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A Growing Market: Algae, Biofuels and Geosynthetics 3

A Growing Market: Algae, Biofuels and Geosynthetics

Geomembrane tubes used for algal growth  
The March 2011 Geosynthetic Institute conference (GRI-24) operated under the theme "Optimizing Sustainability Using Geosynthetics." These papers addressed pavement preservation, the reduction of climate-damaging gases, and much more--including biofuels. Drexel University's Prof. Grace Hsuan, writing with four others, focused on "The Roles Geomembranes in Algae Production at Landfills." The waste management sector, it turns out, could become an important player in algae biofuel production.

Common landfill byproducts, such as leachate, can be used effectively in the production of algal biofuels.

Algal biofuels have enormous potential, but the sector has, to be sure, had trouble getting off the ground. This is to be expected. Algae Industry Magazine's (AIM) 24 April 2011 interview with Joel Butler, CEO of Solix Biosystems, provides some welcomed to-the-point insight for outside into both the promise and obstacles of the sector. In the discussion, for example, Butler notes that primary obstacles concern “the establishment of a viable vertical industry structure on an end-to-end basis--from the development of the advantaged species through cultivation, harvesting, extraction, productization, and distribution."

Hsuan et. al's investigation adds yet more fodder for why greater investment and interest should be moving to this sector. For geosynthetics professionals, the potential interaction between geosynthetic technologies (e.g., geomembrane tubes, covers and floating bags) and bioenergy is great. Geosynthetics can provide dependable, well-tested containment and separation solutions, and these materials can be used well-beyond algae farm production optimization. Separation of solids, for example, can be a boon to bioenergy production at many wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) facilities. Dried sludge from biosolids can generate 6,000 Btus. If separated out, WWTP biosolids involve many other energy-producing elements: grit, 4,000 Btus; screenings, 9,000 Btus; grease, 16,000 Btus (which is more than gasoline).

For algae production, municipal solid waste can provide dependable feedstocks for the production of biodiesel. This would be another advance for the waste management sector too, which has already established itself as a major energy player with the capture and conversion of waste cell methane into power and the installation of solar farms atop closed landfill cells.


The Algal Biomass Organization is now accepting abstracts for speaking opportunities in breakout or panel sessions and poster presentations for the 2011 Algae Biomass Summit. The summit will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in October 2011. Abstracts are welcomed through May 30, 2011.

The interest in the biomass potential of algae continues to swell. The European Society of Microalgal Biotechnology (ESMB), the German DLG e.V. (German Agricultural Society) and DLG BENELUX from the Netherlands have agreed to organize the 5th International Algae Conference, to be held 1-2 December 2011 in Berlin, Germany. The event will primarily focus on biomass potential and the various industries that can benefit from it.


More articles are forthcoming on Geosynthetica. We welcome your project and technology insight. Contact Chris Kelsey at chris@geosynthetica.net.
The Geosynthetic Institute (GSI) website: www.geosynthetic-institute.org
Algae Industry Magazine: www.algaeindustrymagazine.com
Chris Kelsey is the editor of Geosynthetica.

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Tue May 03 2011 08:46:17 AM by Tomcatino 1781 views
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