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Algae Biofuel Thrives in the Heart of Oil Country
Triple Pundit ^ | April 6, 2012 | Tina Casey

Posted on 04/09/2012 12:42:03 PM PDT by An American!

As the U.S. transitions out of a petroleum economy, oil-rich Texas is emerging as something of a surprise leader in biofuel research. If the country’s quintessential oil state sees promise in biofuels, that stands as a powerful indicator that the national market is ready, too, even in the case of algae biofuel, which has been greeted with derision in some circles.

One main driver of Texas’s vanguard position in the biofuel field has been Texas A&M University, the premier public education and research institution. The school’s AgriLife department has firmly established itself in the forefront of algae biofuel development despite the nay saying of at least one of the state’s own representatives in Congress, who took jabs at the Navy’s algae biofuel program at a hearing in Congress just last month.

(Excerpt) Read more at triplepundit.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: algae; biofuel; green; tx
The crown jewel of Texas A&M’s program is a “world class” algae biofuel test center in Pecos, Texas. The center was established with the goal of developing commercially viable algae biofuel production processes that could be conducted on a large scale throughout the arid Southwestern U.S.

Interesting...I think algae may have a strong future

1 posted on 04/09/2012 12:42:07 PM PDT by An American!
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To: An American!
As the U.S. transitions out of a petroleum economy


2 posted on 04/09/2012 12:46:20 PM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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It sickens me that these biofuel, windmill and algae fatcats are lining their pockets when they know darn well the energy of the future is unicorn dander. END BIG ALGAE!


3 posted on 04/09/2012 12:47:31 PM PDT by Hayride
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To: An American!
I watched this a few years ago with Kertz had a deal running back in 2008 with vertical growing algae. Seemed to make sense to me but it has gone under. Not sure of all the reasons Valcent and its vertigrow didn't make it.
It looked like this:
Basically running water through vertical hanging segemented tubes to capture maximum sunlight. As I recall it worked, but had problems with algae sticking to plastic and slowly blocking light transmission. Same problem in ponds, only effectively grows in top few inches or so of water.
4 posted on 04/09/2012 12:47:50 PM PDT by An American! (Proud To Be An American!)
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To: An American!
I throw my hands in the air with disgust and snort with derision.
5 posted on 04/09/2012 12:50:28 PM PDT by BO Stinkss
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To: An American!

I am sure that farmers in Pecos love the idea of water being diverted to a pondscum research facility.


6 posted on 04/09/2012 12:52:31 PM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: An American!
Where exactly would they put the million of acres of ponds needed to grow enough algae to make a dent.
It uses a lot of water, yes?
They need to get rid of dead algae and other waste, yes?
Better not tell the EPA.

7 posted on 04/09/2012 12:52:51 PM PDT by BitWielder1 (Corporate Profits are better than Government Waste)
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To: An American!

“Interesting...I think algae may have a strong future”

I take the opposite view. Interesting technology, yes. But moving from the laboratory to practical economical production is another matter. Think of the required infrastructure. Culturing algae in transparent tanks could be more expensive than solar farms. Culturing algae in open ponds in the Southwest would be impossible due to scare water and high evaporation rates. Anything that harvests solar energy, be it silicon or algae, would require too much real estate and is therefore too diffuse to be economically feasible.


8 posted on 04/09/2012 12:53:17 PM PDT by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
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To: steelyourfaith; Bender2

Ping.


9 posted on 04/09/2012 12:53:37 PM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: An American!

We are awash in hydrocarbons that can be converted into to usable liquid fuels. We use crude oil because it presently is the most cost-effective feedstock of molecules for this purpose. If someone develops an algae that can compete with no more subsidies, then more power to them. Bring it on!


10 posted on 04/09/2012 12:55:20 PM PDT by theBuckwheat
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To: An American!

Both the title and article are kind of misleading to me. Its a university doing the study. Perhaps with a big, fat, juicy grant from the feds or some other “green group”. And what do you know, the stuff may work...ha ha ha

Of course they’re going to say it works, if they don’t then they don’t get that funding anymore.

