We are looking for Europeans of different nationalities that can speak about the refugee invasion in your country and how this REALLY is affecting you. Are you in Hungary, Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Austria or another country being heavily invaded? Please reach out: views@redicecreations.com or @rediceradio We want to speak with you!

Is Algae the Biofuel of the Future?
2009-11-18 0:00

By Katie Howell | ScientificAmerican.com

There are some signs that the algae-based fuel industry might be ready to bloom.

One of the nascent industry's biggest and most well-heeled players, Sapphire Energy, announced last week that it would be producing 1 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel a year by 2011, double its initial estimates.

The La Jolla, Calif.-based company – with big-name backers like Bill Gates and the Rockefeller family – says it will be producing more than 100 million gallons a year by 2018 and 1 billion gallons a year by 2020 – enough to meet almost 3 percent of the U.S. renewable fuel standard (RFS) of 36 billion gallons.

But there's a hitch: Federal law makes no room for algae-based fuel in the RFS. The 2007 energy law caps corn ethanol production at 15 billion gallons a year by 2015 and has the remaining 21 billion gallons of renewable fuels coming from advanced biofuels, including 17 billion gallons from cellulosic biofuels and biodiesel.

"There needs to be policy work done to incorporate these new concepts like algae, which is an organism that actually consumes large amounts of carbon in the process of creating a liquid transportation fuel," said Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs at Sapphire.

Sapphire is working to get lipids(oils) from various strains of algae, which would then be fed directly into the current refining cycle, as any other crude product. Source

Algae-based fuel producers use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to convert carbon dioxide into sugar, which the algae metabolize into lipids, or oil. The industry says it can do so using non-potable water and without converting more forests into farm fields – thus addressing major criticisms of corn- and soy-based biofuels.

Sapphire says its technology is unique because it produces a fuel that can be used with existing U.S. pipelines, refineries, cars, trucks and airplanes. "We are 100 percent convinced that the only way to address climate and energy security is to use the same infrastructure we already have," Zenk said.

Zenk said his company is supported by major oil companies. Its newly appointed president, C.J. Warner, is a 10-year BP executive.

"They really like us because we're providing them with what they do today, which is refining crude oil," Zenk said. "It's not ethanol, it's not biodiesel. It has the same molecules as gas, diesel or jet fuels."

The company's jet fuel was tested earlier this year by two of three airlines testing the commercial use of algae-based fuels in flight. Continental Airlines reported that the Boeing 737-800 test flight on Jan. 7 was successful. That test was the first commercial airline test of algae-based biofuel.

"Continental's primary role in the demonstration was to show that the biofuel blend would perform just like traditional jet fuel in our existing aircraft without modification of the engines or the aircraft," said Holden Shannon, Continental's senior vice president for global research and security, during a congressional hearing last month. "This is important because ... the current engine and airframe technology is unlikely to change materially for many years, so it is crucial that alternative fuel be safe for use with the current aircraft technology."

Zenk said the test flight showed that algae fuel gets better mileage than petroleum-based jet fuel. "We noticed a 4 percent increase in energy density in the fuels because of the lower-burning temperatures in the engine itself, which resulted in greater fuel mileage," he said.

But more work needs to be done. Both Zenk and Shannon noted the long certification process to approve jet fuels for commercial aviation. Still, the airline industry thinks it could be using biofuels in its flights on a large scale within three to five years. And Sapphire said its "drop in" transportation fuels – jet fuel, gasoline and diesel – will be ready for commercial deployment in three years.

"Fuel from algae is not just a laboratory experiment or something to speculate on for years to come," said Brian Goodall, Sapphire's vice president of downstream technology, in a statement. "We've worked tirelessly, and the technology is ready now."

Indeed, creating fuel from algae is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Petroleum crude oil used today to create gasoline, jet fuel, plastics and other substances was once pond scum – albeit 500 million years ago.

At that time, the Earth's atmosphere contained 18 times more carbon dioxide than it does today, which resulted in a giant algal bloom. The algae grew over a period of 100 million years and then died. After time, temperature and pressure worked their magic, and that algae became the crude oil extracted today from the Rocky Mountain West and other reservoirs around the world.

"Once we figured this all out and applied modern biology to it – genetics, genetic engineering, molecular biology – it allowed us to think creatively about how to speed up the evolution of that product, that commodity that we value today, by about 500 million years," Zenk said.

Packed with carbon

Another major benefit of algae as a fuel feedstock is its massive consumption of carbon dioxide.

In the Sapphire process, 1 kilogram of algae biomass uses 1.8 kilograms of CO2. About 50 percent of that algal biomass is oil, so the production of each gallon of oil consumes 13 to 14 kilograms of the greenhouse gas, Zenk said.

"You can see, it's just completely packed full of that stuff," Zenk said. "That's what makes it one of the most unique plants on planet Earth for consumption of carbon."


Read the full article at: ScientificAmerican.com

Related Articles
Sapphire Energy
15 Algae Biofuels Startups to Watch
Craig Venter: Programming algae to pump out oil
Scientists have a new way to reshape nature, but none can predict the cost
New Energy News: Hawaiian Marine Algae
GreenFuel Technologies
Bill Gates Invests in Algae (2008)

Latest News from our Front Page

German Schoolchildren will Cook and Clean for “Refugees” as Part of Work Experience
2015-10-13 0:44
Schoolchildren from an undisclosed school in the city of Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, will spend a week doing housework for so-called “refugees”. Unknown Object. The idea was sold to parents at a parents’ meeting as a “practical internship“, but has sparked outrage online. A letter to the parents said their children will be going to “refugee” accommodations and will be making beds, sorting clothes, and ...
MTV: Saying "No Can Do" Or "Long Time No See" Is Racist
2015-10-12 23:04
Harmless terms have offensive origins, asserts Franchesca Ramsey According to MTV News, using the phrases “long time no see,” “peanut gallery” and “no can do” is offensive because the terms have “racist beginnings.” Host Franchesca Ramsey begins by claiming that the term “peanut gallery” is offensive because it was once the place where black people were “forced” to sit at the theater ...
Migrants Dump Garbage from Their Balconies at German Asylum Center
2015-10-12 23:35
German authorities expect up to 1.5 million asylum seekers to arrive in Germany this year – up from 750,000 last month. So they can expect more of this– Migrants Dump Garbage from their Balconies : Augsburg Asylum Center, Germany In a recent poll, the number of “frightened” Germans jumped from 38% to 51% in three weeks. Muslim Statistics reported, via Religion of Peace: The latest ...
US Paradrops 50 Tons Of Ammo To Syrian Rebels
2015-10-12 22:32
As we noted over the weekend, the US has now thrown in the towel on the ill-fated (and that’s putting it lightly) strategy of training Syrian fighters and sending them into battle only to be captured and killed by other Syrian fighters who the US also trained.  The Pentagon’s effort to recruit 5,400 properly “vetted” anti-ISIS rebels by the end of ...
Migrant Crisis stand-up routine - Sam Hyde
2015-10-10 18:07
YouTube description: "Migrant" "Crisis" AKA Muslim Road Trip. Hundreds of thousands of astronauts, doctors, sciencemen, and peaceful clock inventors descend upon the countries with the most collective guilt and free stuff. This was pretty good man... I wasn't expecting this reaction from the same Boston college audience who so thoroughly disapproved of my 'Mike Brown' routine. I think the invasion of ...
More News »