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Open Ponds Versus Closed Bioreactors

March 29th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Energy-Companies, Algae-Fuel-Research

An interesting article from biomass magazine which compares the open pond technology with closed bioreactors.

A few years ago, aircraft manufacturer Boeing hired Bioalgene to survey indigenous strains of algae—regional strains that grow fast and produce many lipids—in the Northwest U.S., according to Bioalgene CEO Stan Barnes. The company has leased a decommissioned wastewater plant where it is now testing selected strains. “These are natural strains that already have defense mechanisms against predators and disease and can thrive in this region,” Barnes says. Now entering phase two of its research project, Bioalgene will grow algae in larger, 220,000-gallon ponds on a five-acre tract at Boardman, Ore., to test variances in growing and harvesting methods.

Barnes says early on, the company built three bioreactors at Seattle University, and though being able to grow pure strains was an advantage, capital costs to build, maintain and clean transparent systems didn’t seem to be an economic pathway to high-volume algae production. Using NREL’s research as a basis for the company’s decision to move forward with natural strains in open ponds, Barnes says Bioalgene utilized the already developed capabilities of algae to yield a simple system, rather than a complex system. “Evaporation is one of the things we’re concerned about though,” he tells Biomass Magazine. “The whole question of water management is a challenge, and I think you’ll have it anywhere. One big advantage a closed system has is no evaporation loss.”

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