Skip to comments.Algae Biofuel Thrives in the Heart of Oil Country
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 countrys 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 Texass vanguard position in the biofuel field has been Texas A&M University, the premier public education and research institution. The schools AgriLife department has firmly established itself in the forefront of algae biofuel development despite the nay saying of at least one of the states own representatives in Congress, who took jabs at the Navys algae biofuel program at a hearing in Congress just last month.
(Excerpt) Read more at triplepundit.com ...
Interesting...I think algae may have a strong future
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!
I am sure that farmers in Pecos love the idea of water being diverted to a pondscum research facility.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
You prepared to invest your own money in the technology?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.