Oil from algae? Scientists seek green gold - Chicagoland Sportbikes
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Oil from algae? Scientists seek green gold

Very interesting stuff happening on this front...
I have heard there are some coal fired power plants out west that are sending some of their co2 runoff through algae tanks for this reason.. The algae convert sunlight and co2... basically into oil (ok.. little bit more to it than that...)

They are saying 1 acre of corn can produce 20 gallons of oil.. 1 acre of algae can produce 15,000... This probably isn't the be all end all of where we are going to need to go in the long term.. but it sounds like a much better solution than what we have now...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22027663/



updated 3:09 p.m. CT, Thurs., Nov. 29, 2007
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The 16 big flasks of bubbling bright green liquids in Roger Ruan's lab at the University of Minnesota are part of a new boom in renewable energy research.

Driven by renewed investment as oil prices push $100 a barrel, Ruan and scores of scientists around the world are racing to turn algae into a commercially viable energy source.

Some varieties of algae are as much as 50 percent oil, and that oil can be converted into biodiesel or jet fuel. The biggest challenge is slashing the cost of production, which by one Defense Department estimate is running more than $20 a gallon.
"If you can get algae oils down below $2 a gallon, then you'll be where you need to be. And there's a lot of people who think you can," said Jennifer Holmgren, director of the renewable fuels unit of UOP LLC, an energy subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc.


Researchers are trying to figure out how to grow enough of the right strains of algae and how to extract the oil most efficiently. Over the past two years they've enjoyed an upsurge in funding from governments, the Pentagon, big oil companies, utilities and venture capital firms.

The federal government halted its main algae research program nearly a decade ago, but technology has advanced and oil prices have climbed since then, and an Energy Department lab announced in late October that it was partnering with Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. oil company, in the hunt for better strains of algae.

"It's not backyard inventors at this point at all," said George Douglas, a spokesman for the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "It's folks with experience to move it forward."

A New Zealand company demonstrated a Range Rover powered by an algae biodiesel blend last year, but experts say it will be many years before algae is commercially viable. Ruan expects some demonstration plants to be built within a few years.

Converting algae oil into biodiesel uses the same process that turns vegetable oils into biodiesel. But the cost of producing algae oil is hard to pin down because nobody's running the process start to finish other than in a laboratory, Douglas said. One Pentagon estimate puts it at more than $20 per gallon, but other experts say it's not clear cut.

If it can be brought down, algae's advantages include growing much faster and in less space than conventional energy crops. An acre of corn can produce about 20 gallons of oil per year, Ruan said, compared with a possible 15,000 gallons of oil per acre of algae.

An algae farm could be located almost anywhere. It wouldn't require converting cropland from food production to energy production. It could use sea water. And algae can gobble up pollutants from sewage and power plants.

The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is funding research into producing jet fuel from plants, including algae. DARPA is already working with Honeywell's UOP, General Electric Inc. and the University of North Dakota. In November, it requested additional research proposals.

As the single largest energy consumer in the world, the Defense Department needs new, affordable sources of jet fuel, said Douglas Kirkpatrick, DARPA's biofuels program manager.

"Our definition of affordable is less than $5 per gallon, and what we're really looking for is less than $3 per gallon, and we believe that can be done," he said.

Des Plaines, Ill.-based UOP which has developed a "green diesel" process that converts vegetable oils into fuels that are more like conventional petroleum products than standard biodiesel already has successfully converted soybean oil into jet fuel, Holmgren said. And the company has partnered with Arizona State University to obtain algae oil to test for the DARPA project, she said.

At the University of Minnesota, Ruan and his colleagues are developing ways to grow mass quantities of algae, identifying promising strains and figuring out what they can make from the residue that remains after the oil is removed.

Because sunlight doesn't penetrate more than a few inches into water that's thick with algae, it doesn't grow well in deep tanks or open ponds. So researchers are designing systems called "photobioreactors" to provide the right mix of light and nutrients while keeping out wild algae strains.


Ruan's researchers grow their algae in sewage plant discharge because it contains phosphates and nitrates chemicals that pollute rivers but can be fertilizer for algae farms. So Ruan envisions building algae farms next to treatment plants, where they could consume yet another pollutant, the carbon dioxide produced when sewage sludge is burned.

