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Sumukhi's Blog

Algae-Based Carbon-Capture - Research Efforts

Sequestering carbon-dioxide by growing algae next to power plants has been happening for quite some time now. Research efforts are underway to make possible a economically viable model to capture co2 from power plant emissions.

Some of the challenges faced are:

1.There are no comprehensive and authoritative estimates of cost of sequestering CO2 from power plants using algae. Some initial estimates question the economics of having algae sequestration of CO2, with current cultivation technologies and bioreactors.

2. Many power stations might not have the requisite area nearby. This would increase the capital costs for the pipes and the power used to move the gas through them by around twenty-fold.

3.High land costs near power plants

4.The current cost of producing algae for carbon sequestration in BC (British Columbia) is $793 per tonne of CO2. This cost is prohibitively high, about twenty times higher than the estimated cost of burying CO2 underground, and at least one order of magnitude higher than the cost of the fuel, indicating that at this point carbon capture using algae is not cost effective.

A few research efforts are underway to determine the most economically feasible method to grow algae near power plants .

Seambiotic- This company is based out of Israel and grows algae in open-ponds and capture the carbon-dioxide emissions from a power plant at Ashkelon , Israel. For more details about what this company is doing - refer my previous post - http://www.oilgae.com/club/users/sumukhi/blogs/396

Another company worth mentioning is RWE energy which is a German electric power and natural gas public utility company based in Essen.They also work on the production of micro-algae using power plant flue gases to bind CO2. The micro-algae which they grow next to their power plants produce 60 to 100 t/
(ha x a) dry substance, with 120 to 200 t/(ha x a) of
CO2 being bound.

The growth rate of micro-algae is
much higher and their system apparently can produce up to 6,000 kg algae (dry substance) per year. This binds 12,000 kg of CO2.

For all those who want to understand more about algae cultivation near power plants, this paper is a must -read - http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/mediablob/en/247480/data/235578/34391/rwe-power-ag/media-center/lignite/blob.pdf

More details about Carbon-dioxide sequestration from power plants can also be obtained from - http://www.oilgae.com/algae/cult/cos/pow/pow.html
Tue August 17 2010 05:39:25 AM by Sumukhi 5 co2  |  carbon capture  |  power plant

Choose the best method - Open pond, PBR, Hybrid, Fermentation ????????

Open -pond will be economically viable say many of them. Open ponds offer a lot of advantages over other cultivation methods claim scientists. Is this really the best option???

PBR's -wowww! High productivity and can do wonders! can save a lot of space too.. I mean it can over come the constraint faced due to lack of land availability

A few of them say - Hybrid system - A open-pond which is covered will prevent contamination but will there be other issues??

Some big companies claim - Open ponds are not feasible nor are the PBR's . but they are sure about what is called dark fermentation. Algae are photosynthetic organisms and they grow in dark?? Oh well, they can if they are provided sugar instead of light. This will overcome the challenges faced by Open-ponds PBR's and hybrid systems.. But aren't these sugars expensive?


Can open- ponds be used - Low cost , Low productivity
Can PBR's be used - High cost, High Productivity
Can Hybrid tech's be used - High cost, Scaling up issues
Can fermentation be used - High cost and less availability of sugar

Which is going to work???????
Fri August 13 2010 01:55:01 PM by Sumukhi 56

The story behind 1500 gallons of Solazyme's jet fuel to the U.S. Navy

Solazyme,a San Francisco-based algae company claimed that they provided about 1500 gallons of algae-based jet fuel , infact 100 percent algae-based fuel to the U.S. Navy. So, I was actually wondering what is so special about it that the U.S. Navy is after it.


Harris Dillion, the founder of Solazyme Inc. claims that their technology is to feed the biomass
( industrial and agricultural) for the algae,the algae eats it up and accumulate oil in their cells. They take the algae out, dry it and squeeze 80% of oil. They then transport this in a tanker to their biorefinery where this oil is converted into jet-fuel and more.

Algae strain selection as you might be aware is a resource intensive exercise,Solazyme has dedicated many years of research to identify the best oil yielding strain which can produce oil. In fact they are using an engineered algal strain.


