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December 11, 2007


Ty Cambell

Anyone seeking cost effective algae production should consider the following: (1) Fractionation is being used to break down nutrients to the micron level for better absorption by the algae for faster growth; (2) Ultrasound is also being used to split open the cell walls, thereby exposing the oils for easier extraction (OriginOil); (3) One device that can be used to process algae is the “Windhexe” (GS CleanTech – tornado generator) which will instantaneously dry the algae and quite possibly fractionate it as well; (4) Algae is also being grown on screens with flowing nutrients saturating the screens (Utah State); (5) To harvest algae off the screens, the water stream is speeded up, which makes most of the algae sluff-off the screens. Then it can be collected in a concentrated form. The algae that remain on the screens reproduce for the next harvest; (6) For open ponds, algae can be grown in two stages, using a hybrid system: the incubation stage and the growth stage. The algae incubator is a closed reactor which is only used to reseed open ponds. Batches of algae in the open pond are killed by ultrasound fractionation and then harvested. The pond is then reseeded from the algae incubator with the desired strand. This keeps the algae product uniform and controls undesirable alien species of algae from infiltrating open ponds, which are cheaper to build; (7) Algae may also be grown profitably for biomass, where high oil content is not a factor. It can be pyrolized. It can be gasified into a variety of biofuels. It can be dried and pressed into biomass burn pellets, or used as animal and fish feed. Algae is especially cost effective when it is produced and consumed onsite; (8) Andigen, Inc. in association with Utah State University is integrating algae production with a source of manure, such as a dairy, poultry, or livestock operation. The manure waste is anaerobically digested to produce methane and electric power. Liquid effluent from the digester is used to grow the algae, which disposes of the CO2, phosphates, and nitrogenous waste. The algae is then used to provide onsite feed for the animals, which produce meat or dairy products. Surplus algae may be converted into valuable byproducts such as algae pellets or biofuels. The digested manure solids can be sold as fertilizer or also used as biomass feedstock… Regarding the above article, Shell is most likely looking for oil production from algae, however the biomass that is left over after the oil is extracted is just as important as the oil - in terms of exploiting the full value of algae. The lackluster figure of $20 a gallon fuel from algae, quoted by the Defense Department algae-fuel program, is for the oil only – without a cost effective system for exploiting the valuable residual biomass, and without integration... Compare this to the integrated biorefinery described above, which produces (for example) milk, methane, electric power, animal feed, fertilizer, and biomass feedstock for pellets and biofuels. The real pay-off is integrating algae production into a source of manure and effluent.


Ty, I had about given up on algae after reading the critique here:
including the linked resources, in particular the deconstruction by Kassen Dimitrov.
Since it is obvious that you know infinitely more than I on the subject, I would be grateful for your take on this criticism?


Well good luck on that.

Too bad you can't bypass the laws of thermodynamics.



Hi Greyfalcon,
Not sure how this relates to open pnd algae production, although I would be pretty dubious about it the figures might not be quite so bad, basically because of the lower cost per square meter.
Any comment?

Alt Fuel Fan

A West Texas Hi-Tech lab is designed for an unusual yet potentially revolutionary purpose; to explore how algae can be used to reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels. Alternative fuels are seen as having limited potential to curb oil consumption due to the reliance on oils from food crops like corn and soybeans, whose prices have been rising; the companies behind the algae plant are hoping to tilt the scales in their favor. Algae Oil Biofuel

