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Microalgae to biodiesel in a pressure cooker

Rea searchers from America claim that microalgae can be heated in a pressure cooker.The pressure-cooker method the U-M researchers are studying bucks the trend in algae-to-fuel processing.

The conventional technique involves cultivating special, oily types of algae, drying the algae and then extracting its oil.

The hydrothermal process this project employs allows researchers to start with less-oily types of algae.

The process also eliminates the need to dry it, overcoming two major barriers to large-scale conversion of microalgae to liquid fuels.

The researchers state that they first make an algae soup, heat it to about 300 degree and keep the water at high pressure, it is then cooked for about 30 mins to get a crude bio-oil.

The principle behind this is quite simple, the algae utilises the high temperature and pressure, react with the water and break down. The proteins and carbohydrates also get decomposed in addition to the bio-oil.

Not only does the native oil get released, but proteins and carbohydrates also decompose and add to the fuel yield.

The challenges faced by this method is the removing the tar that pops out of the pressure cooker. All that has to be done is to change the property of the tar so that it flows easily. however, a cost-effective way is being researched upon.

Investigation is going on to find ways to use catalysts to reduce the density of the resulting bio-oil and also to further reduce its sulfur and nitrogen content.

Moreover, they're examining the process from a life-cycle perspective, seeking to recycle waste products to grow new source material for future fuel batches.

For all those of the scientific bent - http://news.oneindia.in/2010/04/23/newpressure-cooking-technique-converts-algae-intoc.html
Tue May 04 2010 10:30:29 AM by Sumukhi 12 Biofuel  |  biorenergy  |  algae  |  biodiesel

Engineering Algae For Biodiesel Production

Currently, hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel and gasoline require complex chemical processing to be manufactured and are made primarily from non-renewable fossil fuels, which are being depleted, whereas the single-cell algae use photosynthesis and are renewable resources, said John Morgan, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Purdue.

The Purdue portion of the work focuses on creating algae that produce more lipids, the precursor of biofuels. The algae harness solar energy to make lipids from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Algae now store some of their carbon as lipids, but not enough to be useful in producing biodiesel," Morgan said. "We need to genetically engineer them to increase the amount of lipids they accumulate.

The three-year project is funded with a grant of more than $4 million from U.S. Department of Energy and is led by Martin Spalding, a professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology at Iowa State. About $1 million of the grant, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is funding Purdue's portion of the research, which began earlier this year.

The algae are being grown in a "bioreactor" in Morgan's laboratory in the Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering. Algae carry out photosynthesis using energy from light to convert carbon dioxide into a variety of products, including lipids.

The carbon dioxide is routed in many directions to produce various products, and we are trying to maximize traffic in the specific pathway that leads to lipid storage.

The Purdue group will create "flux maps" that reveal the speed of reactions along many "metabolic pathways" inside algae, information that should enable researchers to engineer algae to store more lipids.
Fri April 16 2010 01:05:48 AM by Sumukhi algae  |  biofuel  |  energy

Open Pond is the most Viable option - Carbon Trust.

Open ponds have a lot of contamination issues, excessive space requirements and limited location possibilities due to climate etc. However, the UK based algae biofuel research will be extensively carried out in open-ponds.These open ponds systems are cheaper to construct, at the minimum requiring only a trench or pond.Importantly, open pond cultivation can exploit unusual conditions that suit only specific algae.

For instance, Spirulina sp. thrives in water with a high concentration of sodium bicarbonate and Dunaliella salina grow in extremely salty water. Open culture can also work if there is a system of gather the desired algae and inoculating new ponds with a high starting concentration of the desired algae.

About 20 years back, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded in its Aquatic Species Program that open raceway ponds were the most viable solution for the mass production of algae for conversion into biofuels, but that it was much too early to determine whether open, closed or hybrid designs of growing algae would ultimately prevail.

Algae researchers of the UK have decided to go by the aquatic species program and hence have targeted pond as its source for biofuels. The leader of this pond-algae cultivation is Carbon Trust, collaborating with eleven leading institutes such as Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Plymouth Marine Laboratory aiming to develop biofuels from pond-algae.