The company apparently is seven years old and the process with the tank and growing the algae has been in development for about four years. Before that, they spent a few years growing the algae in ponds using sunlight, and realized that would never work.

The cost of making a gallon of oil by growing algae in the sun according to Dillon is about $1,000 a gallon. They then realized that the process of feeding biomass to yeast to make ethanol, which is about $2 a gallon. So they fed the sugars to algae, and use the same process to make oil.


They have considered all the aspects of the normal jet-fuel and worked on producing the same from their algae jet fuel for the US navy. There are many properties such as flash points,or freezing points, because it's very cold in the sky. You have to be above a certain freezing point. The standards are pretty stringent and of course, it needs to have a certain density because there?s not a lot of room on a jet.

Also, the density of jet fuel is actually a little lower than diesel because if you drop the density you can keep it from solidifying at cold temperatures.

Interestingly, no changes need to be made in the aircraft to support this fuel. There is no requirement of new engines, new pipelines or new gas pumps.

Solazyme actually aims at making the fuel meet every single fuel standard the Navy has so it can be used as a 100 percent drop-in replacement and now that they have delivered 1500 gallons of jet-fuel to the US navy, they will now send it to laboratories to get the final approval before they test their planes. Additionally,

Solazyme is also planning to deliver about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel which will be used for ships.
They claim that they will be able to make oil $60 to $80 a barrel within two years, and they say that they are not much higher than that now.

The Air Force is also certainly interested in these fuels as well. The Navy has a goal to operate at least 50 percent of its fleet on clean, renewable fuel by 2020. The Navy has led the way in putting a bold target out there and getting this program up and running.

Good luck to Solazyme!!!


According to Solazyme,

1. Their method of algae production doesn?t require light ( heterotropic)

2. They unlike others grow algae in steel tanks (fermenters) and not in open- ponds or Photobioreactors.

3. They wish to use existing infrastructure (large-scale fermentation tanks and bio refineries).

4. They have supplied 15,000 gallons to US Navy and their jet-fuel is 100% algae-based.

5. The U.S. Navy has sent it for testing it in laboratories and will use it only after they get it approved.

6. They plan to provide 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel for the Navy to run the ships.

7. Initially, they tried to grow algae in open-ponds but as they felt open ?ponds is economically not viable they have opted for dark-fermentation using cheap sugars.

8. Air-force is also interested in Solazyme's jet fuel

9. Solazyme has provided 15,000 gallons of jet-fuel to the U.S. Navy at their own cost.
Wed August 11 2010 05:17:27 PM by Sumukhi 56 jet fuel  |  algae  |  Biofuel  |  bioenergy

$52 million for algae fuel development- Solazyme

Solazyme, a company based out of California have been working on a unique method of making algae fuels by using cheap sugars to grow algae in the dark.

As you might be aware of the fact that Solazyme uses a very different approach to make biofuels, they use heterotrophic algae in the dark while the others grow photo-autotrophic algae in light.These algae however doesn?t require sunlight, they need sugar for their growth. Intrestingly, Growing these algae in dark is a simplified process. It grows faster in dark than with light.

Heterotrophic algae are fed with sugars(corn, sorghum or other sources), they consume the food and show significant growth. They can reproduce every 8 hours.

The company's researchers feed algae sugar, which the organisms then convert into various types of oil. The oil can be extracted and further processed to make a range of fuels, including diesel and jet fuel, as well as other products.

There are some people who contradict saying , this might actually not work the sugars may turn more expensive. However, there are some researchers who argue saying that , even if they use corn as a sugar source for algae,they are still left with the corn protein and corn oil which can be used. Similarly if starch is used, they can be further used for ethanol production.

Surprisingly ,sugar-fed algae grow more rapidly. Researchers claim that algae grown in the dark can reach densities that are 1,000 times higher than strains of photo-autotrophic algae that are grown in the light . One concentrated tank of heterotrophic algae is equivalent to growing 1000 tanks of photo-autotrophic algae.

This company announced that it has raised $52 million in a series D round, which brings investment bank Morgan Stanley into its list of investors. In addition to venture-capital companies, the venture arms of Chevron and Japanese food ingredient manufacturer San-Ei Gen also participated.

