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Algae Fuel System Design Efforts at Oilgae

October 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Algae, Algae-Biodiesel, Algae-Energy-Companies

At Oilgae, we had constituted a team about three months back and the team had been doing rigorous amount of exploration to find out the best design that can theoretically yield biofuels at the equivalent of about $3 per gallon. We have been literally burning our midnight oil to evaluate out all possible combinations and evolve a combination that has the best possibility of providing algae fuel at a competitive cost.

I wouldn’t say we have reached there, but our work has certainly yielded some promising ideas. Without going into details, at this stage, funnily, it is the cost of drying that appears to pose the biggest stumbling block: it appears that if we are able to get drying costs to less than $50 per dry ton of biomass produced, our design has, in theory, the potential of producing algae fuel at less than $5 per gallon.

And, while our exercise has only been theoretical, the numbers we have used have been rigorously researched and thus will stand scrutiny. And we have checked and double checked our numbers from multiple sources, so the chances of we being completely wrong is quite small.

The key parameter that will make or break our design is contamination.

Contamination is the parameter that matters the most because our design uses open ponds. In the opinion of the Oilgae Team, unless someone offers photobioreactors at a price that is 10% of its current price, PBRs are not going to cut it. Hence, we are relying on open ponds in our design. However, contamination could make our design go haywire.

The other aspect of our design that could be interesting to readers is that we are trying to keep it as low-tech and simple as possible. This might disappoint some of you, but trust me, enormous amounts of sophistication is simply not going to get us a cost anywhere close to $3 per gallon – neither now, nor anytime in future. To give you an idea, harvesting using centrifugation could cost as much as $3 per gallon; doing the same harvesting using filtration could cost 5-10 times less!

I will update you on our progress with our new design, and hopefully, we will be able to test our design within the next few months at a pilot facility.

Adapted from the Oilgae Newsletter written by Narsi Santhanam

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