Category: Biofuels


Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — announced the relaunching of the Congressional Algae Caucus last week. This caucus aims to provide a forum to foster Congressional awareness of the enormous potential now being uncovered in tiny algae plant cells.

Representative Salmon commented: “In my own state we are already seeing the economic development that is possible from a thriving algae sector, from jobs to research and development. High tech jobs will help grow our economy and through this caucus, I hope to draw attention to the great economic and environmental benefits of algae production.”

Representative Peters stated, “My hope is that the Algae Caucus is a place for bipartisan discussion on how to diversify our energy policy, while also informing members of Congress about the jobs and partnerships the algae industry is creating, including at the University of California San Diego with the new California Center for Algae Biotechnology.”

Additional members of the bipartisan Congressional Algae Caucus include: Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Tom Latham (R-IA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN) , Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Hats off to them!

The algae biofuels market is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2015. Algae also offers additional applications in the food, green chemicals and plastics industries. Algae grows faster and requires fewer resources than other biologically based feedstocks.

My favorite application for algae is its use to clean up wastewater and then used the converted and harvested biomass as an energy source. But there are some really great new developments in algae biofuels that deserve special mention.

For example, the Green Crude Farm in New Mexico is now operational, refining algae into crude oil for transportation. Sapphire Energy raised about $300 million in public and private backing for the project.  Its Series C round was reported to be one of the largest venture capital deals in 2012.

The commercial success of its algae-based crude has enabled Sapphire to pay off the entire $54.5 million in federal loan guarantees the comapny obtained in 2009 from the Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by the USDA Rural Development-Cooperative Service. “The investments being made in low-carbon biofuel production are paying off and moving technologies forward, which will produce savings at the pump for consumers, and spur sustainable, new-wealth creation here in the United States, and make our land more productive,” says Doug O’Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Commercial airlines are also now testing and running on fuels that include Solazyme’s algae-based fuel. Solazyme is reportedly the first publicly-traded algae company (Nasdaq: SZYM). The company has signed a $120 million loan agreement with joint venture partner Bunge for a loan from the Brazilian National Development Bank. That loan will be used It will  be used to develop the first commercial-scale renewable oil production facility in Brazil.

The high yield per acre (up to 5,000 gallons of renewable oil per year on a single acre) and minimal environmental impact of algae biofuels make them one of the most viable and attractive biofuels on the market today.

More information:

http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/9613/congressional-caucus-formed-to-support-algae-industry

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/25109

http://news.thomasnet.com/companystory/House-Members-Commended-on-Congressional-Algae-Caucus-re-launch-20016613

Algae power from muni waste!

Wanted to tell you all about a great company called Algae Systems.

Here’s a little summary from their website:

Algae Systems takes sewage from cities and feeds it to living algae, creating fuels, fertilizers and clean water, while removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the process. In just three years, our fuels will be cost competitive with oil. At scale, our fuels could replace fossil fuels within a generation.

from:

http://algaesystems.com/

This company;s containment systems for treated municipal wastewater are stationed out at sea, so they don’t take up valuable land. The algae consumes the biomass using CO2 from the air or from point sources.   Not only do these systems consume greenhouse gasses, they produce aviation and cargo fuels, as well as biochar (a charcoal product used for soil improvement), and leave clean water behind.

That’s a win-win-win! Check it out!

Midwest Rural Energy Council

From the Midwest Rural Energy Council’s website:

Anaerobic digesters convert the energy stored in organic materials present in manure into biogas.  Biogas can be fed directly into a gas-fired combustion turbine.  The type of turbine most often used for small-scale electricity production is the microturbine.  Combustion of biogas converts the energy stored in the bonds of the molecules of the methane contained in the biogas into mechanical energy as it spins a turbine.  The mechanical energy produced by biogas combustion in an engine or microturbine spins a turbine that produces a stream of electrons, or, electricity.  In addition, waste heat from these engines can provide heating or hot water for use on farm.

As a fuel, biogas composed of 65% methane yields about 650 Btu per cubic foot.  Often used when designing systems for the anaerobic digestion of manure, these energy estimates can predict the amount of power production per animal.  General estimates predict one kilowatt of electricity production requires five to eight dairy cows.

Lots more good information:

http://www.mrec.org/anaerobicdigestion.html

Statistics from the American Biogas Council

  • Over 150 anaerobic digesters are operating on farms in the U.S. (www.epa.gov/agstar), primarily at dairies and some hog farms. Farm digesters reduce odors associated with manure, as well as pathogens. In addition to generating electricity, heat from gas engines is captured and utilized in farm operations. Many farms also are accepting food waste streams from area generators, which provides a revenue stream and boosts biogas production.
  • More than 1,500 municipal wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters to process the solids stream. Increasingly, these treatment plants are capturing the biogas to offset electricity and natural gas use, savings that go directly to the cities’ bottom line. A handful of facilities are being designed in the U.S. to process organics such as food waste and yard trimmings from the municipal solid waste stream. In September, construction of the first facility got underway in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

More:

http://www.americanbiogascouncil.org/biogas_benefits.asp

Panda power!

Turns out that the Panda Bear’s intestinal tract harbors bacteria which allow them to digest bamboo and other tough grasses. Scientists are working on cultivating the bacteria to help break down plant materials that are resistant to anaerobic digestion, for use in producing biofuels.

For more information:

http://denver.cbslocal.com/2011/08/30/panda-poop-could-by-key-to-producing-biofuels/

Save the Panda Bears and help save the planet!

Bio-oil for asphalt

Source: EurekAlert! via Iowa State University | October 8 2010

It is easy to label cars gas hogs and blame our dependence on foreign oil solely on the internal combustion engine. Yet most cars (my Jeep an exception, of course) need a smooth, flat road to operate on safely. Our roads are made from asphalt, which uses plenty of petroleum itself. Even a 100% electric car powered by solar energy will still punish a road driving over it many millions of times over. Those roads have to be built and maintained, requiring yet more oil. Ending our oil dependence isn’t as easy as some people claim.

However, there might be a solution for our asphalt problem coming from Iowa. Researchers from Iowa State University have come up with a bio-oil made from corn stalks, wood waste, and other bio-mass that could one day replace oil in asphalt.

Researcher Christopher Williams developed the bio-oil, which is made when biomass is superheated in an oxygen-free area. The resulting bio-oil can be mixed with asphalt and replace petroleum. It is also a money saver because it is easier to pave with bio-asphalt, and it doesn’t have to be heated as high to be used. Having briefly done a stint with a paving company, I can speak from personal experience; those machines get hot and extremely unpleasant to be around.

The bio-asphalt is first being tried out on a bike trail being built around Des Moines, Iowa. The mixture will contain just 5% bio-oil to begin with, a humble start that could one day grow to much more. Hopefully this project will have a positive outcome, because it sounds like another small-yet-important step to reducing, and eventually eliminating, our dependence on oil.

Reproduced from: http://gas2.org/2010/10/08/bio-oil-could-replace-petroleum-in-asphalt/

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