Last month, it delivered 1,500 gallons of jet fuel made from algae to the U.S. Navy for testing and certification. Solazyme is also making chemicals for food ingredients and health products where its oil can be used as a substitute. Even with the funding and contracts with the U.S. military, Solazyme still faces the challenge of commercializing its technology by bringing down the cost of its oils, particularly for fuels.

More from here - http://www.oilgae.com/blog/2009/02/solazyme-differs-from-its-competitors.html
Tue August 10 2010 06:58:56 AM by Sumukhi 6 bioenergy  |  algae  |  biofuels  |  oilgae

Algae Cultivation Next to Cement Plants

The cement industry contributes about 5% of total global carbon dioxide emissions. Due to the dominant use of carbon intensive fuels, e.g. coal, in clinker making, the cement industry is also a major emitter of CO2 emissions. Hence growing algae next to these cement plants can be a fantastic opportunity to convert these stack gases to algae oil.

From where does these carbon-dioxide comes from??

Carbon dioxide emissions in cement manufacturing comes
a. Directly from combustion of fossil fuels
b. Calcining the limestone in the raw mix.
c. An indirect and significantly smaller source of CO2 is from consumption of electricity assuming that the electricity is generated from fossil fuels.

Roughly half of the emitted CO2 originates from the fuel and half originates from the conversion of the raw material. These carbon-dioxide emissions is very harmful and can be reduced by removing them from the flue gases and this is where our algae can be used!!

There are few efforts underway to capture these emissions one of which is a Canadian company called Pond biofuels has utilized this opportunity to capture the GHG emissions from the cement plants. In early April,2010, they planned to capture the emissions of the St. Marys Cement plant in southwestern Ontario. The company claims that it plans to capture the carbon dioxide and other emissions from the cement plant and will use it to create a nutrient-rich algae slime which can be dried and used as a fuel.

The algae will be grown at a facility adjacent to the stacks, harvested, dried using industrial waste heat, from the cement plant and then used along with the fossil fuels that are currently used in its cement kilns. The company says they hope to demonstrate the scalability of the industrial pilot project and to show that it can be employed on virtually any industrial stack.

More details of some efforts taken by other companies and the concept of algae cultivation near cement plants can be better understood from Oilgae.com - http://www.oilgae.com/algae/cult/cos/cem/cem.html

A video on algae carbon-capture from coal- fired power plants can also be obtained from - http://www.oilgae.com/videos/watch/31/Algae-cultivation---Seambiotic/

Mon August 09 2010 06:53:29 AM by Sumukhi 6 sequestration  |  co2  |  cement  |  algae  |  oilgae

What have scientists and algae companies got to talk about Genetic Enginnering of algae ?

Many scientists, particularly those in the algae business, say the fears of using genetically engineered algae are overblown. Just as food crops cannot thrive without a farmer to nourish them and fend off pests, algae modified to be energy crops would be uncompetitive against wild algae if they were to escape, even inside their own ponds.

Instead of using open ponds, some companies are using bioreactors, which typically contain algae in tubes. Experts say these would not totally prevent escapes. Sapphire says it is not growing any genetically engineered algae in open ponds yet. Genetically engineered algae, whether in open ponds or enclosed bioreactors, are likely to be regulated by environmental protection law.

The opinion of a few scientists and companies have been highlighted below:

Groenwold - Scientist- University of North Dakota

We are not saying don?t do this,? said Gerald H. Groenewold, director of the University of North Dakota?s Energy and Environmental Research Center, who is trying to organise a study of the risks. ?We say do this with the knowledge of the implications and how to safeguard what you are doing.?

David Haberman - Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee

A week earlier, at an industry-sponsored bioenergy conference, David Haberman, an electrical engineer by training, served from 2000 to 2005 as a member of the Energy Department's Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel, (now known as the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee).

He has been a leading voice calling for an overarching risk analysis of genetically modified algae and its impacts to human health and environment.

Stephen Mayfield - Scientist - University of California, Co- founder- Sapphire Energy

?Everything we do to engineer an organism makes it weaker,? said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-founder of Sapphire.

