Tag-Archive for » algae «

terça-feira, janeiro 12th, 2010 | Author: admin

A specific protein that plays a critical role in eliminating excess absorbed light in algae has been discovered, which has important implications for agriculture and biofuels.

Graham Peers from the University of California – working with researchers from Germany’s University of Münster – used a mutant strain of the single-celled green alga Chlamydomonas reinhartdii to show LHCSR, a protein from the light harvesting family, acts as a safety valve to dissipate excess absorbed light energy before it can wreak havoc in cells.  Researchers exposed a mutant algae lacking in LHCSR to fluctuating light conditions to show that it suffered greatly.
“Photosynthetic organisms must be able to manage absorbed light energy, and the LHCSR proteins appear to be critical for algae to eliminate absorbed light energy as heat as light levels in the environment fluctuate, becoming potentially toxic,” said Arthur Grossman, study co-author from Carnegie Institute’s Department of Plant Biology, where the alga was originally isolated.
Grossman says it’s important to understand how the environment has shaped the evolution of photosynthetic machinery - some have evolved in the desert to withstand high light and temperature environments, while other have adapted to alpine environments with high light and low temperatures.  He says it opens the possibility of introducing these mechanisms into plants to allow them to better manage absorbed light energy and to survive harsher conditions, which has many benefits for agriculture.
Algae can be used to generate biofuels, with the suggestion that it could be cultivated in deserts where solar input can be extremely high.  Grossman said: “If we are going to attempt this, we have to make sure that we use the right algae that can thrive and produce oil at high levels under harsh conditions.” He noted that although there are many challenges associated with producing such a robust, commercially viable strain, it may be possible to tailor features of the photosynthetic machinery to let algae use light more efficiently.

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sexta-feira, outubro 16th, 2009 | Author: admin

Renewed World Energies Corp. (RWE) has begun work on a five-acre site to turn algae biomass into green diesel and electricity at Georgetown, S.C., with a goal of being in production by late 2010. Between three and four acres of photobioreactors are planned to produce algae-based fuels to generate electrical energy. “The quickest way for generating revenues is in producing electricity,” said Rick Armstrong, co-founder of RWE. He and fellow co-founder Tim Tompkins unveiled their system at the Algae Biomass Summit in San Diego, Calif., the first week of October.
Armstrong and Tompkins applied their experience in automation and process control to develop what they believe will be a cost-effective photobioreactor. Armstrong said their projections show a 12.8 percent return on investment for a 1.6 megawatt (MW) unit, while a larger 5 MW system should provide a return on investment closer to 15 percent. An individual photobioreactor panel measures 4 feet wide by 6 feet high by 3 inches thick, with 550 panels contained in one cell and five to six cells covering an acre of land.
The process utilizes automated harvesting, reducing the moisture content in a prescreening process to about 20 percent, before being pumped to a final screen and dried further if necessary prior to processing. The estimated yield per acre is between 95 and 125 tons of dried biomass per year, according to Armstrong.
RWE plans to use the algae produced at its Georgetown facility to fuel a green diesel biomass refinery under order from Unified Fuels. The catalyzed gasification unit has four products—the greatest proportion being a liquid green diesel, a smaller proportion of green gasoline, non-condensable gases dominated by methane and ash. RWE’s facility will include two 800 kilowatt generators, one a natural gas generator modified to burn the methane and the other a reciprocating engine to burn the green diesel. The generator exhaust will be recycled through the system. Negotiations for a purchase power agreement are nearing completion with the regional utility, Santee-Cooper Electric, Armstrong added.
One of the goals of the design, Tompkins added, was to build a system that could be adjusted to create the optimal conditions for any strain of algae. “We found there has not been a lot of work done on the automation and process control side of photobioreactors,” Armstrong added. While the cost of a photobioreactor is higher than an open pond system, he said that is offset by an increase in yields from being able to control the environment, plus the ability to contain the greenhouse gases (GHG) being used as algae nutrients. Target markets for the system are electrical utilities and industries with emissions that could fuel the algae system, reducing GHG emissions while generating additional power and biofuels.
A group of investors backed the development of the project through the prototype stage, with another round of fundraising ongoing now. “It hasn’t been as successful as I’d like it to be,” Armstrong said. “We’ve had enough to continue working. We’ve been very frugal. We’ve spent less than $4 million so far.” The company is working on a joint venture to build a second system similar to the South Carolina facility with Southland Renewable Fuels LLC, Paducah, Ky.