Ty Cambell

Part One: The following is a response to the Krassen Dimitrov Critique: GreenFuel Technologies: A Case Study for Industrial Photosynthetic Energy Capture… (1) KD says: “The numbers just didn’t work: solar energy is too dilute and photosynthesis has fundamental limitations.” This is NOT TRUE. In the aquatic world, algae rules. It is what it is. Algae comes in over 10,000 forms, and has no shortcomings. You design your apparatus to maximize whatever solar energy you have. For me, the bottom line is how much mass of algae can you extract out of a square meter by the end of the day… And how cost effective and profitable is your exploitation of that mass of algae… (2) FALSE: KD says: “Designing even a super-efficient strain would not be economical without completely rewiring the photosynthetic machine.” IT’S NOT NECESSARY to redesign the algae. Maximize the design of the apparatus, and later tweak the algae. Algae can thrive on as little as 6% of the sunshine normally being cast on them. That means you can grow up to 16 batches of algae from the same square meter of sunlight – by distributing the light, rotating sheets of growing algae, or recirculating algae through a water medium. That’s what a closed photoreactor algae concentrator is all about…(3) KD says photosynthesis is a limitation. I say it’s not. All I need to know is that algae multiplies 2-3 times a day – that’s good enough for me. I don’t put any stock in twisted efficiency equations blaming photosynthesis… (4) FALSE: KD: “Algae, however, are not known to store large quantities of carbohydrates, and thus expend additional energy to convert them into proteins and lipids.” This is not true. Here’s proof: Veridium has a BioStarch Recirculation System, which recycles CO2 exhaust from the fermentation stage of a first generation corn ethanol refinery – into their algae bioreactor. This feeds their proprietary strain of algae which is composed of 94% starch and about 6% oil. Veridium-GreenShift algae may then be fractionated with ultrasound, which bursts the cell wall, and allows the algae starch to be fermented into ethanol - in parallel with corn ethanol. Marc Orion Cardoso, who produces biofuels from all kinds of feedstocks says: “There are (high starch) algae that can be fermented into ethanol.” (5) KD was overloaded with genetics, genomics, and other unrelated projects. He says: “I decided to end my direct involvement with bioenergy.” Keep in mind KD has probably never actually grown algae. All his numbers are hypothetical – not based on actual results in the field. KD is not an expert on cutting edge algae production. And who could be? I count over 40 companies conducting R & D on algae, plus over 15 universities and several high profile laboratories. There is a lot of positive proprietary information being generated that we are not aware of… (6) KD thinks all the money invested in algae research is a waste of time – sees the cup half empty - instead of half full. We can spend a trillion dollars abroad protecting our oil dependency, but when we spend a couple billion dollars at home on algae self-sufficiency, KD thinks it’s a waste of money… (7) False Conclusions – KD singles-out GreenFuels, and because GF did not show profitability yet, he smears the entire algae industry. The reader comes away with the impression from KD that all R & D on algae is a waste of time and money. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my view, algae production integrated into a source of manure and effluent and anaerobic digestion is here now. And by 2015, more advanced algae production systems will set records for biomass production - somewhere between 100 to 200 tons per acre. The only thing that comes close is CATTAILS at 140 tons per acre, 32 tons of which is starch. That’s another story… (8) In my opinion KD underestimates the amount of algae that can be produced per square meter by 3 to 4 times. He also underestimates the value of co-products, particularly when symbiotic systems are integrated with algae production… (9) FALSE – KD: “Vitamin supplementation will be uneconomical for large scale production.” NOT WHEN YOU INTEGRATE. Combine a methane digester with algae production, and dispose of the effluent by feeding it to the algae as nutrients. No need to buy vitamins for algae…

Ty Cambell

Part Two: (10) KD does make many valid statements (that I agree with) about the algae system that he evaluated. I agree. GreenFuels solar collectors should not be curved tubes, because too much light is lost due to reflection. GreenFuels’ algae system, at that point in time, needed improvement. That’s what R&D is all about – to constantly improve. That GF algae apparatus was one of the first of its kind. Years later, the company now has an advanced design, and some of the criticisms in KD’s case study are no longer applicable… (11) In his case study, KD summarizes that one of GreenFuels early prototype algae systems was not cost effective and not destined to be profitable. Why does KD come to the slash and burn conclusion that all other proprietary algal photobioreactors (PBRs) are not cost effective? That’s a false assumption… (12) No integration is ever suggested by KD, except to burn algae residue biomass in the adjacent power plant (which I think is a good idea - to co-fire grown-onsite algae with coal). But KD downplays and way undervalues burning algae pellets in a coal plant. For me, that is the wave of the future. The co-products of an integrated symbiotic operation are many times more valuable when you consume them onsite. In my view, you don’t have to redesign algae. You need to position algae production to dispose of complementary waste products, and with the value added products you create, direct them to their highest use: Example A: Combine a dairy farm, an algae farm, and a natural gas power plant. Produce methane from the cow manure, and co-burn it with the natural gas. Feed the digester effluent to the algae, and feed the algae to cows. Throw the surplus algae into the digester or use it as biomass feedstock. Produce milk, methane, electric power, cow feed, and biofuel. Example B: Combine a cattle feedlot with a first generation corn ethanol plant and a 96% starch algae production facility. Example C: Combine algae production with a municipal landfill or a sewage disposal plant… (13) Algae as direct fuel: Cyclone Green Revolution Engine runs on biomass – Ultrasound fractionated, unrefined algae slurry will fuel this engine or co-generation set… (14) University of Georgia engineering professor K.C. Das and Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila professor Nagamani Balagurusamy in Mexico are jointly working on integrating algae production into dairy farms and feedlots: Again - animal waste to methane to electric power, plus digester effluent to algae to biofuel and livestock feed to milk and meat and manure… (15) Algoil – has stopped producing algae for oil. The company is now successfully producing basic Spirulina and Chlorella, which they call excellent biomass. In addition to local farm residues, the algae grown by Algoil goes into anaerobic digesters to produce methane and electric power – recycling the CO2 and the effluent back to the algae. Chlorella and Spirulina also provide rich dietary supplements for local human consumption. This approach is being used in small villages in India – supplying them with methane gas for cooking, electric power, nutritional supplements, and animal feed… Algae is not all about oil.

