Feb 252010
Scientists are making progress in developing biofuels with a range of methods and an assortment of feedstocks.

Among the promising clean energy alternatives is an algae photo-bioreactor that grows algae in municipal wastewater to produce biofuel. Developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the bioreactor consists of large plastic bags made from a permeable “forward osmosis” membrane. The bags hold the algae and waste nutrients in place while allowing cleansed water to pass through. The bags could potentially be deployed in contaminated and “dead zone” coastal areas, removing excess nutrients while growing algae for biofuels. NASA’s Ames Research Center licensed the patent-pending photo-bioreactor to Algae Systems, LCC, which plans to develop and pilot the technology in Tampa Bay, Florida. The company hopes to integrate the technology into biorefineries to produce renewable energy products, including diesel and jet fuel…

for the full story check out bioenergy.checkbiotech.org

  One Response to “Algae Has Some Amazing Potential for Making Biofuel”

  1. Integration and Displacement – The New Look of BiofuelsThis claim by Searchinger is not entirely true: “bioenergy only recudes greenhouse gases if it results from additional plant growth or in some other way uses carbon that would not otherwise be stored.” This is over-simplification.Biofuels have a big environmental impact, because they displace fossil fuels. Recycled CO2 replaces newly mined carbon – carbon that would have been added CO2 to the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned. Biofuel displaces newly mined Carbon with recycled CO2. Biofuels do Not have to sequester carbon into the soil to be effective. Biofuels mitigate fossil fuels. They can also be integrated to exploit waste and mitigate pollution.If we took ALL the starch, instead of just 25% of it, from our entire feed corn crop and made ethanol out of it. This would Displace 4 times the amount of fossil fuels we are currently displacing with ethanol. We are already growing the corn anyway. There would be No additional plant growth. Currently most of this excess starch is going through animals undigested, and then going to waste as methane GHG.See “Bion Environmental Technologies Plans Closed-Loop Livestock and Ethanol Production Facility in Schroeppel, NY” (Biofuels Joiurnal 12-14-09). This is a proposed large-scale livestock feeding operation that will be a game changer. The methane normally released from cattle manure will provide CHP production power for the ethanol plant. This mitigates GHG methane. And it also displaces the newly mined carbon released from the natural gas or coal, which is typically used to power ethanol refineries. Those carbon credits are spread across the ethanol and the co-products produced by the refinery.The distillers grains are not shipped to China, they are fed to the onsite or adjacent cattle. You didn’t burn dirty bunker fuel to ship it half way around the world. So adjacent use of distillers grains also improves the carbon score of biofuel. Surplus electrical power will also be fed into the grid, displacing coal and natural gas.The digester residue, leftover after the manure is processed, becomes “localized fertilizer” made from waste. That displaces centralized fossil fuel based fertilizer that would normally be shipped regionally, using fossil fuels. So credit the ethanol plant with another by product that displaces fossil fuels and newly mined carbon.The option would be to take the waste effluent and grow adjacent algae or duckweed on it. This can also be grown heterotrophically in high rise or underground tanks, for the small footprint. The algae/duckweed becomes an onsite resource of oil-carbohydrate-protein feedstock. The oil is made into localized biodiesel displacing fossil fuel diesel to grow the corn. The algae/duckweed starch is more ethanol feedstock. And the protein becomes a complete amino acid feed supplement for the cattle or for other livestock.Biofuel co-products are also feedstock for nutriceuticals and bio-plastics. We are now also exploiting the corn cobs and stover into additional fuel. One company is making biomass brickettes out of cobs and stover as a drop-in replacement for coal. This credit spreads across the corn inputs which can also improve the carbon score of ethanol. There was no additional plant growth. There was no sequestration of carbon into the soil. All we did was exploit waste into a value added product to displace fossil fuel.Besides integrating ethanol with producing cattle, we are also using this model to integrate biofuel and dairy, biofuel and poultry, biofuel and hogs, etc. This is going to give you a much better ratio of energy in to energy out. It will also increase efficiency and profit, and lower the cost of both the ethanol, the food products, and other co-products.Searchinger’s background is Attorney, Lobbyist, Political-Environmental Activist, and Biofuels Critic. His skill-set on the economics of biofuels is limited and narrow. Where he falls short is Displacement and Integration.Primarily, biofuels and their co-products displace newly mined carbon with recycled CO2. In addition, the integration of biofuels with agriculture and power generation exploits waste products and mitigates other pollutants such as methane, sulfurous compounds, black carbon soot, and acid rain, etc.. Biofuel integration is also being demonstrated at municipal landfills, sewage disposal plants, algae/ductweed farms, and industries producing waste effluent. This goes well beyond the carbon issue.

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