Skip to comments.Algae Bioreactor System to Recycle Carbon Dioxide Emissions into Renewable Biofuels (Louisiana)
Posted on 04/13/2007 3:43:25 PM PDT by Rick_Michael
PRINCETON, N.J. & CAMBRIDGE, Mass--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG) and GreenFuel Technologies Corporation (GreenFuel) announced today the commencement of field testing GreenFuels proprietary Emissions-to-Biofuels technology at NRGs Big Cajun II a 1,489 net megawatt coal-fueled power plant in New Roads, Louisiana.
GreenFuels Emissions-to-Biofuels process uses naturally occurring algae to capture and reduce flue gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere. The energy-rich algae are harvested daily and can be converted into a broad range of biofuels or high-value animal feed supplements. Power generators can choose to dry and store the carbon-rich algae biomass for use as renewable fuel for the power plant or convert it to valuable transportation fuels such as biodiesel or ethanol. The process requires no re-engineering of the power plant.
Coal isand will remainthe premier domestic fuel source for power generation purposes in the United States for the foreseeable future, said David Crane, NRG President and Chief Executive Officer. This means it is incumbent on us not only to build new coal plants using technology which limits or eliminates greenhouse gas emissions but also to find the best way to retrofit the countrys existing fleet of coal plants for post-combustion carbon capture.
In the initial field testing, which will last approximately four months, algae species will be selected to optimize biofuel production based on the sites flue gas composition, local climate and geography toward an ultimate goal of construction of a commercial-scale facility.
A full scale commercial deployment could recycle enough CO2 to yield as much as 8,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre annually under optimum conditions.
We at NRG and Big Cajun are very proud of our environmental record and want to do more to support responsible baseload electricity generation, said Jeff Baudier, President of NRGs South Central Region. There is currently no commercial-scale technology to address the discharge of carbon post combustion. Through this test, we hope to help advance GreenFuels technology that could potentially reduce carbon emissions from the hundreds of existing coal plants that are so important to our electrical infrastructure.
With the help of forward thinking and environmentally responsible companies like NRG, we can use algae to recycle power plant CO2 emissions safely and economically into a continuous supply of clean, renewable fuels, said GreenFuel Technologies CEO, Cary Bullock.
I'm not quite sure they're capable of fullfilling those suggestions, but they're a corporation, so...there stockholder will have to take the burden if it's false. We should know around June, because that's when there test plants are coming up.
Here's some basic knowledge on the given status quo (or the suggested status quo),...to inform you if you don't know enough about algae biomass.
The Status Quo
1) ALGAE FARMING IS AN INDUSTRY Commercial algae farming is an established industry. It has been going on for over 50 years, and has become a small industry. There are only a handful of companies doing it on a large scale. Total world-wide production is a few thousand tons of algal biomass per year. So far, algae has been grown mostly for its protein, which is worth more in the marketplace than either its oil or starch content.
2) YIELD HAS INCREASED Yield has already reached a point where algae farming for oil begins to make sense. Currently, the highest daily yield of algal biomass reported has been 50 grams per square meter. The average daily yield is closer to 17 grams per square meter. (17 grams per square meter per day, with extraction of 25% of its weight as oil translates to about 1,200 gallons of oil per acre per year. This is about double the yield of palm kernel. Increases in yield will lower the amount of investment required in physical plant, and (to a lesser degree) labor costs.
3) PRODUCTION COSTS ARE DECLINING Cost estimates are getting lower. Commercial production costs are around $5,000 per ton, or $55 per kilo. In a recent study, production cost estimates range from 4-300 dollars per kilo. In a more recent study, the range is .75 cents to $17.25 per kilo. So, it is apparent that progress is being made.
4) PRODUCTION COSTS ARE TOO HIGH Production costs are currently too high to make commercial production of algae for oil. If we are trying to replace petroleum oil, our maximum allowable total production cost can be found by dividing the current cost of crude oil (currently about $60) by the number of gallons in a barrel (42). Currently, this cost limit is $1.42 per gallon of oil. This is not the cost of the algae. If we can extract 25% of the algae's weight as oil, we will need to grow 14 1/2 kilos of algae for each gallon of oil that we produce; a maximum cost per kilo of algae of slightly less than ten cents.
5) THE CHALLENGE THAT FACES US What we need to do as an industry is to increase the yield of oil per acre, while effecting major cost reductions in the production process. I believe we will accomplish this, through hard work, persistence, ingenuity, good luck, and collaboration.
Quantifying the By-product Income Streams
Once we start farming algae, we will start producing quite a bit of by-product. If we were to just take it to the landfill, this would cost between $50 and $80 per ton.