Barb the alternative energy guru

Biodiesel fuels have an almost unlimited resources base for production.

While the creation of biodiesel may have begun with experiments into the use of corn and soybeans, today's technology goes far beyond that. We can use the virgin oils created by all sorts of different plants, many of which we use in our kitchens today.

Krassen Dimitrov

geez, Ty, is there anything that I got right? :)))
We are not getting into a point-by-point here, you have missed the main point of my study, by saying here: "(8) In my opinion KD underestimates the amount of algae that can be produced per square meter by 3 to 4 times." If that was true, then we would have to repeal the laws of thermodynamics. Theoretical yield of photosynthesis is 27%, and the achievable practical top is ~10%. If I am off 3-4x, then we are over the theoretical limit.

With respect to GreenFuel, you are right that they are not working on photobioreactors anymore, however, this is not a case of innocent trials and tribulations. The NREL program had concluded long time ago that PBRs are an absurd proposition. GFT dismissed all this prior science, filed patents that contradicted the laws of thermodynamics, created media frenzy around impossible expectations, (which got them a bunch of environmental awards that they gladly accepted), sold licenses on a non-existing technology, while at the same time threatening sceptical industry veterans with lawsuits... This is exactly the opposite of how research works, it is a demonstration of contempt for basic science, reality, facts, even simple arithmetic - most certainly, championed by their Chairman, Jennifer Fonstad. I am sure if this was your money being spent in contempt of science and reality, you wouldn't be so sanguine about it being "the way R&D works"...
Unfortunately, a lot of things go this way in America nowadays, witness the way the country went into Iraq: contempt for intelligence and facts, contempt for the "reality-based community", bullying and retaliation against sceptics (Plame-Wilson)...

Or witness the way Mitt Romney makes claims based on zero historical authenticity... Look at Romney who has been exposed as an empty $3,000 suit and a "phony", then consider that Mrs. Fonstad is one of his close friends and helped run his Senate campaign in 1994, and then let me know if you still think that GFT's claims are genuine or are another example of how crazy things are going in America, another Assault on Reason, where shameless promotion and bullying trumps reason and reality.

Cyril R.

I've been thinking about how to increase the yield of those tubes as well.

Why not non-imaging optics, such as used by solar thermal panels? The tubes could be set in a linear non-imaging concentrating reflector, fixed in space facing the optimal sun angle.

To visualize, this is what I'm thinking about. Unfortunately that's proprietary, I can understand why as that's an excellent design, but something similar to that could plausibly double the amount of light the tubes receive during the day.

Cyril R.

Here's an example of how the optics work.

National Algae Association - Algae: The Next Biofuel


National Algae Association - Algae: The Next Biofuel
4747 Research Forest Dr., Suite 180
The Woodlands, Texas 77381
[email protected]

National Algae Association, The Woodlands, Texas
(February 1, 2008)

Announces the opening of its new headquarters serving all areas of the Algae industry.

Algae researchers and producers can come together to exchange ideas concerning the latest developments in Algae production and the products made from Algae. The Association provides an open exchange forum for the publishing of technical papers and the announcement of the results of research into the latest Algae related technologies. The Association also supports discussion and development of new markets that take advantage of the tremendous potential of Algae, not only as a source of renewable energy, but also in the exploration and development of other markets for algae products, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers.

For more information contact:[email protected] or 936.321.1125

Dick Macaulay

Our firm, www.gasmastrrr.com.is engaged in algae equipment R&D. We are internally funded and seek to establish communications with like firms that may hold certain technology in complimentary algae research. We anticipate the ongong algae programs will mostly fade but certain work will begin to gain over the next five years. There are other promising markets for algae beyond energy fuels we are studying.

Business Process Management

Algae may also be grown profitably for biomass, where high oil content is not a factor..........


AlgaePellets.com wow I just got this!

WoodPellets.com sold for $110,000 last Aug!

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This demonstration will be an important test of the technology and, critically, of commercial viability.

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including the linked resources, in particular the deconstruction by Kassen Dimitrov.





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Photobioreactor design that can balance these economic factors will be well. Photobioreactor design efforts should consider the economic production.

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A West Texas Hi-Tech lab is designed for an unusual yet potentially revolutionary purpose; to explore how algae can be used to reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels

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This demonstration will be an important test of the technology and, critically, of commercial viability.

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How is this facility doing now?

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Is this the design that is out now?

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