Dr Mayfield and other scientists say there have been no known environmental problems in the 35 years that scientists have been genetically engineering bacteria, although some organisms have escaped from laboratories.

David Haberman and Stephen Mayfield:

In a worst-case scenario, Haberman asserts, the genetically modified algae might even be used in weapons to destroy fisheries or make large numbers of people sick.

While Stephen Mayfield, says he foresees a future where GM algae research would be moved outdoors to open ponds, he said it is unlikely the engineered substance could compete with natural strains.

"If they get out, they won't do better than the local guys. We're trying to make these guys couch potatoes," he said. Changes biologists are making to the algae are designed to make them "big and fat and happy," to optimize their oil output, he said. When you do that, "they generally don't survive out in the world."

Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones - LiveFuels.

Algae replicate much more quickly than other GMO crops, echoed Livefuels' Morgenthaler-Jones. Livefuels is a California-based company working on turning natural strains of algae into biofuels

"With corn, you can expect one crop a year, but with algae, you could get one crop a day.

" Such strains from the lab have already leaked out into the environment in small quantities.

"They have been carried out on skin, on hair and all sort of other ways, like being blown on a breeze out the air conditioning system," she said.

However, there is no body that would be documenting that type of information, so it is unknown whether or not that assertion is well-founded. But if such algae are out there, she is not worried, she said. She doubts they could compete with existing natural strains of algae to make a go of it in the wild.

Stan Barnes - Bioalgene,

?Re-engineering algae seem driven more by patent law and investor desire for protection than any real requirement,? said Stan Barnes, chief executive of Bioalgene, one of those companies.

But others argue there are huge obstacles to making algae competitive as an energy source and that every tool will be needed to optimise the strains.

Richard Sayre - Phycal

Algae can reproduce rapidly, and can be carried long distances by the wind. ?They have the potential to blow all over the world,? said Richard Sayre of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.

Sayre, who is also the chief technology officer of Phycal, an algae company using genetic engineering to develop algae that capture less light.

He explained, If each organism captured less, then a given amount of light could be shared by more organisms, increasing biomass production.

Al Darzins - NREL

Before genetically modified strains are ready to debut in such ponds, however, regulators and researchers must answer a litany of questions about their potential environmental risks, said Al Darzins, a molecular biologist and principal group manager in bioenergy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

"I'm absolutely convinced that if you're going to be using genetically modified algae in the future -- growing out in an open pond -- that before that happens on a very large scale there has to be some sort of risk assessment on what's going to happen to the potential ecology," he said.

Ari Patrinos - Synthetic Genomics,

Whether the algae escaped from the lab or an outdoor pond -- could be solved with genetic engineering, said Ari Patrinos, president of Synthetic Genomics, the company co-founded by J. Craig Venter, who helped sequence the human genome.

Patrinos' recommendation: engineering organisms that have "suicide genes" that would keep such species from surviving outside of the environment for which they were designed. Though he believes that could be done with current knowledge, he noted: "We aren't doing anything like that ourselves."

Currently, the outlook for GM algae in general remains unclear, said Synthetic Genomics' Patrinos. His company is still unsure if genetically modified algae will ever be a strong, cost-effective competitor with natural strains and is focusing much of its work on exploring natural strains, he said.

"We may wind up never having to use genetically engineered algae in open ponds at all," he said. "Research is research, and people explore all possibilities."

Craig Ventor - Scientist - Creator- Artificial Bacteria

The man behind the first self replicating artificial bacteria says ? Dr. Craig Venter says ? algae should be engineered with a ?suicide gene? to shut down if they escape.?

Jonathan Gressel - TransAlgae

Jonathan Gressel, TransAlgae's chief scientific officer, explained in an interview that its concept is to suppress genes that are not needed in the environment of algae cultivation, but that would be vital if the algae were to survive outside their regulated environment.

