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Algae biomass methane

Algae biomass methane

Postby pmanske » Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:34 am

Hi - I'm interested in using algae as biomass in a digester.

I don't work with bio-oil as its the domain of PhD's so I approach this as a farmer using farmer technology.

I have the idea I can make a series of 50 gal aquarium like tanks on wheels/carts to grow algae using non exotic species.

The tanks will be designed to facilitate algal growth - provide nutrients, vent O provide CO2.

I'll need to determine when maximum growth has occurred, that is that tank cannot grow more.

At that stage, move the tank to a warm black place so the algae will die and give off methane.

A series of gas hoses will connect the tanks to a gas bag using some manner of low pressure vacuum

I must determine the the curve of methane production.

Knowing the curve and amount of gas, design a rotation to remove the methane exhausted tank and begin the cycle anew
using dead algae for nutrients.

I don't know how algae replaces water. 50 gallons = 50 * 8.3 lbs = 450 lbs of biomass? No, likely 50% water content in algae. 225 lbs of biomass? 1 pound of algae = 1 cu ft of methane/5000 - 7000 btu methane.

I need 300 cu ft per hour for the generator so I'd need 30 ish of these tanks a day and then to calculate the methane cycle... 4 weeks to exhaust? 28 * 30 = 840 tanks

So... what's up with this? Doable? Nuts? Interesting?

Phillip
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby DR Johansen » Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:07 am

I believe this is being done in Somalia(?) but with a slightly different process. The farmer there grows algae in a large pond and feeds it to his cattle. They then poop, which he puts into a digester and gets methane which he uses for energy and fertilizer which he dumps back into the pond to get more algae. Neat!

In your process, I would suggest leaving the tanks in the sunlight and harvest the algae with a net (or other filter) at regular intervals. Place that algae into your digestor. That way you will make maximum use of a very expensive component (the tanks) and you won't have to wait forever for the digester organisms to grow enough to work. They will already be up and running at optimum in the digestor.

Good luck, but more important... have fun!
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby pmanske » Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:05 am

Hi Doc, Thank you for the reply. I'm fairly certain I will be the second or third man in human history that will gas methane solely. I have been looking for info on methane production but 99.9999999% of the info is for bio-gasoline an not methane.

Its been driving me nuts, just to get this information. I could not do the test because I was traveling or the living arrangement did not allow for it but I'll have time and space in about two weeks. I got involved with this stuff in January.

Whats special about algae, even if it does not work at a high production rate is that its easy to pump and handle and the digestate is re used unlike cow manure or other feedstocks.

You can, I think grow a raceway full and just put a lid over the raceway to make your digester tank and when the tank is done producing, simply lift the lid to start again. As you suggested filtering the algae water would collect a heartier mass but the macro algae would remain as it grows off the sides of raceway. I don't know if thats good or bad.

Yea, so I'm eager to get some info and some experience. Someone can get info I'd like if they want. Hint, Hint.

Use a 15 gal aquarium, fill with water let algae grow until it looks like its done. Pour five gals in a five gal drinking water
bottle. Use a large hefty bag for a balloon by sealing with tape. Put the contraption in a dark place to kill the plants and see if if the balloon fills vigorously. 39 gallon bag = 5 cubic feet. Full bag means 1:1 ratio but it should be more since the ratios are expressed 1 lbs : 1 cu ft. We should get 40 cubic feet. The balloon will burst. Thats good.

I designed the tank system above. It took about 4 cigarettes and black coffee. I ended using 55 gal drum translucent liners held up by a metal bar frame and chicken wire. Then at lunch I decided that raceways were better.

P
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby DR Johansen » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:53 am

[quote="pmanske"] ...You can, I think grow a raceway full and just put a lid over the raceway to make your digester tank and when the tank is done producing, simply lift the lid to start again. As you suggested filtering the algae water would collect a heartier mass but the macro algae would remain as it grows off the sides of raceway. I don't know if thats good or bad.[/quote]

Methane producing digesters are "anaerobic" which means they work in the absense of air (oxygen actually). Your raceway algae growing method implies a LOT of water that can contain a very high degree of oxygen. Indeed, the algae will have been producing it as it grows. If the lid lets light through then the algae will continue to produce O2 and the digestion will never happen. (There may be strains of algae that produce CH4 directly, but I don't know of any.)