Biodiesel Magazine

domingo, setembro 13th, 2009 | Author: admin

The US Department of Defence has signed a contract with US-based biofuel producer Solazyme to research, develop and demonstrate commercial scale production of biofuel using algae as feedstock.
The biofuel has to meet the US Navy’s rigorous specifications for military tactical platforms. Solazyme will use its algal oil production process to provide renewable F-76 Naval Distillate fuel for testing and fuel certification to demonstrate it meets all military specifications and functional requirements.
According to Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solazyme, the algae-based fuels will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 85%. Solazyme will deliver over 20,000 gallons of fuel to the Navy for compatibility testing over the next year. This program will lead to the eventual certification of Soladiesel F-76 Naval distillate for commercial sale to the U.S. Military.

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quinta-feira, agosto 27th, 2009 | Author: admin

With traditional biofuels under fire for driving up food prices and wreaking environmental havoc, industrialists are stepping up research into algae as a sustainable alternative - but many obstacles remain before algae oil finds its way into our cars and planes.

In December 2008, the EU struck a deal to satisfy 10% of its transport fuel needs from renewable sources, including biofuels, hydrogen and green electricity, as part of negotiations on its energy and climate package.
“The mandatory 10% target for transport to be achieved by all member states should […] be defined as that share of final energy consumed in transport which is to be achieved from renewable sources as a whole, and not from biofuels alone,” says the final text of the EU Renewables Directive.
The new directive obliges the bloc to ensure that biofuels offer at least 35% carbon emission savings compared to fossil fuels. The figure rises to 50% as of 2017 and 60% as of 2018.
The conditionality is linked to increasing concerns about the sustainability of the so-called first-generation biofuels currently available - such as biodiesel and bioethanol - which are made from agricultural crops (including corn, sugar beet, palm oil and rapeseed).
The directive also states that the EU should take steps to promote “the development of second and third-generation biofuels in the Community and worldwide, and to strengthen agricultural research and knowledge creation in those areas”.

Second-generation biofuels facing challenges

With ethanol and biodiesel coming under fire for driving up food prices and putting biodiversity at risk, the EU has committed to ’second-generation’ biofuels as a cleaner alternative.
Second-generation biofuels are made from ligno-cellulosic biomass - the “woody” part of plants - that do not compete with food production. Sources include residues from crop and forest harvest such as leaves, tree bark, straw or woodchips as well as the non-edible portions of corn or cane.
However, converting the woody biomass into liquid sugars requires costly technologies involving pre-treatment and fermentation with special enzymes, meaning that second-generation biofuels cannot yet be produced economically on a large scale.
“It is unlikely that second-generation biofuels will be competitive with first generation by 2020,” said the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in a 2008 study. And if they do, they will use largely imported biomass anyway, the JRC added, as latest studies indicate there will not be enough wood available to meet energy needs while continuing to supply Europe’s existing wood industries.

Algae: High yields, no competition for land
To overcome these problems, some start-ups have now turned to so-called third-generation biofuels.
The United States Department of Energy (DoE) defines those as crops “designed exclusively for fuel production” such as perennial grasses, fast-growing trees and algae. These plants are not normally cultivated for agro-alimentary uses and have a particularly high percentage of biomass, it says.
Chief among those are algae. They are considered the most efficient organisms on earth, because of their rapid growth rate (some species can double their biomass in a day) and their high oil content.
Research into algae for the mass-production of oil is mainly focused on microalgae or phytoplankton – organisms capable of photosynthesis that are less than 0.4 mm in diameter.
“Algae can produce more biomass and more biofuel molecules much more efficiently in time and space than any terrestrial plant,” says Greg Mitchell of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego (UCSD). “For example, algae can produce 100 times more vegetable oil per acre per year than soy beans and 10 times more than oil palm,” he told WIPO Magazine, a publication of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
According to US oil giant ExxonMobil, which recently launched a $600 million research and development project on the issue, algae could yield more than 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year of production (7,580 litres).

Approximate yields for other fuel sources are far lower, it pointed out:

  • palm — 650 gallons per acre per year (2,463 litres).
  • sugar cane — 450 gallons per acre per year (1,705 litres).
  • corn — 250 gallons per acre per year (947 litres).
  • soy — 50 gallons per acre per year (190 litres).

