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Algae as a Biofuel

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Daniel Lessenden

on 5 May 2015

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Transcript of Algae as a Biofuel

Algae as a Biofuel
Daniel Lessenden
Future Goals
Research on Algae
Colby Ketron
Algae Production and Processing
Feasibility of Algae as Bio-fuel
Decrease the price of algae biocrude to comparable rates of petroleum-based fuels
in 2012 $9.28 per gallon
in 2014 $7.50
By 2019 $5.00
2030 $3.00 and under


1) enhanced growth characteristics and productivity

2) Better Energy Return on Investment

3) The use of waste-waters to cultivate algae

Research and development
Enhanced Growth
Cultivation & Harvesting Techniques
Extraction and Conversion
Closing the Gap
Quick overview:
Closing the Gap
on $3 per gallon
1) Increasing growth rate from 25g per square meter to 30g

2) Increasing lipid content from 25% to 50%

3) Cut extraction cost by 50%

4) Cut harvesting by 50%

5) Sell lipid extracted algae residual biomass for $500 per ton
U.S. consumes 140 billion gallons/year of liquid fuel

Algae can produce 8,000 gallons/acre/year

180 million acres would be needed to reach this fuel requirement

In 2008, the U.S. had 90 million acres of corn
And at max photosynthetic yields 4 times that amount!
New Strain Development
Harvesting and Cultivation
Keenan Behee
Robert Moore
Advantages of Algae
Very fast growth rate

Low environmental impact

- Can be grown on non - arable land
- Waste can be reused
- Does not require pesticides
- CO2 mitigation

High oil yield
High energy inputs -->> low EROI
Current Bottlenecks


Wastewater treatment ponds

Low cost, low yeild
Very low GHG emissions
Not viable for large scale
Raceway ponds
Low cost
Prone to contamination
High yields possible
Highest yield, controllable environment
Very high capital, operating costs
Sedimentation tanks

Dissolved Air Flotation, DAF

Suspended Air Flotation, SAF

Electrocoagulation and Electroflotation

Belt Filter Press



Hydrothermal Liquefaction


Biogas from Anearobic Digestion
- 46 MJ/Kg, 6.67:1 energy balance
- 41 MJ/Kg
CO Availability
Constraints considered:
Point sources
Unused, non-arable land
Slope of land
Minimum land area
Distance from point source

Algae can provide 4.4% of DOE30 goal
Wastewater treatment ponds w/ anaerobic digestion

Raceway ponds using wastewater

Algae cultivation joined w/ power plants, other bio fuel refineries

Biogas/Ethanol from biomass residues

2) Better Energy Return on Investment:

R &D
Ultrasound technology to harvest

Cross-flow membrane filtration

Electrocoagulation or electrolytic aggregation
Growing algae with lower cost inputs

Boost yield and drop energy costs

Improvement in temperature management
NASA to the rescue!
A new offshore cultivation system

Biomass production without competition with agriculture land use

wastewater treatment

carbon-dioxide captured
Algae Farming Has Great Potential
Does not require much land like traditional crops do.
Not much nutrients are needed for growth. (CO2, sunlight, water, and a few inorganic nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, silica and iron.
Researchers predict algae will eclipse all other biofuel crops.
Could algal biofuel be the future?
Benefits from the system include:
Perhaps the biggest cost saver is the HTL-CHG process










HydroThermal Liquefaction-Catalytic Hydrothermal Gasification
Wet algal is fed to HTL system. Bio-oil and waste water are created and separate without need for solvent extraction. Then, the bio-oil can be upgraded to hydrocarbon fuel, while the waste can be further processed via the CHG process to recover additional fuel.
of HTL-CHG processing
1) Capture 85% of Carbon in algae as fuel-grade components

2) Production of bio-oil that can readily be converted to diesel and jet fuel standards

3) Effective waste water treatment

4) Recycling of water and nutrients

5) Significant decrease in capital and operating costs compared to other methods
NASA's cultivation method and HTL-CHG
New Strain
Chlorella 1412
Has a productivity of over 30 grams per square meter per day in the lab.
Grows vigorously in temperatures up to 104 F and in diverse growing conditions
Chlamydomonas Reinhardii
By manipulating this strand a 5-fold increase in biomass and oil yield in the lab
Quinn, Jason C. (2013). Geographical Assessment of Microalgae Biofuels Potential Incorporating Resource Availability. Bioenergy Research, 6 (2), 591-600.

Amaro, Helena M.; Macedo, Angela C.; Malcata, F. Xavier. (2012). Microalgae: An alternative as sustainable source of biofuels? Energy, 44 (1), 58-166.

Lam, Man Kee; Lee, Keat Teong. (2012). Microalgae biofuels: A critical review of issues, problems and the way forward. Biotechnology Advances, 30 (3), 673-690.

Wiley, Patrick E. (2011). Production of Biodiesel and Biogas from Algae: A Review of Process Train Options. Water Environment, 83 (4), 326-338.

Brennan, L; Owende, P (2010). Biofuels from microalgae—A review of technologies for production, processing, and extractions of biofuels and co-products. Renewable and Suinable Energy Reviews, 14, 557-577.


By exploring the productivity of different genes, it is hoped, that genetically modified algae could be highly productive and produce great biomass and oil yields.
One acre can produce 5,000 gallons of biodiesel per year!
This method growing algae uses an algae photobioreactor within a floating enclosure.
Algae is grown to produce multiple products (including biofuel) while, wastewater is cleaned, and CO2 is captured. The system is made to float offshore with ocean water providing the infrastructure, cooling, and mixing via waves. It also can be used with nutrient-rich wastewater and a source of CO2 to promote algae growth
In 1942 it was proposed that algae could be used as a source of lipids for food or fuel.

