Algae Drumming

This corporate press release drumming algae is making the best claims yet, but is lacking any substantive references to their work. Their silence since this release speaks volumes. It does explain where similar references on the net originated from.

Perhaps I have seen too many such optimistic press releases cobbled together a little ahead of the huge real investment necessary to substantiate the claims.

In any event, the next few months will see new players and expanding research effort.

The problems are not slight. We have to maximize and separate lipid oil, sugars and proteins. Better still we have to produce the oil which is the simplest cash crop component while leaving an edible byproduct that can be fed to livestock. I suspect that we can pull of this last trick.

Before all of that, we must sort out the species and husbandry of the algae, although from the demonstration plants, it appears that this may even be done for at least a good starter collection. It is the sort of empirical research program that will be ongoing and surprisingly tricky. At least it will be faster than cattle breeding.

My one reservation derives from the fact that I cannot believe that our knowledge is sufficiently advanced yet. This is not improved by frothy press releases that I could have written myself without any more reality than been friends with a biologist working with algae.

No one is going to hide successful technologies for long since everyone will want to license any viable aspect of the technology to the huge number of ready customers prepared to build out the algae oil business. It will take thousands of facilities and the money is going to be in the supply business. Exxon will still own the refining and distribution.

So, though I am very bullish on the advent of an emerging algae based oil industry, and very bearish on any use of food crops for either bio diesel or ethanol as proven by present high food costs, the fact remains that we cannot wish away the development lead times.

Remember the tar sands took thirty years of sustained development work before we were gifted with the THAI protocol. I suspect that we face fifteen years of protracted development work on Algae with encouragement along the way.

The good news with it of course, is that success will end the use of fossil fuels if we so choose. This alone supports a sustained investment. In the meantime, the headline grabbers will help spread the gospel.

Growth Rates of Emission-Fed Algae Show Viability of New Biomass Crop

Wednesday September 26, 6:15 pm ET

Results Are Catalyst for Replication at Coal Plant

PHOENIX--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Arizona Public Service Company (APS) and its partner GreenFuel Technologies will attempt to replicate their success of creating biofuels from algae grown using carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a power plant. This time, however, instead of using CO2 from a natural gas power plant, they will use emissions from a coal-burning power plant.

The move comes after the companies, this summer, were able to successfully grow algae at APS' Redhawk natural gas power plant at levels 37 times higher than corn and 140 times higher than soybeans--the two primary crops used for biofuel.

"At this productivity level, GreenFuel's system is ahead of other biomass production methods," said Professor Otto Pulz, president of the European Society of Microalgal Biotechnology and head of the IGV Institute's Biotechnology Department in Germany.

The growth rate -- an average productivity of 98 grams/meter sq./day (ash free, dry weight basis) and reaching a high peak value of 174 grams/meter sq./day -- surpassed previous lab growth rates and exceeded all expectations going into the project. The results provide evidence of the financial viability of using the emissions of a power plant to grow algae for the exclusive purpose of creating biofuels.

The project is now moving to APS' Four Corners Generation station, a coal power plant located in Farmington, N.M.

"It is now time to see if we can replicate this success at Four Corners," said Ray Hobbs, manager of the APS Future Fuels Program. "This project addresses two important issues in the U.S. today -- reducing greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and producing more domestic sources of alternative fuels for automobiles and power plants."

GreenFuel's Emissions-to-Biofuels(TM) technology uses safe, naturally occurring algae to recycle CO2 from the stack gases of power plants and other commercial sources of continuous CO2 emissions. At the Redhawk Power Plant, specially designed pipes captured and transported the CO2 emissions from the stack to specialized containers holding algae. In the presence of sunlight, the algae consumed CO2.

Once enough algae is grown, it is harvested, and its starches are turned into ethanol, its lipids into biodiesel and its protein into high-grade food for livestock.

While feeding CO2 from a power plant to algae is not new, turning the algae grown at a power plant into biodiesel and ethanol was ground-breaking when first accomplished in the fall of 2006 by APS and GreenFuel. The project marked the first time ever that algae grown on-site by direct connection to a commercial power plant had been successfully converted to transportation-grade biofuels. Once this was accomplished, the companies set out to prove the process' financial viability by expanding the project. It was during this ramp-up that the companies achieved the high growth rates.

Moving to a coal plant is the next progression in this evolving technology. The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has been providing technical assistance throughout the process.

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