If a REAL energy company were doing the research, with real scientists and not a bunch of TA’s and grad students, then it might be something to pay attention to somewhere down the road. Until then, OIL and GAS are KING.


11 posted on 04/09/2012 12:57:57 PM PDT by qaz123
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To: An American!
"As the U.S. transitions out of a petroleum economy..."

One thing everyone forgets in the illusionary race to replace petroleum with "green" alternatives is that we use oil for far more than just fueling our vehicles. Even if we stopped using gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heating oil, etc. tomorrow, we would still need vast amounts of petroleum to manufacture plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, etc., etc., etc. The list of non-fuel uses for petroleum are endless, and there are precisely zero green alternatives for those uses.

12 posted on 04/09/2012 12:58:16 PM PDT by noiseman (The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.)
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To: An American!

150 years ago horsepower was actually generated by horses. Cheap energy is fine; if there are othe ways to get it, that is a good thing. Let the free market develop it though, don’t make it a government trough. Just think - if oil was supplanted even in part, just how significant would the Middleastern OPEC nations be? It is hard to run a war machine off of the sale of sugared dates.


13 posted on 04/09/2012 1:00:02 PM PDT by Psalm 144 ("I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am." - Willard M Romney)
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To: An American!
The title is quite misleading. Is there any real production of algae biofuel? I think not. Research thrives by federal grants but the open market has not taken off so this is just another DOE doodle.
14 posted on 04/09/2012 1:03:09 PM PDT by mountainlion (I am voting for Sarah after getting screwed again by the DC Thugs.)
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To: An American!

You prepared to invest your own money in the technology?


15 posted on 04/09/2012 1:06:53 PM PDT by DManA
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To: TexasRepublic

The interesting thing about the tube growing algae was:
- the capture and reuse of water (no evap...just condensation)
- vertical growth reduced acreage requirements
With that being said, the devil is in the details. It is not cheap to extract oil and you need phosphorus / phosphates to grow it. With the looming phosphate shortage...well maybe bio fuels is not a very good option unless we can recycle the phosphate...essentially feed the algae back to itself after extracting the oil?


16 posted on 04/09/2012 1:18:49 PM PDT by An American! (Proud To Be An American!)
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To: An American!

Growing algae under controlled conditions is very hard. I did some research while in skool, which involved trying to grow Microcystis to yield some toxic metabolic by-products that can kill fish. Massive fail because we didn’t include some micronutrients in the medium.

I can’t imagine the enormous scale required to make sufficient gasoline, er ethanol? from algae. Just what kind of yield of fuel per ton of algae are they expecting? How much energy and labor will it take?


17 posted on 04/09/2012 1:27:26 PM PDT by GRRRRR (He'll NEVER be my President, FUBO! Treason is the Reason! Impeach the Kenyan)
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To: DManA

If I had any money then I would not mind investing in some of the more promising bio fuel areas. But I would also invest in other equally intriguing areas like solar collectors, optimal heat energy storage, steam, hydrogen etc etc.
For example UAE is investing in tried and true solar trough technology - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shams_solar_power_station
And here are some enterprising souls in Utah using wastewater ponds full of phosphates etc http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/logan-utah-wastewater-lagoons-to-be-transformed-into-algae-biofuel-and-fertilizer-producing-facility.html

Solar still has probably most potential http://knol.google.com/k/-/-/1g0rrsoesmjko/dk53jz/sunniest-places-in-the-world2.jpg
Great progress was being made until we went to oil. For example Frank Shuman built the first solar thermal power station in Egypt in 1913. His plant used parabolic troughs to power a 60 horsepower engine that pumped thousands of gallons of irrigation water per minute from the Nile to near by fields.


18 posted on 04/09/2012 1:37:41 PM PDT by An American! (Proud To Be An American!)
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To: An American!

In fact people have been working on the problem for 100 years and no one has found anything more economical than fossil fuels. Good thing we have decades and decades of it left to use.


19 posted on 04/09/2012 1:43:12 PM PDT by DManA
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To: An American!

