Scale of Algae oil and the Oil Sands

It is compelling that a strain of algae can contain as high as 60% oil. And that we can produce at least 10,000 liters per hectare. Browsing the material out there suggests that as we develop actual skill and art, our production levels can climb to at least twice that and perhaps much higher than that. This becomes particularly likely if the production system is designed to present (for example) a foot of working fluid to the sun and that foot of working fluid can ultimately produce a liter or two of oil per year. This is not obviously a tall order.

Right now, this technology is crawling out of the lab, but it is patently easy to see why there is enthusiasm.

What we need more of right now is brainstorming on working protocols to take this technology away from the lab and industrial engineering mindset were everything is done with glass and stainless steel.

I personally do not think that using open ponds is a good idea because of the likely interference of wild strains, but I could be dead wrong here. I like the idea of a closed system using large vinyl bags, but even that could turn into a handling problem. Plastic tube systems are great for the humans but must have a catastrophic capital cost that will prevent usage.

I am reminded of the first handling protocol designed for the oil sands in northern Alberta. Everyone thought that conveyor belts would be an ideal solution. They were a disaster instead.

I wonder if the monster waste water retaining ponds associated with the oil sands could be used for algae production during the summer season. There are a lot of minerals dissolved in the water making it inappropriate for easy discharge, yet if algae stripped out these minerals while producing oil, then we may have the beginnings of a solution. One of the dirty little secrets of the Oil sands is that the process water is not been disposed off because there is simply too much to dump in the river. Algae production would produce a nutrified dry feedstock that may be transportable away from the ponds. The real problem is whether that is even slightly sufficient or is it just an economic way of maintaining the ponds in perpetuity. From the human perspective, it is still a solution if it turns out to be possible.

Algae production will require nutrients. Even the ocean requires nutrification as our report on seeding the ocean with iron clarifies. This is another reason that this technology will have to be made farmer friendly since they are already handling the types of processes involved. and are already accessing the nutrients.

No comments:

Post a Comment