After World War II, research began in the US,Germany, Japan, England,and Israel on culturing techniques and engineering systems for growing microalgae on larger scales.

A drastic push of using algae to produce hydrogen and methane was initiated during the 70's energy crisis.

1980-1996 Aquatic Species Program (ASP) was supported with goals of producing oil from microalgae

Currently, U.S. is the leader in advancing algae-based fuels.

More than 100 corporations involved in algae research and production (billions $ invested by U.S. Government).
Importance of an Alternative
Algae Farming
There are over 8,000 different species of algae presently known.
Producing goods, light, heat, transportation etc. all require the use of fossil fuels
With a growing population and economy, the demand for fuels will drastically increase.
Oil deposits will be gone by 2052
Gas by 2060
Coal by 2088 (predicted)
Research is still being conducted to discover which species produce the greatest oil yields.
Discovering more suitable types of algae as well as technological advances could result in yields over 5,000 gallons of oil per acre per year.

Experts believe that algae is the "cheapest, easiest, and most environmentally friendly way to produce liquid fuel".
Algae is expected to produce more gallons/year than all other alternatives combined (corn, sugar, switchgrass,etc.)
Algae capable of producing 5,000 gallons of biodiesel/acre/year
Corn 420 gallons of ethanol/acre/year
Soybeans 70 gallons of biodiesel/acre/year
As fossil fuel supplies continue to diminish, algae farming has become a topic of increasing interest and importance, but still has much room for improvement.
Why Algae!!?
Fast Growing
High Biofuel Yields
Consume CO2
No competition with Agriculture
Multiple uses (fuel, feed, food)
Grown in Sea
Can Purify Wastewaters (sewage)
Used as energy source
Other types of production (plastics, lube, fertilizer, cosmetics, etc.)
Create Jobs (220,000 by 2020)
Algae Farming Cont.
Facilities in different areas will have to consider many factors.
Certain species of algae produce more sugars rather than oils.
Some algae species grow best at different temperatures. Different countries may benefit from cultivating different algae.
Algae farms show promise in the desert where sunlight is more available, temperatures do not fluctuate as drastically, and land has little viable use.
Open Pond Systems
Most common process used to cultivate algae.
Usually around 1 foot deep to allow adequate sunlight and efficient harvesting.
Paddle wheels are used to circulate the pool.
Typically a fraction of the algae is harvested daily.
University Involvement
After being harvested, the algae is then concentrated and sent to be processed.
Specialized equipment and chemical methods extract the energy rich oils.
Various means of extraction can be used. (Solvents, osmotic shock, enzymatic extraction, expeller press, ultrasonic-assisted extraction, etc.
To date, there are over 25 universities with algal biofuel programs

For example: Arizona State project involves developing bacteria (aquatic) and algae as sources of fuel produced by solar energy conversion.

ASU research grants alone have reached over $25 million (2008-present)
Some Main Extraction Processes Defined
Enzymatic extraction uses enzymes to degrade the algae walls while water acts as a solvent.
Osmotic shock is a sudden reduction in the solute concentration surrounding a cell, which relocates water across the cell membrane.
Lesser Known Methods
An expeller press is a screw-type machine that grinds and presses substances, helping to release oils from the algae.
Sometimes paired use with solvents.
Ultrasonic-assisted extraction directs sound waves into the algae which creates alternating high and low pressures within the cells. Bubbles form in the cells and begin to implode, destroying the cell.
Closed System Photobioreactors
Photobioreactors are a more expensive alternative to open pond systems.
PBRs provide an increase in control over conditions such as light, temperature, and also helps prevent invasion of other organisms. (Weed algae, zooplankton grazers, other organisms that can hinder growth.)

An open pond system
Coons, James, et al. (Aug. 2014). Getting low-cost algal biofuels: A monograph on conventional and cutting-edge harvesting and extraction technologies. Algal Research, 6 (B).

Jones, Carla S & Mayfield, Stephan P (June 2012). Algae Biofuels: Versatility for the Future of Bioenergy. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 23 (3).

Lane, Jim (Feb. 22 2015). Algae Liquefaction. Biofuels Digest.

Lane, Jim (Oct. 2014). Where are we with algae biofuels? Biofuels Digest.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2015). Technology Opportunity. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/ames-partnerships/technology/technology-opportunity-algae-photobioreactor-using-floating-enclosures-with-semi-permeable/#.VUGr4_nF-KU

National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts. (2015). NAABB Final Report. Retrieved from http://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/downloads/national-alliance-advanced-biofuels-and-bioproducts-synopsis-naabb-final

Schwartz, David (July 2013). Interview with NAAB’s Jose Olivares. Algae Industry Magazine.

Higher Biomass and Energy productivity
95% recovery of algae, with using only a quarter of the energy
PBRs Cont.
1. The algae flow from the feeding vessel and into the diaphragm pump which controls the amount of algae that goes into the tube. A CO2 inlet valve is integrated into the pump.

2. Specialized tubes made of acrylic are designed to have light and dark intervals which enhance the growth rate of the algae.

3. A built in cleaning system ensures that the tubes remain clean without stopping production.

4. When the algae are ready for harvesting they pass through a filtering system that collects processable algae, while allowing the remaining algae to pass back through the feeding vessel.
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