Carbon trust believes that the leading bioscience expertise UK possess will pave way for developing sustainable biofuels using algae as a feedstock . They expect that this could provide up to 80% carbon savings compared to diesel savings in car and jet fuel.

Carbon Trust claims it can analyse these different strains to identify those which can produce algal oils.The project will be funded by the Carbon Trust themselves who in turn will be funded by UK businesses, amounting to 8 million pounds and employing over 70 leading scientists.
Sat April 10 2010 04:56:57 AM by Sumukhi 10 Carbon Trust  |  algae  |  biofuels

Will Algae Fuels be more Abundant and Economical?

This article caught upon my eye when I was researching on the current status of algae biofuels. Its quite interesting and it explains the need of algae fuels from scratch and goes into details such as VC funding as well.
Research studies claim that the algae industry is getting there -growing, harvesting, separating and converting to useful oils is nearing completion which should reduce the production costs to a considerable extent.

I have summarized the cost of algae biofuels in the near future and some details regarding the VC funding and algae farmers.As discussed even before, algae biofuel production involves four stages:

a. Growing the algae
b. Harvesting the algae
c. Separating the oil
d. Rrefining the oil to useful fuels

Some algae enthusiasts believe that each acre of algae cultivation could theoretically produce the equivalent of thousands of gallons of oil per year, compared with an estimated yield of 18 to 335 gallons of ethanol per acre for traditional biofuel crops.A few others claim that algae-growing systems has the ability to yield 100,000 gallons per acre annually.

Currently, producing biodiesel from algal oil costs about $20 a gallon. But with all the attention being given each of the multiple steps in the fuel production process, some producers are projecting production costs as low as $1.50 a gallon. If costs drop that low within the next 10 years, algal biodiesel will begin to place an effective ceiling on the costs of petrol diesel. It will take time to scale up production, of course.

Here are some details about VCs and Algae Farmers

Dr. John Benneman, an eminent algae consultant exclaims that "VCs cannot come in here and just harvest ripened fruit, this is not shovel ready technology,?

Considering the immense technical risks and high capital costs of building an algae company, it doesn't seem like a reasonable venture capital play.And most if not all of the VCs categorize these investments as the longer-term in their portfolio. But given the size of the liquid fuels market, measured in trillions of dollars, not the customary billions of dollars, it makes some sense to take the low-percentage shot.

Check out this interesting article - http://bit.ly/dxZuv4
Fri April 09 2010 03:26:14 AM by Sumukhi 5 algae  |  biodiesel  |  energy

Algae Energy from Man-made Ponds.

Sapphire energy plans to build man-made ponds to grow algae and convert it into oil. The place they have chosen is Luna County, which is considered ideal for algae-based biofuel because of

a.Flat desert conditions.
b.High level of sunlight
c.Large amount of underground salt water.

Sapphire plans to use only brackish, or highly saline, water and concentrate on specific algae species, considering the region.

In New Mexico,there is an exemption for finding water that comes from below 2,500 feet and research studies reveal that Luna County has more brackish water than fresh water.

Sapphire energy is being funded by the Wellcome trust, Venrock and Rockfeller family. Interestingly,the construction of this facility would provide about 750 jobs to farmers and agriculturists of the Luna County, who have been unemployed.

Promotional material claims that the plant will reach commercial demonstration scale by 2012, commercial scale by 2018, and by 2025, 1-million gallons of green crude per year will come gurgling out of the plant.

Full article - http://elpasoinc.com/readArticle.aspx?issueid=278&xrec=5087
Thu April 08 2010 08:05:01 AM by Sumukhi 2 algae  |  bioenergy  |  energy

Compare "Algae" with Billion Feedstock, its still the best!

Researchers and scientists are very frantically looking for an ideal feedstock for use as a biofuel source.Though there are many bio feedstock under research, some bottlenecks are hindering the way to make either of them commercially viable.

Earlier, first-generation feedstock were widely researched for fuel purposes.Taking into consideration the food-fuel debate, these feedstock were ignored and higher priority was given to the second-generation and the third generation feedstock.

These second generation feedstock include weeds such as Miscanthus or Camelina, whose biofuel potential were deciphered in the recent past.