As a consequence, algae need much less land to grow than conventional biofuels, ending the potential for conflict with food production which comes with increased energy crop cultivation.

No need for freshwater
Algae have many other advantages. Aside from better yields, they are able to grow on ocean or wastewater, avoiding tapping into scarce freshwater resources for irrigation.
Algae grow best in seawater, which comes in virtually unlimited supply, says Raffaello Garofalo, executive director at the European Algae Biomass Association (EABA). And the micro-organism seems to be particularly fond of polluted seawater, which helps it grow at exponential rates.
“In all polluted sea places, there is a phenomenon which happens naturally called eutrophisation, which means there is an over-growth of algae,” says Garofalo. “Precisely because pollution brings excess nutrients to the algae and therefore they grow exponentially.”
The idea, he says, is to feed polluted water to the algae via transparent plastic tubes which industry specialists call photo-bioreactors. The algae absorb the pollution as a nutrient, and the water can then be returned back to the sea cleaner than when it entered, he explains. In the meantime, the algae have grown into biomass, which can be used for biofuels.
As a result, algae can be grown on so-called marginal lands, such as in desert areas where the groundwater is saline. Besides, they can feed on waste nutrients, including polluted water produced by the oil and gas industries.

Carbon ‘recycling’
In addition, microalgae have proved to grow more quickly when fed with carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas. When injected into a photo-bioreactor, the CO2 helps the plant grow faster while at the same time providing a way of “recycling” the CO2.
If algae plants are fitted next to factories or power stations, this could even open prospects for reducing emissions from industry.
“You could for example put algae next to a cement plant or a thermo-electric plant and you inject the carbon coming out of the plant in the bioreactor,” Garofalo explains. “This means that the CO2, instead of coming out of the chimney, goes into the bioreactor to produce algae, which is burnt a second time as a fuel and then only goes into the atmosphere. So the same CO2 can be re-used twice.”
In Arizona, GreenFuel, a private company, has developed a large-scale algae-to-biofuel plant, which uses CO2 emissions from a nearby power plant, the Arizona Public Service Redhawk power facility. The facility, which opened in 2005, won the 2006 Platts Emissions Energy Project of the Year Award.

Cost the main challenge

However, a number of challenges remain before algae can reach mainstream commercial applications, with uncertainties about cost the greatest obstacle.
Various algae species typically cost between US$5–10 per kg dry weight, according to US reports, with further research looking into ways of reducing capital and operating costs to make algae oil production commercially viable.
Bernard Raemy, executive vice-president at the Carbon Capture Corporation (CCC), a US-based company which claims to be a leader in the nascent algae-based biofuel industry, acknowledges that algae face a string of challenges. Speaking to WIPO Magazine, Raemy said these include “algae harvesting, dewatering, drying, lipid extraction and conversion”. “Coordinated research efforts are required to bring research from the lab to the field,” he said.

Research challenge: bringing costs down

In the United States, several R&D activities have taken place since the 1950s. The largest was the Aquatic Species Programme, launched in 1978 by the US Department of Energy (DOE). The programme focused on finding the best strains which produce the highest yield and have the highest lipid content, while resisting fluctuations in temperature, particularly when cultivated in outdoor ponds.
Over 3,000 strains of microalgae were collected and screened, with the number later narrowed down to 300. However, no single strain was found to be perfect for all kinds of climate or water and the programme was closed in 1996, when US gasoline prices went down to $26/litre.
According to a review by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), outdoor mass production of algae in open ponds faces a number of challenges, including:
* temperature variations, which affects productivity and growth;

* invasion by native microalgae species, which may wipe out the cultivated strain;

* water loss due to evaporation, and;

* lower lipid content of algae produced in ponds.

When cultivated in photo-bioreactors, other issues come up, mainly:
* finding the right type of plastic or glass for the transparent tubes in order to prevent algae from accumulating and obstructing the light;

* the cost of bringing the water via pipelines when algae are grown in desert areas, and;

* high maintenance cost of the installations.

It is therefore still an open question whether algae are best grown in photo-bioreactors or in open ponds. And the economics are a large part of the problem, as widespread mass production of algae for biofuel production is being hampered by the cost of the equipment and structures needed to begin growing algae in large quantities.
“For most algae applications we are still in fundamental research,” says the EABA’s Garofalo. “There is still research in order to identify the algae kinds or families which are most appropriate in order to produce biofuels. There is still research on what is the best bioreactor shape or plastic that is best to do this.”

