University of Kentucky works on Algae CO2 Sequetration
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“This would not only allow us to continue to use coal in an environmentally acceptable way, but would also allow us to reduce dependence on petroleum,” said Rodney Andrews, director of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research and an associate professor of chemical engineering.
Put another way, the $3.5 million research project, with money from industry and the state’s environmental cabinet, could help keep Kentucky in the coal business.
In addition to Andrews, the UK research is being led by Mark Crocker, associate director of the Center for Applied Energy Research; Czarena Crofcheck and Mike Montross, both associate professors of biosystems and agricultural engineering.
They’re conducting their research in a climate-controlled laboratory where algae grows in tubular tanks fueled by grow lights. The tank water turns greener as the algae colonies expand. There are tens of thousands of algae species.”We’re looking for some that can tolerate those flue gases, and continue to grow robustly,” Crofcheck said.
But, so far, the process is impractical. Even under the best circumstances, Andrews said, it would take a lake of about 8 square miles to produce enough algae to remove carbon dioxide from a midsized — 500 megawatt — power plant.Yet despite the challenges, something needs to be done.
“Industry and everybody else understands we have to solve what we are going to do with carbon dioxide in a state that’s 92 percent coal-fired,” he said.