Recently, the use of algae which is a third generation feedstock is being widely researched due to the advantage offered by it to grow even in waste water.

Dozens of potential feedstocks have been tested and many show promise. An Iowa based renewable energy company tested 34 feedstocks to choose the best out of them..
The feedstock included two types of algae, beef tallow, borage, camelina, canola, castor, choice white grease, coconut, coffee, corn oil, cuphea, evening primrose, fish, hemp, linseed, mustard, palm, poultry, rice bran, soybean, sunflower, used cooking oil and yellow grease.Some lesser-known feedstocks were also tested. The feedstock were tested based on15 parameters, some of which include moisture, free fatty acid, oxidative stability and cloud point.

Highlighted below are the feedstock which are believed to have a great potential in yielding oil in the near future

Feedstock Tested:

1. Babassu oil - Extracted from the seeds of the babassu palm tree, the babassu is common in Brazil, Mexico and Honduras. The kernels are 60-70 percent oil.

2.Hepar oil - A byproduct of the heparin manufacturing process, hepar oil is derived from the mucosal tissues of animals, such as pig intestines and cow lungs.

3.Jatropha oil - From a shrub also known as the physic nut, jatropha is native to Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay.

4.Jojoba oil - An evergreen perennial shrub that grows in Arizona and Mexico, jojoba dehulled seeds contain 44 percent liquid wax.

5.Karanja oil - A medium-sized evergreen tree that grows in India, karanja seed contains 27-39 percent oil.

6.Fendler's bladderpod oil - Also known as Lesquerella, Fendler's bladderpod is used similarly to castor oil.

7.Moringa oleifera oil - Native to India, Africa, Arabia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, South America and the Philippines, Moringa seeds contain between 33 and 41 percent oil.

8.Neem oil - A large evergreen tree found in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Japan and tropical regions in Australia, neem kernels contain 40-50 percent acrid green to brown-colored oil.

9.Perilla oil - Cultivated in China, Korea, Japan and India, the perilla plant's seeds contain 35-45 percent oil.

10.Stillingia oil - From the Chinese tallow tree, stillingia seeds contain 45-60 percent oil. The tree is used to prevent soil erosion and grows on marginal land in eastern Asia.

11.Tung oil - From the tung tree, tung seed is similar to linseed, safflower and soybean oil.

Eventually, the researchers have drawn a conclusion that algae will be the ideal feedstock. Though there are a lot of feedstock having the capability of yielding oil, algae offers several advantages for use as a fuel.Though not there yet, many scientists and biodiesel enthusiasts hope algae can be customized for biodiesel production.

Commercialization of algae is expected in 2013 claims the Algal Biomass Organization.The Algal Biomass was formed to facilitate commercialization and market development of microalgae biomass specifically for biofuels production and greenhouse gas abatement. There are several companies that are looking at raising algae in brackish or non-potable water with access to light and heat.

Additonally,Algae can also be raised in sludge water, wastewater treatment facilities, salt water and outdoor ponds in warm climate. Algae could be raised in conjunction with animal waste lagoons. Algae can use the carbon dioxide and nutrients from waste to grow rapidly, creating a symbiotic relationship.

Challenges faced:

The young industry has several challenges, though.
Some of the challenges include acquiring algae feedstocks, finding ways to make algae biodiesel profitable, and keeping protozoa at bay.

Wed April 07 2010 03:33:33 AM by Sumukhi 5 bioenergy  |  Biofuel  |  algae

Carbon Trust will Decipher a Winning Formula for algae biodiesel commercialisation by 2030

The Carbon Trust has made big plans to develop a sustainable, cost effective biofuel from algae.
This UK-based sustainability firm has joined hands with twelve other UK firms working on the same domain, and this group claims that they will come up with winning solutions for cultivating 70 billion litres of algae biofuel a year by 2030. These twelve firms were selected based on their proposals and an assessment process.

This algae biofuel research will start from scratch: Starting from first principles of agriculture, thousands of strains of algae will be screened to find the winning few that can produce large quantities of a substance similar to vegetable oil.

Other research areas also include: Developing methods for enabling large-scale production in algae ponds .
A construction of a pilot demo plant has also been planned by carbon trust.