Harvesting and oil extraction
Then comes the question of how to harvest the plants. “Because algae are micro-organisms of a size ten times smaller than hair, you cannot harvest them with a net for example,” Garofalo says.
Options for harvesting include centrifugation or chemical flocculation, which pushes all the microalgae together, but there are high costs associated with these processes too.
Whatever the species concerned, harvesting algae and extracting the oil from it appears to be “one the most critical steps” in producing algae-based biofuels, according to research foreseen under the European Commission’s FP7 research programme.
The project, called Aquafuels, intends to bring together researchers and industry in order to streamline European algae research in the future.
But with oil prices up again, new research is being carried out with renewed enthusiasm. And genetic modification seems to open entirely new prospects, with new algae strains being tested for their capacity. The US national biofuels action plan, published in October 2008, appears to hedge its bets on genetic engineering: “Third generation feedstocks should be developed to increase drought and stress tolerance; increase fertiliser and water use efficiencies; and provide for efficient conversion,” the plan says.

Environmental impact and energy balance
In addition, open questions still remain about the potential environmental impacts of biodiesel production from microalgae.
A life-cycle assessment of algae biofuels, performed by French scientists at INRA, raised concerns over the environmental impact of the whole process chain, from biomass production to biodiesel combustion.
Their findings, published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in July 2009, confirmed the potential of microalgae as an energy source but also raised doubts about the energy balance of the whole process.
Looking at the energy required for the production of fertilisers and construction of infrastructure buildings, the scientists made a distinction between different algae culture and oil extraction techniques.
The study compared two different culture conditions - nominal fertilising and nitrogen starvation - as well as two different extraction options - dry or wet extraction.
“When taking into account all the energy debt of the process chain, it appears that only the wet extraction on low-nitrogen grown algae has a positive balance,” the scientists write. In comparison, “other scenarios lead to negative energetic balance despite a 100% energy extraction from the oilcake”.
Indeed, the scientists found that 90% of the energy consumed in the production process was dedicated to lipid extraction, compared to 70% with wet extraction. As a result, the energy balance “can be rapidly jeopardised, ending up with a counter-productive production chain,” the scientists warn.
“It is then clear that specific research must investigate new processes in lipid recovering with limited drying of the biomass,” they stress.
In conclusion, the study highlights “the imperative necessity of decreasing the energy and fertiliser consumption of the process”. According to the scientists, the low-nitrogen culture “obviously has lower fertiliser requirements but also implies a lower drying and extraction effort,” making this route more promising.

Future profitability lying outside biofuels
However, selecting the right algae strain and production process is not the only challenge which must be met before algae biomass can hit the commercial mainstream.
According to the European Algae Biomass Association (EABA), the key to future commercial profitability is to understand that there is more to algae than just biofuels production.
“It will never be economically viable to produce biodiesel or bioethanol from algae biomass if we don’t think about the co-products,” says the EABA’s Garofalo. “For instance, when you produce biodiesel, the lipid or the oil part of the algae represents about 25-30% of the product. But what do you do with the remaining 70%? We call it a by-product but actually it is the same product in terms of weight.”
Aside from biofuels and jet fuels, the EABA says other applications include nutrients, pharmaceuticals, animal feed or bio-based products. In all these sectors, the EABA says algae and aquatic biomass hold an outstanding potential to achieve a real revolution towards a fully sustainable economy.