The algae could be designed without swimming flagella, with an inability to absorb carbon dioxide from the low levels in seawater or to have other enfeebling traits, depending on the gene.
Sun August 08 2010 07:10:28 PM by Sumukhi 2 algae  |  biofuels  |  bioenergy  |  Genome genetic engineering of algae

Rosetta and Seambiotic merge to work on ALGAE STRAIN SELECTION

Strain selection is indeed a resource intensive exercise. There are so many issues for selecting the right algal strain for biofuel production, hence, Seambiotic, an company in Israel experts in algae- based abatement from their power plants have merged with a Rosetta Green, company with expertise in plant biotechnology and genomics.

Rosetta Green is a leading developer of microRNA-based diagnostics and therapeutics. The joint initiative of Rosetta Green and Seambiotic (Seambiotic) is first of its kind as it combines the unique capabilities of both companies in algal growth, processing and advanced biotechnology.

These two companies have now planned to work together in identifying the best strains for biofuel production. Rosetta Green will develop the best strain and Seambiotic will use its expertise and experience of large scale algae growth and commercial biofuel production.

The companies will initially focus on increasing the oil content of the algae and producing strains that can better withstand contamination. The companies have formed a joint steering committee that will be responsible for the management and operation of the collaboration.

Rosetta Green(https://www.rosettagreen.com/) is focused on the identification of unique genes that function as main control bio-switches; the company will make use of these technologies to develop algal strains with improved traits for biofuel production.

The proof of concept phase of the collaboration is anticipated to last about two years, during which the companies will explore the development of facilities for producing biofuel from algae on an industrial scale.

Algae Strain Selection:

Choosing a best from 30,000 algae strains for algae biofuel production is indeed a resource intensive exercise. Strain should be chosen based on the end-products available, energy yield, performance in mass culture and complexity of the algae cell structure.

Research is underway to determine an algae strain which meets all these parameters to produce biofuels. Hence, it is very critical to identify the right strain which can be easily cultivated, harvested and extracted.
For instance, if you are trying to produce biodiesel from algae, it is very important to identify the correct algae strain which has high-oil content, the habitat where it has to be grown should also be considered. Not only that the strain should be able to grow without contamination, should be adaptable to different temperature and tolerance of high oxygen levels. More importantly, the strain chosen should be economically viable for cultivation.

There are a few parameters which have to be given high consideration before choosing a particular strain. Firstly, the strain chosen should possess a high energy yield; the strain should have high levels of tolerance to extreme weather conditions. Not only the temperature, it should also have high adaptability to the total environment- pH, area where it is grown, salinity and so on. The strain chosen should be a competitive strain; it should not be a prey to the predators. If your strain has successfully met all this criteria, you can ago ahead cultivating the strain. But also make sure that the strain chosen has a less complex structure, as it easier to extract oil from it.

For instance, if you consider the strain - Botryococcus braunii is claimed to produce hydrocarbons which represent 86% of its dry weight. Though it produces a high oil content, it poses several disadvantages, it takes about 72 hours to reproduce. However, a few research studies claim that on producing optimum growth environment, the doubling time of this algae can be considerably reduced to about 48 hours.`When I say optimum growth environment it refers to ambient temperature of 23 degrees, a light intensity of 30-60 W/m2 right amount of salt, a photoperiod of 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. It is believed that if these parameters are provided B.braunii will double in two days.

Hence, choosing the right strain for biofuel production is a resource intensive task . However, a lot of research is being done to identify the best strain. If that is achieved, algae commercialization will only have few other challenges which can also be addressed to make algae fuels economically viable.
Wed July 28 2010 09:26:09 AM by Sumukhi 10 strain selection  |  algae  |  biofuels  |  bioenergy

Nofima Seeks Funds from Potential Industries for Aquaculture Research

Nofima Ingrediens (http://www.nofima.no/en ), a business oriented research group working in research and development for the aquaculture, fisheries and food industry in Norway seeks a letter of intent from potential industries to to contribute to the project proposal to the Norwegian Research Council on the use of alternatives to fish oil lipid sources for fish feeds.

They possess a long time experience on serving the research needs of raw material/feed/food/animal producing industries and have also high quality expertise on biological issues of fish. Through this project, they aim to extensively study pellet quality,fish performance and health.