As you all know, Algae has the potential to produce 5 to 10 times more oil per hectare than conventional cropland biofuels The new Carbon Trust lifecycle analysis indicates that,over a period of few years, it could provide carbon savings of up to 80 per cent compared to fossil fuel petrol and jet fuel.

Production of 70 billion litres will require man-made algae ponds equivalent to a landmass larger than Wales to be built in optimum locations across the world.

Algae need a source of carbon dioxide and water to grow so the Carbon Trust is now looking to investigate possible locations for large-scale plants which could be, for example, next to industrial facilities located near the sea.

If this process is sucessful, algae oil can be obtained from prices even less than $1 per litre.

See more - http://bit.ly/90R0av
Tue April 06 2010 03:37:11 AM by Sumukhi 35 biorenergy  |  energy  |  Biofuel  |  bioenergy

Algae fuels - A Dream Come True.

A company working on algae fuels claims that it has cracked the code for commercializing algae jet fuel and they hope that it can be used soon;there is no need to wait for another fifteen-twenty years to see this happen.

The company is Solazyme, which is a leading renewable oil and bioproducts company. This company employs algal biotechnology techniques to produce clean fuels, chemicals,foods and health science products.

Technology: Growing algae in dark fermentation tanks is an innovative way of growing algae.Solazyme grows the strains in a dark vessel to produce fuels. By growing their algae in dark vessels, the company does not incur the energy costs of providing the algae artificial light.In short, Solazyme basically feed their algae sugar until they become plumpy enough to explode with oil .

This type of fermentation is referred to as Heterotropic fermnentation. This process requires a fraction of the amount of water as a PBR or open pond. These strains of algae also do not require C02 and this is accepted by the algae experts round the globe.

Two logistic hindrances to issue faced by algae biofuels have been overcome by this firm.

1. Photosynthetic algae commercialization.

2. The other is removing the water, which isn't an issue because the cultivation is done in dark vessels.

The company also strongly believes that the algae jet fuel will be a dream come true soon,though many of the algae scientists claim that algae have long-term prospects only and not much can be done in the near future.

Good luck to Solazyme!!!

See more - http://bit.ly/aGcENc

P.S: The company has not disclosed its extraction method, but they claim that the process will cost a few cents per gallon, which really sounds exciting.
Mon April 05 2010 03:34:47 AM by Sumukhi 1 fermentation  |  algae  |  bioenergy  |  Biofuel

Will Botyrococcus braunii be a major diesel contributor?

A research scientist in Texas claims that Botyrococcus braunii(BB) one of the most highly researched oil yielding strain will be a major contributor to meet the fuel needs.It is also believed that these biofuel algae store hydrocarbons to about 30-40% of their dry-weight.

Reasons why BB is widely researched:
1. It has an ability to produce oil in a small land area.
2. The quality of the oil obtained from the algae is excellent.
3. The BB hydrocarbons are pretty much similar to the chemical structure of gasoline and hence, the diesel obtained fdrom BB is referred to as diesel simply and not biodiesel and gasoline is also referred to as gasoline and not bio-gasoline.
4. The oil it produces is similar to petroleum, unlike the other algae they dont produce veggie type oils.

Though BB possess all these features, there are some key issues to which clear answers are required to commercially produce "diesel" and "gasoline" are:

a. Its slow growth rate ? Requires four days doubling time.
b. Expensive to cultivate.

Algae enthusiasts and research scientists have therefore decided to study the genomic structure of BB. Surprisingly, the genome sequence of the BB has still not been analysed and scientists intend to study the genome sequence so as to identify the genes involved in cell-division.

We can soon expect the whole genome of this top biofuel strain . This apparently, is composed of guanine(G) and cytosine(C) and hence can be very difficult to sequence.Only after knowing the amount of G and C, we can evaluate the amount of resources required for genome sequencing.

Hence,if the genetic make up of BB is fully analysed, it will place the algae biofuels in a higher stage.
Sat April 03 2010 04:32:16 AM by Sumukhi 49 Genome  |  gasoline  |  diesel  |  bioenergy  |  Botyrococcus braunii