With high oil prices driving the push to find alternatives, oil majors are showing increasing interest in algae fuel.
US oil major ExxonMobil recently launched a $600 million research programme in cooperation with Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) to develop, test, and produce biofuels from photosynthetic algae.
“While significant work and years of research and development still must be completed, if successful, algae-based fuels could help meet the world’s growing demand for transportation fuel while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michael Dolan, senior vice-president of ExxonMobil.
Dolan said research will focus first on testing different strains of algae for their fuel-making potential. Research there can proceed more rapidly than for other crops with longer lifecycles, he said. The second phase will look into the best method for producing algae on a large scale: open pond, closed pond or photo-bioreactor. The last phase will see the development of “small to midsize plants” with a view to scaling up to a commercial module, which Dolan said could be “five to ten years away”.
If successful, bio-oils from photosynthetic algae could be used to manufacture a full range of fuels, including gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, meeting the same specifications as today’s products, ExxonMobil said.
In December 2007, Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell built a research centre in Hawaii to study the commercial viability of selected algae strains. The facility will grow only non-modified, marine microalgae species in open-air ponds using proprietary technology. Shell says algae can double their mass several times a day and produce at least 15 times more oil per hectare than alternatives such as rape, palm soya or jatropha. Some algae species grow so fast that they double their size three or four times in one day, it said, highlighting their potential for large-scale commercial fuel production.
“Algae have great potential as a sustainable feedstock for production of diesel-type fuels with a very small CO2 footprint,” said Graeme Sweeney, Shell executive vice-president for future fuels and CO2. “This demonstration will be an important test of the technology and, critically, of commercial viability.”
UOP, a subsidiary of Honeywell, and Boeing have teamed up with leading airlines to create the Algal Biomass Organisation (ABO), a trade group which aims to test and develop algae fuels for use in aeroplanes.
Air New Zealand, Continental, Virgin Atlantic and Boeing will work together through the new group to push for long-term innovation and investment in algae as an energy form.
By May 2009, Bill Glover, managing director of environmental strategy at Boeing, said the group had concluded four successful test flights using different kinds of biofuel blends, including algae, camelina and jatropha. The international standards board that approves fuels and chemicals could certify the plant-derived biofuels within a year, Glover said, meaning they could be immediately used as a drop-in replacement.
“There is significant interest across multiple sectors in the potential of algae as an energy source and nowhere is that more evident than in aviation,” said Glover, who co-chairs the Algal Biomass Organisation (ABO). “Air transportation is a vital contributor to global economic prosperity, but is being threatened by record rises in fuel costs. Together we recognise that algae have the potential to help offset those fuel costs, while also contributing to improved environmental performance for the aviation industry.”
In a statement, the Algal Biomass Organisation (ABO) said algae fuels can annually deliver up to 2,000-5,000 gallons of fuel per acre of non-arable land, and can be a central part of an overall strategy to reduce oil dependency, without competing with food crops.
Raffaello Garofalo, executive director of the European Algae Biomass Association (EABA), says there are many potential benefits form using algae in biofuels production, particularly because it does not need to compete with land used for food crops.
But he warns against over-enthusiasm for the technology, saying there are still many obstacles before it can be developed on a commercial scale. And he refuses to be drawn into predictions about when the technology could become commercially viable. “It would not be responsible to give you dates,” he told. “What we want to avoid is a kind of Internet bubble where people make speculations about the quantities and prices of microalgae in the future.”
“There is a lot of investment in research and this research is driven by the conviction that economies of scale, improvement in yields and output are achievable. It is a matter of time.”