The cover would have to be light and air tight in order to allow anaerobic digestion. Such covers would not be cheap. And even if you can make it so, there will still be lot of disolved Oxygen in the water. So the methane generating digestion won't start until enough CO2 generating digestion has gone on to burn all the O2. This will take a while. Only then will the anaerobic bacteria be able to grow. And since the growth would start from almost no bacteria, getting enough of them to produce CH4 would also take a while. I am not sure how long all this would take, but I suspect it would be a LONG time!

Keep your raceway. But net the algae out and put it into the digester directly. (Squeeze out as much water as you can first so that you aren't transfering much O2.) Thus your raceway produces maximum algae and your digestor (which shouldn't have to be very big) can produce CH4 continuously and at maximum effect. Just my humble opinion. :)
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby pmanske » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:20 am

I really hope someone does that experiment!

Aside from that, I thought about raceway construction. Cement harms the environment so I don't think you should use cement. Uses trenches instead, you'll need the large heavy equipment construction trench digger. The trenches should be 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep. I made calcs for my needs and I came up with 50 feet long. Line the trenches with space blanket for insulation. Use black light proof plastic sheet to make the baggie. You can use flat sheet but it has to be cut right to fold over and seal to make a digester or custom bags can be made that will be 2" wide 3" tall 50' long beast with a sturdy zip lock to seal during digester use. Glue a square of sturdy 4" X 4" PVC to put in the heater hose and gas outlet. During digestion
cover the bag with space blanket to trap heat.

This is all based on algae actually making methane but I won't know that until someone does some good tests.

If it works even poorly, it could be significant. Algae is free, even if the results are slow you can always increase production area cheaply and easily. That is what is special about algae methane.

If you want an algae farm, desert area is available cheap in West Texas. Its not perfect but its good enough. The land is cheap, the water is free, the bags are cheap and you can get solar water heat to heat the digesters . You could have hundreds of trenches and make lots of methane!
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby pmanske » Fri Aug 20, 2010 4:55 am

Hi Doc, I really do appreciate the attention even if i seem to be disagreeing with most of it. Please keep it up!

I can't hand screen the algae. My intent is to produce lots of methane, like 700 cubic feet an hour 24 hours a day. This will drive a Capstone CR30 turbine and produce 30kwh. Hand screening is impossible because there is just too much. Using the manure rule of 1 pound of manure = 1 cuft of biogas, I need to hand screen about 17,000 pounds of algae each day. I can't do that, its impossible. I can however use a series of pumps and filters to collect the purest collection I can. I think this is what you want.

I know your concern is the presence of O2 in the water. I'll do what I can do to minimize that. I'm not so concerned because here in the Midwest we digest fresh manure and fresh manure is like anything else organic, its 50% water. The manure is mixed with more water before its put in the digester. These digesters work fine and make money. Water helps by facilitating the transportation of the manure to move in a plug flow digester from the front to the back and this mixture is more than 50'% water.

I can only be concerned with inter-cellular water, not intracellular water. I'll talk about this later*

I'm referring to todays post where I describe the seal-able black bag. I can vacuum out the air, I think you'd be happy with that.

I'm not certain when the algae is done growing but I feel i can grow until its the same thickness as a filtered collection. I want pea soup thickness when I collect. But if my trench bag algae is pea soup thickness, why collect? Even I'm off by 10% so what?
----------------------------------------------

My algae growing experiment...

I'm not happy with the type of info I am reading so I have to make my own tests. Weigh .5L in beaker. Algae should be lighter than water therefore successive weighs of same volume should be lighter.

Day 1 start with 15 gal aquarium filled with tap water. Put outside in sunshine

Day 3 should be cloudy. Weigh

Day 5,7,9,11,13 etc weigh. When weight is the same, growth has stopped. Fertilize.