No doubt such a system could demo the technology, but it sounds cost prohibitive to construct such a large facility. I wonder also about the maintenance of such equipment. I had not even considered yet the issue of nutrients such as phosphates. Harvesting the oil is taking something out of a closed system, and therefore it seems that nutrients would have to be replenished from an external source to some extent.

I think basic research should continue, but I can’t see anything practical happening for a long time.


20 posted on 04/09/2012 1:59:44 PM PDT by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
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To: BitWielder1
Where exactly would they put the million of acres of ponds needed to grow enough algae to make a dent.

This pond is big enough. It has free water, free farm fields, and free sunshine. It also has free fertilizer waste feeding into it. Algae blooms aren't a problem because of too much algae, but because of not harvesting it.


21 posted on 04/09/2012 2:03:19 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: An American!
The crown jewel of Texas A&M’s program is a “world class” algae biofuel test center in Pecos, Texas. The center was established with the goal of developing commercially viable algae biofuel production processes that could be conducted on a large scale throughout the arid Southwestern U.S.

Interesting...I think algae may have a strong future

Algae has ZERO future. This is a welfare program for scientists. (hey they gots to eat too on your taxpayer dime) It is total bullshit. Just for starters how are you going to dry out that messy algae goop to further process it into oil? How many BTUs will be spent doing it? You gonna dry it out in the Texas sun? I am very familiar with algae and how it is grown and dry processed to make spirulina, a health food store item. It is expensive! $30/lb for human consumption. Lets say they can produce it for $5 for conversion into petro- byproducts. Still too expensive

22 posted on 04/09/2012 2:04:37 PM PDT by dennisw (A nation of sheep breeds a government of Democrat wolves!)
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To: An American!
Proppin' up th prez....

POND SCUM, ALGEA PRESIDENT
23 posted on 04/09/2012 2:05:38 PM PDT by FrankR
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To: BitWielder1

Fossil fuels are effectively hidden by being below the surface of the Earth. To grow algae, you’d have to have huge topside growing platforms.

Has anyone ever seen a calculation of just how much surface area of algae you’d need to produce on 55 gal. drum of oil?


24 posted on 04/09/2012 2:24:05 PM PDT by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk only to me.)
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To: Reeses
This pond is big enough.

You can't put algae in the OCEAN! Are you crazy?
Algae farms pollutes and destroys sensitive ecosystems, don'tcha know?
You can't harvest the existing algae either, think if the ecosystems, fish, pollution, rare species, coral reefs, pH balance etc. and yada yada.

25 posted on 04/09/2012 2:38:30 PM PDT by BitWielder1 (Corporate Profits are better than Government Waste)
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To: An American!

I think the very best selling point of algae biodiesel is that research is being backed, strongly if quietly, by the oil companies. It has huge potential for profitability, low overhead, and scalability.

1) As soon as it is operational, it *consumes* the waste gases CO2 and Nitrous Oxides (NOx) that are otherwise expensive to dispose of. This means it is profitable from the very start. Companies will pay them to take these gases off their hands.

2) It uses cheap and reusable “gray water”, that only needs minimal filtering. Probably the most expensive part of the deal is keeping the water cool enough so that it is the optimal temperature range for algae.

3) Once the algae is harvested, it is squeezed to get out the about 50% of its weight that is vegetable oil. The leftover algae can be sold as animal fodder. The oil is then mixed with ethanol and lye, a catalyst which is also reusable. Then the biodiesel is filtered, and 1% petroleum diesel is added to it as a preservative.

4) Diesel engines are everywhere, and are scalable from motorcycle, to car, to truck, to train, and even to ship size. The engines just need minor modification to run on biodiesel instead of diesel. Gas stations all over the US that pump diesel already exist, so don’t have to be built or modified. Huge cost savings there.

No other form of fuel than gasoline comes close to diesel for low cost, high performance, and familiarity. The diesel engine is close to perfected.


26 posted on 04/09/2012 3:10:21 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("It is already like a government job," he said, "but with goats." -- Iranian goat smuggler)
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To: An American!

Why the arid southwest? Is there a practical reason, or is this academic sales boilerplate to justify funding?