Jim Sears of A2BE Carbon Capture LLC, of Boulder, Colo., a startup company that's developing fuel-from-algae technologies that tap carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, compared the challenges to achieving space flight.

"It's complex, it's difficult and it's going to take a lot of players," Sears said.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 05:26 PM
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Nice, that sounds pretty good. Yeah, the one down side to ethanol production is that it reduces food production quantities in the long run. Algae growing out in the sea seems a better proposal. I'm sure there's tonnes more details to iron out, but good to see more action in the renewable energy front.

If solar panels were cheaper, I'd throw a few on my roof...

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 06:28 PM
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If solar panels were cheaper, I'd throw a few on my roof...
+1

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 06:34 PM
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Isn't there a big tax break for installing solar panels? Could offset the cost, as would energy bill savings.

The algae idea sounds interesting. It would be neat to get it working and tell OPEC to go f#%^ themselves.

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 08:31 PM
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Isn't there a big tax break for installing solar panels? Could offset the cost, as would energy bill savings.

The algae idea sounds interesting. It would be neat to get it working and tell OPEC to go f#%^ themselves.

Hmmmm I'll have to check Rob....if there is a tax break....I'll spring I would love to sell energy to Communist Edison

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 08:34 PM
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Hmmmm I'll have to check Rob....if there is a tax break....I'll spring I would love to sell energy to Communist Edison
Just yahooed it. They'll give ya up to 2000.

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/...153397,00.html

Quote:
Additionally, the new law makes a credit available to those who add qualified solar panels, solar water heating equipment, or a fuel cell power plant to their homes in the United States. In general, a qualified fuel cell power plant converts a fuel into electricity using electrochemical means, has an electricity –only generation efficiency of more than 30 percent and generates at least 0.5 kilowatts of electricity. Taxpayers are allowed one credit equal to 30 percent of the qualified investment in a solar panel up to a maximum credit of $2,000, and another equivalent credit for investing in a solar water heating system.

and aren't you an Architect? shouldn't you know this stuff?

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-02-2007, 09:56 AM Thread Starter
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and aren't you an Architect? shouldn't you know this stuff?
Architects don't pay for the stuff
They just click walls in and out of existance and move them left and right over and over again on a computer screen
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-03-2007, 11:25 AM
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Just yahooed it. They'll give ya up to 2000.
Group buy on Solar Panels???

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-03-2007, 11:45 AM
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Years ago I had this discussion over beers with a bunch of Amoco PhD R&D boys. We used to race together. The upshot was that most of the technology to do this is already here. It is just a cost factor. Once gas gets to $5 cracking plant matter for gas becomes economically viable. At the time, the discussion of different crops came up. Algae came up, but had a poor oil content. Maybe a new strain could change that. Oh, they didn't like corn either. There was something else that grew faster and had more oil. I forgot what it was. Some sort of overgrown weed.

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-03-2007, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Blade Runner View Post
Years ago I had this discussion over beers with a bunch of Amoco PhD R&D boys. We used to race together. The upshot was that most of the technology to do this is already here. It is just a cost factor. Once gas gets to $5 cracking plant matter for gas becomes economically viable. At the time, the discussion of different crops came up. Algae came up, but had a poor oil content. Maybe a new strain could change that. Oh, they didn't like corn either. There was something else that grew faster and had more oil. I forgot what it was. Some sort of overgrown weed.
AH yes.. That overgrown weed... I bet the # of patchouli reeking hippies huffing exhaust pipes would go through the roof

They are doing a lot of work with new custom strains of algae.. I believe the article said 50% oil from the current strains..

as far as solar goes.. Wind still way outperforms it.. and it looks like there are some huge new technologies coming out of the solar arena.. i think I heard 35-50% #'s cant remember if that was efficiency or improvement in efficiency... Did you hear google is now spending more $$$ on green tech than the US Govt is? Google has some rather smart peeps working there.. I am curious to see what they come up with
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-03-2007, 01:25 PM
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No, not that overgrown weed.

There is nothing firm, nothing balanced, nothing durable in all the universe. Nothing remains in its original state, each day, each hour, each moment, there is change. Change is the essence of life. Embrace change as you do life. To fight change is to live in the past.
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