Fortunately, we have other options:
1) Our first choice is to sell the protein. And there is a market for it. Livestock feedlots can use it instead of (or in addition to) soymeal. Recent soymeal prices have ranged between $160 and $220 per metric ton. This works out to between 16 and 22 cents per kilo. There are only three problems:
1) Feedlots probably won't want to pay the same price for an unproven product that they are willing to pay for an established product. I believe this will be resolved over time as the marketplace finds an equilibrium. We will probably start at a low price. Sooner or later, the product will gain acceptance and will start making inroads into the soymeal market. Soymeal prices and/or production will drop. Algae Cake price will rise until the marketplace determines its value.
2) At least in the US, I think the product will need to be dry. Although the procedure will add somewhat to the cost of production, it should be quite simple. After we disrupt the algae's cell walls, we can run the resulting slurry through a modified oil screw expeller press. This will separate the liquids from the algae cake (which should come out as flakes.)
3) Cattlemen are very much concerned about water contamination with toxic blue-green algae. So we will have an objection to the use of algae as cattle feed which must be dealt with if we are to make the sale. Our real problem is that there is a real possibility that (if we produce these algae in uncovered, outdoor raceways) the product _could_ be contaminated by toxic algae. Never mind that, for the moment. We are not entirely without scientific studies on this, but let's come back to this option later.
2) If we are converting the oil we have harvested into biodiesel, about 20% of it will be glycerine. The feedlots will again be our customer. This time, our product will compete against molasses, whose price has fluctuated from $52.50 to $112.50 per ton which works out to between 31 and 66 cents per gallon (there are 171 gallons in a ton of molasses.) The animals love it because it is sweet, and its use as animal feed has been studied. Although we will need to remove any residual methanol, this is no hardship, as this would be necessary, anyway, to provide economical operation. Also, if some residue of methanol remains, it is not a problem, as cattle are not as sensitive to it as humans are.
3) We could convert the algae cake to ethanol. Ethanol is produced by the fermentation of sugars by the action of yeasts. If your feedstock contains cellulose or non-sugar carbohydrates, you must add a step to the process where they are converted to sugars. Acid hydrolysis is used to convert cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars. There are dilute, concentrated, and counter-current processes for doing this. Work is also being done on enzymatic methods. There is also a gasification procedure that can be used.
Theoretical production of 140 gallons of ethanol per ton of algae cake is possible. Cellulose ethanol using enzymes and fermentation is currently producing about 70 gallons per ton and gasification up to 100 gallons per ton, under ideal conditions.
This operation produces lots of CO2, which we could feed to the algae as it is produced. It also brings with it a bureaucratic income stream of 54 cents per gallon
4) If there is any by-product left after this, we could burn it and use the energy for process heat. I would use a fluidized bed under a water heater, and would circulate the water through a big underground tank. Unfortunately, this is labor intensive, and would probably cost more than it would benefit, but less than dump fees would be.
5) Once we have distilled the alcohol, the residue can be dried, producing Dried Distillers Grains from algae. Now we can effectively address the toxicity objection. The product has been treated with sulfuric acid, removing any toxicity.
Neat if it works. But this will NEVER satisfy the greenies, who want coal mining and burning to stop, period.
“Neat if it works. But this will NEVER satisfy the greenies, who want coal mining and burning to stop, period.”
To stop it...that would be impossible. Atleast for the next 20 years.
But super greenies are idealogues, not practical-minded. There are plenty of reasons to go to alternatives, but I don’t agree with their mentality....nor do I find interest in listening to them.
It certainly sounds like a process that has a great deal of synergism possible, but I think the overall success of "algae-based" biofuels will involve the eventual bio-engineering of the algae themselves to improve their prodution efficiency of desired products.
Now if only we could stop manbearpig, we could all be safe forever. I'm totally cerial!
“It certainly sounds like a process that has a great deal of synergism possible, but I think the overall success of “algae-based” biofuels will involve the eventual bio-engineering of the algae themselves to improve their prodution efficiency of desired products.”
Yes, I think at one point they’ll have to focus more on the bio-engineering part of that. A lot of small corporation are starting to make a lot of assertions. We’ll see if they produce anything out of that or it’s just a small bubble that needs more time.
Al Bore shouldn’t sell this issue the way he does. He just worries people the way he does. America in general would be sold on different methods, but Al’s too focused on global warming. There are geniunely economic methods to be sold, and there are real security/economic reasons to look at the alternatives.
If he wanted to sell these two reasons with a more mild version of his view on global warming, I’m sure he would succeed in ways. But that’s not his goal.
The man and the plant with the same name, and IQ.
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