I’d think a less arid, semitropical climate with an excess of usable water and proximity to natural phosphate deposits would be more conducive.

The NC coastal plain would be one such location. Evaporative loss would be minimized. Plenty of water. Mild winters. Away from the coastline, land is cheap, most inland coastal plain counties are fairly sparse in population.


27 posted on 04/09/2012 3:26:46 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy; GRRRRR

Ditto. The potential is there. The costs still need to come down.

Re:17. On the yield potential, the back of the envelope figure that floated around a few years ago was that algae pencilled out at a potential of about 10,000 gallons an acre, compared to about 300 gallons an acre for corn ethanol. Those are old numbers; corn yields and the efficiency of ethanol conversion have increased, and I’d bet that the energy potential of the algae is increasing as well. Biotech means that nothing is static. I offer the admittedly dated figure just to suggest the order of magnitude and to indicate why so many in the research community are excited.

Algae has high potential and is scaleable. You don’t need prime farmland. And you can use a lot of water that is unfit for other purposes. If we’re serious about breaking OPEC and defunding the jihad, algae is certainly something we should be interested in. It’s not ready for prime time yet, but it’s probably closer than advanced batteries for electrics (high enough energy density for full electrics with adequate range), and much closer than fuel cells.

Fracking and expanded drilling are fine too, but they will still leave us heavily import dependent for oil (not natural gas).


28 posted on 04/09/2012 3:45:25 PM PDT by sphinx
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To: thackney

What a load of crap.

Just another lib feeding at the public trough.

Tina Casey??? Really?

Tina is a career public information specialist and former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She writes frequently on sustainable tech issues for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, and she is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Follow Tina on twitter, @TinaMCasey https://twitter.com/#!/TinaMCasey.


29 posted on 04/09/2012 3:45:46 PM PDT by Sequoyah101 (Half the people are below average.)
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To: An American!
Interesting...I think algae may have a strong future

You are an instigator! I know that because you dare post such a statement without a "/sarcasm."

Algae may, indeed, be a source of energy, but the 10 or 12 gallons won't make much of a difference. If it weren't for that, I'd be huge (hugh?) supporter.

30 posted on 04/09/2012 4:20:51 PM PDT by BfloGuy (The final outcome of the credit expansion is general impoverishment.)
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To: sphinx

I had some thoughts about how it could be done on the cheap.

To start with, shallow, accordioned canals with gas bubbling pipe under the water, covered by “self-cleaning” glass, also a new technology. Mechanical harvesters track the canals, scooping up algae and putting it in sluices between canals, so it can be concentrated.

The constant flow of water through the accordion continues until it reaches the end, where it is filtered, then sent to small evaporative cooling towers.


31 posted on 04/09/2012 4:45:40 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("It is already like a government job," he said, "but with goats." -- Iranian goat smuggler)
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To: BitWielder1
You can't put algae in the OCEAN! Are you crazy?

Not only is algae already growing in the ocean but all the energy in petroleum originally came from just that. Also more than half the oxygen in the atmosphere was produced by ocean algae. Farming on open water is no harder on the environment than farming on open land.

32 posted on 04/09/2012 5:17:17 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: Reeses
If course I know it's growing in the ocean.
There is plenty of it too. Ask any fisherman or diver.
I have my doubts the enviro-nazis would let us touch any of it though.
The kelp forests are habitats for numerous critters.
Let's not forget we need enormous amounts.

If there is a biologist who knows their underwater flora, feel free to correct my vocabulary.

33 posted on 04/09/2012 5:28:10 PM PDT by BitWielder1 (Corporate Profits are better than Government Waste)
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To: An American!
$44 million in subsidies and we have to wait a decade or two for $5 gallon algae gasoline.

Doesn't sound too promising, especially if it gets taxed like current gasoline.

34 posted on 04/09/2012 5:42:28 PM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: BitWielder1
I have my doubts the enviro-nazis would let us touch any of it though.

They certainly wouldn't but fortunately there are very few of them 200 miles offshore.

35 posted on 04/09/2012 6:11:27 PM PDT by Reeses
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