Day 15, weigh, if lighter continue growing, if not lighter growth has stopped. Harvest.

Harvest time can also be determined via ppm measurement and viscosity and then ultimately general farmer good sense.

Replacing water due to evaporation will help generate more plant mass so I recommend topping off.

I live in a condo now and I can't do this because I'll get busted. My next buddy is 20 miles away and i can go there every day. I'll be in a new life in 10 days, then I can begin.

P

Day 4 should be light green. Weigh .5L
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby DR Johansen » Sat Aug 21, 2010 1:46 am

pmanske: "I can't hand screen the algae. My intent is to produce lots of methane, like 700 cubic feet an hour 24 hours a day. This will drive a Capstone CR30 turbine and produce 30kwh. Hand screening is impossible because there is just too much. "

You really shouldn't need to. Pump the algae water thru a series of mesh diverters and pump the concentrate to the digester.

We are talking way out of my area of expertice here, but I can't help but think seperate facilities, race-track growing facilities and specialized digestors with an appropriately designed system to take the algae from the grower to the digestor is truly the way to go. Nuff said.
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby pmanske » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:26 am

Thank you Doc.

The great experiment is underway. I found a local farmer to do the tests. We have two ten gallon fish tanks. One gets fertilizer and the other does not. We will grow for 10 - 14 days and then put the heavier of the two masses into two four gallon water bottles. One bottle will be at room temp, the other will be at 95 F as that is the optimum digest temperature. We will collect the gas and evaluate our findings. The other will be allowed to grow just to see how thick it gets.

Cheers!

P
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Re: Algae biomass methane

Postby DR Johansen » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:35 pm

[quote="pmanske"]Thank you Doc.
The great experiment is underway. I found a local farmer to do the tests. We have two ten gallon fish tanks. One gets fertilizer and the other does not. We will grow for 10 - 14 days and then put the heavier of the two masses into two four gallon water bottles. One bottle will be at room temp, the other will be at 95 F as that is the optimum digest temperature. We will collect the gas and evaluate our findings. The other will be allowed to grow just to see how thick it gets.[/quote]

You are most welcome, but it is DR as in initials, not Dr. as in doctor. No PhD here! I've been getting it for decades, so I sometimes let it slide.

Great luck to you both. I REALLY want to see the results!
I hope the digesters will be dark. If you let in the light, I suspect the O2 output from the algae will overwhelm the ability of the ANaerobic bacteria to survive.

Please post your data. We'd all love to see it I feel sure!
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The truth hurts

Postby pmanske » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:09 am

Hi Doc,

I hope all is well. I have been pounding the info pavement and 99% of the news is bad. I'm not working with my farmer anymore, he is a good fellow but just does not communicate much or at all. I started my own tanks and the neighborhood kids thought it was fun to dump them.

According to Google, this is the definitive thread on the matter. We are world experts.

The real experts have been dumping on the idea. ...
-----------------------------------------------------
Jan Mussgnug
Bielefeld University, CeBiTec

Dear Mr. Manske,
you are right about the generell advantages of microalgae. However, growing algae for the sole purpose of producing biogas is commercially not viable today, because the algal biomass is more expensive than e.g. maize.
Algae can be good substrates for co-fermentation, but this depends on the species used, as you can see in our publication (see attachment).

Kind regards,
Jan Mussgnug

The attachment seems exactly what I was looking for but to be honest I have not read it, i got it early in the AM, the print is very small and my eyes were blurry and I have not read it yet.
--------------------------------------------

Hello,

I hope this letter finds you well. I'm familiar with the biodigestion
industry and I'm very curious about algae's viability as a
biodigestion feedstock. After several months of Google searching, I
have collected scant and non definitive information about the matter.
That information ranges from possible to disappointing but again,
nothing definitive. I have a low threshold for success. Virtually
all of the contemporary research is directed toward a gasoline
substitute but I would be quite happy with a return suitable for
methane production. I have read that algae produces biogas at a rate
of 70% compared to cow manure and that is a good rate as algae seems
to be easier to handle and produce. The ease of management of the
feedstock is vital. I have also read a company called Rouse was proud
of the fact they can get 500 pounds a day of biomass from 2000 acres
of algae ponds and according my calculations, I need 20000 pounds a
day to make usable methane/biogas. So according to that, my ten acre
algae farm would not be viable. I just don't know however, I do not
have one definitive study.

