaust streams of power plants. Others have proposed growing algae in lagoons or raceways to be used to make biodiesel rather than soybeans, but it has not got past the early stages of research. See my previous comment.


I hope you're catching the Oil Drum discussion. I stated my lazy intuition there as well ... but others posted some interesting (and pessimistic) numbers.


Castor Oil

A page that provides more inputs on algae-based biodiesel: Biodiesel from Algae - Information, Links , from Biodiesel Encyclopedia

Vic, Castor Oil


"The required land area for a lagoon type system is 125 times as much as with the GreenShift system..."

This is the key to solar collector algae systems. And they can be installed on roofs and the southside of buildings, like power plant buildings, malls, municipal buildings. Undeveloped land is not needed, that is a BIG selling point.

Many enviromental groups oppose further development of wilderness areas even for renewable energy.

It is easy to get the extra CO 2 for these systems by merely running the methane produced by digesting the portion of the algae feedstock that is left over after the biodiesel (or sugar/starch for ethanol production, or that new hydrogen from sugar process)is extracted through a 75% efficient, high temperature fuel cell/microturbine electric power generation system.

This can be started up when the sun isn't shining or the wind is not blowing to backup renewable power sources. The methane would be compressed and stored for this purpose, then the CO 2 from this process would be dissolved in the algae holding tanks.

A system like this fed on digested municipal sewer waste and/or manure (providing extra methane)would yield clean water as well. The water may be nearly as valuable as the fuel and electricity in the very near future.

Power plant emmisions are not necessary to make this work. And furthermore PV cells inserted in concentrating troughs that feed sunlight to the algae system can generate signifigant electric power directly too.

This can all be roof or wall mounted, or installed over parking lots or highways. Liquid fuel will still be needed for air travel even when all other transportation runs on batteries charged with renewable electricity.

And as feedstock for the chemical industry. This can make oil obsolete with a completely renewable, nonpolluting alternative. By saving land that would otherwise be devoted to fuel farming, this process leaves natural soil in conservation reserve to act as a carbon sink for the CO 2 released by the biodiesel or ethanol.

Were these plants built close enough to present combustion power plants they could use the emmissions now, and eventually replace those plants as more and more renewable power comes online. Cheaper to pump the CO 2 in pipes to these facilities than trying to pump it underground.


A site that focusses on Oil from Algae - Oilgae.com

Ec, IT

Kerry Blockard

"Liquid fuel will still be needed for air travel even when all other transportation runs on batteries charged with renewable electricity."
Ships will never run on batteries, nor is it likely that cars or tractor trailers will either unless some magical new, practical battery comes along, and no one (certainly not the automakers) is expecting that to happen. Nor is there anything intrinsically advantageous to using batteries in vehicles
rather than the renewables themselves, even if lightweight, high capacity, quickly rechargeable batteries did happen to exist. Actually it would be quite the contrary.
Reengineering the entire fuel delivery system would be an enormously expensive (and pointless) exercise.


"Reengineering the entire fuel delivery system would be an enormously expensive (and pointless) exercise."

The electric grid already exists, only expansion is needed. Into high wind speed areas and the addition of distributed storage and generation.

Batteries in electric cars, and businesses and homes with solar, wind, and battery backup hooked to the grid would provide the distributed storage.

As far as batteries, they are already here, 5 minute charge to 90%, allowing an electrical fillup just like a gas fillup.

70 pounds of these nanotech lithium ion batteries is equivalent to one gallon of gas in transportation energy. A very practical power to weight ratio that makes a 300 mile plugin electric car, the same total weight as a gasoline car. Batteries and electric motor replacing the weight of the internal combustion engine, exhaust, cooling system, fuel system, and related components.

As far as larger vehicles, they have heavier engines, the battery weight ratio holds. Induction strips in highways would allow heavy long haul trucks and buses to recharge while traveling, thus reducing necessary battery range.

Is global climate disaster from present oil based transportation worth averting? One Katriba like storm costs 2 trillion. What will one hitting manhattan cost? What will 10 per year or 20 per year cost?

A huge dust storm engulfed Pheonix yesterday? What will another dust bowl cost?

We can't afford global climate disaster, we can afford electric cars, wind and solar power, and rebuilding natural carbon sinks with organic farming and conservation land.

Those steps can actually reverese this totally unecessary, unaffordable disaster. As well as these oil wars and resulting terroeism, rapidly turning nuclear with administration threats to nuke Iran.

And finally, think of all the great jobs created by this energy revolution, engineering and manufacturing jobs. Two employment sectors rapidly being moved to India and elsewhere.


I'm processing my own biodiesel from recycled cooking oils. I would prefer to grow my feedstock in the form of renewable algae. Where can I get the specifics for an open pond/lagoon style algae farm?

I have tons of sunlight and some agricultural waste water to start with.

What I don't know how to do is:

#1. start the algae (what kind?)
#2. when to harvest
#3. how to squeeze or crush the algae for extraction of the oils.

Once I understand the process I believe I have found some remarkable sources to use this new crop.

Finally, anyone looking at affects of algae growth on waste water treatment?



Hey, R. Neel
i can get you a press for squeezing the oil from the algae.
i have had many phone calls about algae. anyone that knows alot about open pond contact me.
website for oilpress www.packerbrothers.com




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The EPA recently ruled that greenhouse gases are harmful and are subject to monitoring. It is unclear to me whether they ruled this because greenhouse gases cause global warming, which is harmful, or if the greenhouse gases themselves are harmful for humans to inhale. If the reasoning is the former, then they should not only monitor emissions from us factories, but also estimate the emissions on imported products and fine those accordingly. If this were the case, independent monitoring groups would have to certify the factories overseas for US importers.

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Great post. Thanks for sharing this. Looking forward to read more from you.

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Every article has the impact to its readers. This is indeed a refreshing topic that tackles a lot of information. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks a lot for inspiring us. More power.

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amazing I read the news and I was hopping you talk about it here.
amazing, I'm waiting for more news about Biodiesel from Algae.
thanks a lot


This is so interesting. I would like to find out more. I hope you'll give us more similar articles. Thank you!

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I think You should add some videos and take off the picture of them humping that's disgusting.

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There are articles I enjoy reading and those that are so boring that I simply cannot stand reading them. This article kept me interested and engaged from beginning to end.

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How amazing, I wonder if this technology worked or is still being tested.

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Biodiesel from algae? Incredible stuff, I hope they can figure out how to make this work!

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Wow, if it could remove over 40% of the CO2 that'd be incredibly significant. Wonder how the research is going or if it didn't work out.

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With studies like these, pave the way for a cleaner and greener future. Hoping for the best for this study.

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