They also plan to test oil of different sources and one of thier main interests is algal products with high levels of essential fatty acids. They have applied for funds from the Norwegian government and for such project they are eligible for 80% and seek potential industries to fund the rest (20%).

The contributions from the industry can also be in the form of raw material supply, tests, consultancy and participation in project meetings in addition to the direct financial contribution.

The project partners do have not really commit to anything before the project is funded (decision expected end of 2010) until the contract and consortium agreement is signed.

In these projects where the industry is financing partly the research costs the rights of the different companies for the exclusive use of the results for an agreed period of time are taken care of. For example we can agree to publish something only following agreement among all project partners and/or after lets say 1-2 years after the end of the project (4 years duration). The deadline for the application is 1st September.

What will be needed in the first place from the industrial partners will be a letter of intention to contribute to the project with the amounts mentioned in the proposal if the project gets funded by the Norwegian Council of Research. A contact person and some company details will also be needed.

Some of the questions the interested parties might have and their answers are outlined below:-

What are they intending to in their research and the expected results?

The research part of this planned proposal is the Investigation of the effects of alternative fish feeds oil sources on fish health, welfare and performance. As alternative oils will be considered mainly micro algal oil, possibly animal fats and/or hemp oil or flax oil. Specific effects that will be investigated are the effects of the aforementioned oils on: salmon Immunology, Digestion/enzymology, Histology (liver, intestine), Performance (growth, composition) and Fillet quality. Effects on pellet quality during extrusion and storage will also be considered.

Which are the industries that could benefit from this research?

The industries that will benefit are the raw material producers (algal oil producers as e.g. bio fuel production by-product, animal by-product industries, hemp oil producers) by the documentation of the performance of algal and plant oils as ingredients in Atlantic salmon feeds.

What is the total estimated investment required?

The total project budget can be up to 320,000 USD per year for up to 4 years. Provided that the proposal will be funded by the Norwegian Research Council (Aquaculture Programme: deadline 1st of September) public funding will be up to 100% of the total budget. The project can be co-funded by industrial partners and strengthening considerably the proposal, ideally by 20% (or 64,400 USD per year all industrial partners together). The consortium so far includes researchers from Nofima Marine, Nofima Ingredients (www.nofima.no) and the Hellenic Centre of Marine Research (www.hcmr.gr).

How much funding have they secured as of now?

The decision for funding will be available by the end of 2010 for the project to start running since 2011.

How much funding will they require from private investors like companies or industries?

As mentioned above priority is given to projects that produce results with clear interest from the industry. In this case the industrial partners (oil producers, fish feed producers) all together must fund 20% of the total project costs which in this case is up to max 64,400 USD per year for 4 years (total max 257,600 USD). This amount can be split among the partners in different proportions. The initial stage of this application does not commit the industries to fund the research. The companies are invited to take part in the proposal preparation (mostly realised by the research institutes: 10 page max proposal). A tentative budget will be created for the contributions of the different partners and the proposal will be submitted to the Norwegian Research Council by the 1st of September 2010 noon time.

The evaluation of the proposals will be finalised until the end of the same year. Provided that the proposal is granted with funding by the Norwegian Research Council the consortium, budget and proposal text is called to be finalised and consortium agreements are signed by all partners.

How does the industries / investors benefit from your research?

In projects where the industry is co-funding the research, the research results are reserved for exclusive use by the respective organisations for an agreed period of time, e.g. during the project duration 1 or 2 years after the end of the project, providing extra benefits to the project sponsors against their competitors.

The partners have also the possibility and are encouraged to patent project results maximising their benefits. In any case, oil producers will benefit by entering a sustainable industry which has the capacity to absorb considerable amounts of raw material and the fish feed producers will acquire necessary information on the potential of using alternative to fish oil lipid sources in salmon feeds.

For those interested please get in touch with

Ms. Katerina Kousoulaki
Kjerreidviken 16, N-5141 Fyllingsdalen, Norway
Tel: 47 55 501 276 Mob: 47 47 910 710
katerina.kousoulaki@nofima.no / www.nofima.no
Mon July 19 2010 09:07:01 AM by Sumukhi 3 biofuels  |  oil  |  fish feed  |  algae  |  research  |  funding

Interview with Dr.Russell Chapman- Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Scripps institute of Oceanography (http://sio.ucsd.edu/) which is based out of San Diego is the world's preeminent center for ocean and earth research, teaching, and public education.