If you have information that will clearly dissuade me, please share
it. If not, please make sell me a few gallons of mature, non
processed algae and I will do tests to satisfy my curiosity.

Warmest regards

Phillip Manske

Phillip,

Greetings. Culturing microalgae just to be used for biogas does not seem economical to me. Regardless of what you think there is alot of effort that goes into the production..and cost. I would think that 2000 acres should produce more than 500 lbs per day. I saw ponds on 50 acres produce 100kg dry weight per pond per day. It would seem to me that usign a byproduct to produce gas would be the way to go...?

We can supply you with algae strains to do your research but I am not the one to talk to about biogass production from microalgae. Let me know if we can be of service.

regards,
Erik Stenn
President
AlgaGen LLC
PO Box 1734
Vero beach, FL
772-978-1395

Phillip,

I concur with Erik. Methanogenesis is best done with bacteria in anaerobic
environments with large, continuous waste streams available for processing.
These will metabolize at a rate much faster than algae, and with less work.
The downsides include the waste stream itself, smell, and the inherent
dangers posed by postential asphyxiation and fires/explosions, as well as
permitting and operating compliance.

Most EU sewage systems use anaerobic digesters. That's the way to go...

Best wishes,

Bill

Hello Bill,

I'm from Wisconsin in the US and we have a high concentration of
biodigesters here as we have an active dairy industry. I'm familiar
with the operation of such plants including permits and safety. I'm
evaluating other feedstocks for use as biomass digestion. I have to
consider all aspects like you mentioned, not just the rate of gas
production. Digestion can be done with any biomass but biodigestion
requires a high volume (tons) of input and it leaves considerable mass
at the end of the process. The feedstock has to be very inexpensive
and easily disposable, if fact rate of gas production is actually a
less significant factor when evaluating the characteristics of
feedstock management.

Thank you for your time.

Warmest regards

Phillip Manske


Phillip...it's a pleasure. Good Luck!

Bill


-----------------------------------------------------------------------
:(

I have one more message in the works but I think that too will confirm what was posted. I'm going to follow up anyway but with much less enthusiasm. If you'll look at my blog, you'll see the kinds of stuff I do. The 4th picture has a tank in the bottom where I used to keep turtles. Turtles eat all day and they poop all day and the algae grew very quickly in that tank. http://newfarming.blogspot.com/ I will revisit that in the future, Florida soft shells are the turtles that the Chinese buy so I would likely use those instead of red ear sliders. Turtles eat like piranhas, I could put a large slab of meat in and they would eat until its gone.

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Oilgae does not guarantee the safety or suitability of links posted in forum message.
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I'm not an algae guy per se, i'd like to have a farm but Americans are too fat already and don't need more food. This results in a real bad operating environment where farmers have to do things like hire illegal immigrants and obtain slave labor to make the farms work. Why not grow biodigester bacteria to make gas to sell to the utilities? They sign 15 year multiyear agreements and the money is pretty good.

This winter I'll work on solar heater digesters since the digestion process needs a constant 95F to function. Heat is hard to come by and the xfer equipment is all copper and thats expensive too. Solar can be complimented by traditional boiler heat.

The average digester plant costs $750,000 - $1 million and I'll see if it can be done cheaper and then I may get a farm animal rendering plant to just process dairy carcasses in the digester. There are many parts of the animal that can be used but for this you just need to skin, chop the carcass into bits, boil the chop to differentiate the oil and meat and bone, digest the oil or use it for biodiesel and then make MBM meat-bone-meal to burn in the boiler furnace.

Good luck and thank you for listening.

P
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