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Algae ponds next to power plants !! 7

The question is can you use that CO2 from the power plant to grow algae?

Yes, of course.

But the problem with that is how many power plants have that much land available?

And how many of those are in areas where you have water available?

And how many of those are in areas where you have reasonably good climates.

Once you put in those three boundary conditions, you come down to a fairly small number. And you have further problems. Even if you capture all of the CO2 from a power plant, you are doing it only during the daytime, you are not going to capture any at night.

You are going to capture much less in the winter than summer months, at least anyplace in the continental US. And a significant fraction of the carbon is not going to end up in the biofuel, but in other co-products, or lost back to the atmosphere.


 And, last but not least, you have the issue of how far can you actually pump the flue gas. If you're talking about wanting to maximize the amount of flue gas used, you're talking about tens of thousands of acres for one large power plant, and there's a limit to how far you can even pipe flue gas.

So the bottom line on all of this is that, the way I put it, we cannot help power plants reduce their CO2 footprint to any significant extent. For coal-fired power plants, if we want to be serious about reducing their CO2 emissions, we have to get them to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 or 90 percent, not by the 10 or 20 percent we could do with algae under the best of circumstances.


 And the circumstances are not very good in most all cases. So, in my opinion, maybe a fraction of 1% of the CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants will be amenable through algae capture and utilization. In the case of natural gas power plants, it's maybe not any better because of the large excess air that is used in most of them, which means the CO2 concentration is actually lower.

With coal, you're talking about roughly 12% CO2 and for most natural gas systems you are lucky if you have 4% or 5%.

That makes a fairly big difference in terms of the energy required to just pipe and pump to transfer the CO2. Just a little reality check here. A lot of people haven't thought it through. Source JB

Comments - 7

  • Wed June 02 2010 05:40:23 AM

    Very good article, but please could you comment on these 2 questions. Are the Co2 levels close to power plants higher than elsewhere?. And are carbon credits available for amount of Biofuel produced?.

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  • Manohar wrote:
    Wed June 02 2010 12:36:53 PM

    I guess the CO2 levels around coal fired power plant will be more than at other places.
    Carbon credit is a vast area and as per the understanding of Kyoto protocol, there will be no more any understanding among nations on carbon credit. Unless the globe warms up more, the carbon credit concept will not take off :-)

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  • Manohar wrote:
    Wed June 02 2010 12:37:14 PM

    I guess the CO2 levels around coal fired power plant will be more than at other places.
    Carbon credit is a vast area and as per the understanding of Kyoto protocol, there will be no more any understanding among nations on carbon credit. Unless the globe warms up more, the carbon credit concept will not take off :-)

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  • Manohar wrote:
    Wed June 02 2010 12:37:28 PM

    I guess the CO2 levels around coal fired power plant will be more than at other places.
    Carbon credit is a vast area and as per the understanding of Kyoto protocol, there will be no more any understanding among nations on carbon credit. Unless the globe warms up more, the carbon credit concept will not take off :-)

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  • Narsi wrote:
    Wed June 02 2010 03:41:06 PM

    Excellent article. It captures the problems faced in algae-based CO2 capture at power plants in a succint and hit-the-nail-on-the-head manner.

    I think algae-based CO2 capture from power plants is an exciting but tough proposition; I do however feel that some power plants might be able to do it; the only problems I see are the CO2 capture (or the lack of it) at night and less CO2 during winters (even this could be taken care of to some extent as many areas in countries like India have 340 days of sunshine - essentially, little or no winter!)

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  • Larsyn wrote:
    Thu June 03 2010 04:21:42 PM

    Want the perfect combination. I live within 12 miles of a major power plant in so. Arizona bordered by a cattle feed lot. No interest from either company.

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  • Veronica wrote:
    Fri July 02 2010 04:01:58 AM

    JB is a pessimist.
    If you want to be in algae to oil play, dont read JB. Make your own assumptions. Nothing is achieved by being a pessimist.

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