Here is the interview of Dr. Russell Chapman with the students of Scripps Institution of Oceanography Dr. Russell is the executive Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography .

Q: What started your interest in algae?

A: As an undergraduate biology major at Dartmouth College, I had a specific interest in marine biology and it made sense to take the phycology course to learn about algae. The professor was Dr. Hannah T. Croasdale and she was one of the most outstanding educators, and outstanding individuals, I have ever met. She was one of the cofounders of the Phycological Society of America (the PSA, publishers of The Journal of Phycology) and was a Past President of the PSA. She taught a course that was as wonderful as it was unique and I quickly became interested in algae (the world?s most important ?plants?) in general and the ultrastructure of algae in particular.

Q: So, what exactly do you mean by ultrastructure?

A: Ultrastructure refers to the level of observation that was made available when the electron microscope was developed. And in order to study biological samples with an electron microscope you have to section the material very thin. In fact, the sections are so thin that if you looked at them on edge, you couldn?t see them at all because they are below the resolution of a typical light microscope. So this whole process was, in a sense, made viable for biological research in the 1960s when the electron microscopes and the cutting devices were readily available and people went wild looking at tiny details within cells that had never been seen before. For example, a lot of people who have read about biology know about ribosomes. But ribosomes were never seen in a light microscope as such. Similarly, the chloroplast in algae is something that was seen at the light microscopic level, but the internal structures of the chloroplast were not very well understood until the electron microscope allowed us to see a lot more detail.

Q: Is this what you are most interested in as an application for algae?

A: Having been influenced by wonderful colleagues, like Dr. Bill Gerwick, here at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I am most interested in, and excited about, the medicinal uses of algal compounds. There has been enough research to demonstrate that useful compounds are present in algae waiting to be found and developed into critically needed medicines. These exciting results are based on a tiny sampling of all the different species of algae that are out there in the real world. So, one can imagine hundreds of new, powerful pharmaceuticals. Alas, as I understand, finding an algal compound with antiviral or anticancer activity is one thing; and getting a pharmaceutical company to undertake the long and costly process of getting that compound on the market is another thing. But what an exciting opportunity for science to help humankind!

For those of the scientific bent- the competele convresation between the interviewer and Dr.Russell can be seen here - http://bit.ly/dcKCsO

Source: AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com.
Thu July 15 2010 07:03:54 AM by Sumukhi 1 algae  |  fuel  |  research  |  energy  |  Biofuel

An Interview with Prof.Ben Amotz- an algae expert of Seambiotic

Seambiotic, which is based out of Israel is an algae fuel company which grows algae in about eight shallow pools, covering about a quarter-acre which are filled with the same seawater used to cool the power plant.

A small percentage of gases are siphoned off from the
power plant flue and are channeled directly into
the algae ponds.

Here goes the interview of Prof. Ben Amotz, in the 2nd Algae World Europe Conversations. Prof Ben is the Chief Scientific advisor of Seambiotic with 30 years of experience in algae research.

Prof. Ben Amotz, you are one of the foremost phychologists in the world, and after 30 years of research, what do you think is the most attractive attribute of algae?

Algae by definition are related to the plant order, but in comparison to ?higher plants?, algae have 11 classes. Nevertheless, we have very little information about these classes relative to the higher plants. In the industry, we refer to it as the ?unexploited potential? of Algae.

I believe that Algae can provide many new products spanning medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutritional applications, over and above Algae and higher plant based products available today.

In your view, which of the latest innovations and developments in algae sector are exciting and relevant?

In Algae we don?t have such ?breakthrough developments?, we have grown quite slowly. Algae were grown mainly in the Far East (Japan and Taiwan) in the 50s, and it has been a slow process in development due to the difficulties to grow and harvest.

While innovations have been slow, they have been steady. Almost every year we get some new information or product from Algae, but there is no ?breakthrough?, like someone finding diamonds in Algae!

Seambiotic is the first company in the world to use flue gas from coal burning power stations for algae cultivation. Can you please tell us more about the production model?

The cost of producing Algae is quite high mainly because Algae uses carbon dioxide and fresh/sea water, which are quite expensive. After working so many years with Algae production for beta-carotene, we looked for alternatives to reduce the cost of production.

Today, we are able to use the waste of power plants. They include waste seawater used for cooling the turbines, and scrubbed flue gas emissions, which are clean enough for the growth of algae. Our model, which is new, uses the waste of the power plant, namely the seawater and the carbon dioxide to grow algae, thus saving a lot of money.

Why did Seambiotic choose open-pond cultivation system?

As of today, after 70 years of cultivation of algae, almost 100% of the commercial production of Algae is done in open ponds, and the issue of contamination is simply not true. It is possible to grow very concentrated biomass (clean like any agricultural product), without contamination. If we look at it from an agricultural point of view, the open pond also allows for better cultivation, fertilization, light concentration etc.

Of course, algae cultivation has to use land, but projects are often situated in land, like desert areas and marine areas, which is not used for agriculture, is cheap and found all over the world. That is the reason why almost all commercial Algae plants today use open pond production.

You have mentioned in a previous article that Israel doesn?t have enough land to support truly commercial-scale algae production. Where do you think is ideal?

Well Israel doesn?t have enough land to grow algae for biofuels because then we?ll need a lot of land. But Israel has enough land to grow Algae for high value products, in the order of 10 Ha facilities.

For Biofuels, we need hundreds or thousands of hectares of land, in areas where there is plenty of sun, easy access to seawater and large parcels arid land. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Baja California, Iran, Brazil and Australia come to mind.

What are other important factors to consider when choosing the location for a project?

The major factor for choosing the location of the site are concentration of Solar Radiation, access to Seawater, and Land availability, which is not used for urban or agricultural use, arid land with very low value and near seawater so it can be used for Algae cultivation.

We understand Seambiotic and NASA are collaborating in algae research, can you please tell us more about this project, and the progress so far.

NASA?s collaboration with Seambiotic came with the idea to use NASA?s aerodynamic expertise, and convert that to hydrodynamics. With the open pond system, we use water flow, and in principle, the hydrodynamics of water flow is very similar to aerodynamics. So NASA came with the idea that if we improve our hydrodynamics (water movement) we can significantly improve the productivity of our algae.

Preliminary experiments with NASA?s technology and design, I can confirm that it is actually true. The simple idea to improve the flow and mixing, we can increase the productivity of algae quite significantly.

What are the future plans for Seambiotic?

Seambiotic is constructing a 10 Ha plant in Israel, to produce fine chemicals, not for biofuels. We also recently signed a JV agreement with an electric power plant in China (one of the biggest power producers in the country), and we are currently constructing large-scale facilities for commercial algae cultivation in Yantai, China. This is the first time China & Israel are pursuing a joint venture in Algae production.

What do you make of the recent spike in interest for algal biofuel? Are there any misconceptions that concern you or even affect your work?

Algae biofuels gained popularity over the past few years because of oil price increases, and the search for green, alternative energy. Since there are concerns over insufficient food, the industry was not able to use higher plants, so the attention moved to Algae. Assuming that Algae does not use agricultural land and fresh water, and delivers the high enough levels of photosynthetic efficiencies, it will be viable to use Algae for biofuels and other uses.

How soon do you think we will see algae-based fuel in the market? And what are the main challenges that must be overcome for large-scale commercialisation?

It?s quite difficult to say how soon we?re going to see algae from biofuels in the market, but I know what the major limitations are!

The major limitations are actually the costs- both the cost of constructing the facilities, and the cost of production. As of today, the cost of production is quite high, so either the price of oil has to exceed $100/barrel, or the cost of producing algae has to fall below $100/barrel. When this happens, then we have a very good chance of using algae lipids to manufacture biofuels. So in my opinion it is all a matter of economics.
Wed July 14 2010 11:04:33 AM by Sumukhi 34 biofuels  |  emissions  |  carbon capture  |  algae