quarta-feira, agosto 05th, 2009 | Author: admin

A ExxonMobil Corporation anunciou recentemente uma aliança com a Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), empresa de capital fechado do setor de biotecnologia, fundada pelo pioneiro J. Craig Venter, “pai do genoma humano”. A aliança de pesquisa e desenvolvimento com a SG visa pesquisar e desenvolver biocombustíveis de última geração de microalgas fotossintéticas.
O projeto terá investimento de US$ 300 milhões numa primeira fase, e igual quantia numa segunda etapa. “Embora ainda haja trabalho importante e anos de pesquisa e desenvolvimento pela frente, se derem certo, os combustíveis a base de algas podem ajudar a atender à crescente demanda por combustível de transporte e, ao mesmo tempo, reduzir as emissões dos gases do efeito estufa”, disse Michael Dolan, vice-presidente sênior da ExxonMobil.
“Este investimento segue-se a vários anos de planejamento e estudos e é um acréscimo importante às contínuas iniciativas da ExxonMobil para desenvolver tecnologias revolucionárias que ajudem a enfrentar os desafios energéticos do mundo”, disse Emil Jacobs, vice-presidente de pesquisa e desenvolvimento da ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company.
Este projeto de cultivo de microalgas terá dois importantes diferenciais. O primeiro é a produção de hidrocarbonetos e não de triglicerídeos, como ocorre com as oleaginosas e com a maioria das algas.
Venter vem obtendo sucesso em algas modificadas que passam a expelir o óleo gerado internamente. Dessa forma, não haveria colheita de algas, nem muito menos extração do óleo presente dentro da célula de cada alga. Nesses novos organismos, o óleo expelido naturalmente iria para a superfície do meio aquoso de produção, sendo recolhido de forma muito mais barata e eficiente.
Craig chama essa produção em grande escala de biomanufatura e não de “fazendas de algas”. Pequena sutileza semântica que representa uma enorme economia operacional.
As microalgas são, na maioria das vezes, unicelulares, o que dificulta enormemente qualquer filtração ou algo parecido para removê-las da água. Pode-se utilizar aglomerantes, mas isso custo algum dinheiro.
Novo problema: como retirar o óleo de dentro das células? Normalmente elas possuem uma sólida parede celular de celulose que dificulta a penetração de hexano (solvente), bem como a extração mecânica.
De acordo com Venter, esses organismos estariam permanentemente produzindo e expelindo óleo. Nada de colheita, nada de extração. Uma redução significativa nos custos capaz de viabilizar a produção de óleo de algas.
O principal insumo para essas algas seria mesmo o CO2, provavelmente acoplado a algum processo de fermentação ou combustão diretamente conectado ou não ao local de produção de algas. Venter e a Exxon já falam em grandes gasodutos de CO2, transportando o gás carbônico de grandes refinarias e usinas para os locais em áreas devastadas aptos para a produção dessas algas em grande escala.
Sem dúvida, essa propriedade de produzir e expelir qualquer tipo de óleo é um verdadeiro “pulo do gato” na aplicação de algas para biocombustíveis. Mais importante do que aumentar a concentração de óleo nas algas, aumentar a produtividade, ou mesmo a velocidade de crescimento desses organismos.
Nos últimos cinco anos, a ExxonMobil investiu mais de US$ 1,5 bilhão em atividades que melhoram a eficiência energética e reduzem as emissões dos gases do efeito estufa. Entre essas iniciativas incluem-se tecnologias para melhorar a eficiência automobilística, como revestimentos de pneus que mantêm os pneus cheios por mais tempo, óleo de motor avançado para promover a economia de combustível e plásticos automotivos leves.
A empresa também está desenvolvendo pesquisas sobre maior eficiência de motores, desenvolveu uma película separadora mais eficiente para baterias de lítio para carros elétricos híbridos e patrocina pesquisa de vanguarda sobre formas de melhoria da energia solar, de biocombustíveis e de captura e armazenagem de carbono.

Outras petroleiras investem em biocombustíveis

Quase todas as grandes empresas de petróleo, transformadas em empresas de energia, já haviam colocado maior ou menor quantidade de fichas na aposta dos biocombustíveis.
A Petrobras tem sido uma das mais firmes, criando a Petrobras Biocombustíveis (PBio) com atuações no mercado de biodiesel, de etanol de cana e várias pesquisas com etanol de 2ª. geração, inclusive com a UFRJ.
A Shell orgulha-se de ser a maior distribuidora de biocombustíveis da Europa. Sua divisão de tecnologia “Shell Global Solutions” vem atuando em diferentes frentes de produção de biocombustíveis. Seja em parceria com a canadense Iogen, na produção de etanol de celulose, ou com a alemã Choren, em processos BTL (Biomass to Liquids) envolvendo gaseificação de biomassa seguida do processo de “Fischer-Tropsch”.
Parceria similar ocorre entre a Chevron e a empresa de papel e celulose Weyerhaeuser, sempre com universidades de primeira linha no “front” de pesquisa.
A British Petroleum (BP) chega a usar o termo “BP - Beyond Petroleum” anunciando sua disposição em abraçar as energias alternativas. Junto com a Du Pont e universidades americanas, a BP possui projetos de etanol de celulose e também de biobutanol a partir de milho e da cana (o biobutanol possui maior poder calorífico do que o etanol). Algumas parcerias parecem enfrentar problemas.


“O verdadeiro desafio para a criação de um biocombustível de última geração viável está na capacidade de produzi-lo em grandes volumes, o que vai exigir avanços significativos tanto em ciência quanto em engenharia”, disse Venter, diretor executivo da SGI. “A aliança entre a SGI e a ExxonMobil reunirá capacidades complementares e o conhecimento especializado das duas empresas para desenvolver soluções inovadoras que podem levar à produção em larga escala de biocombustível de algas.”
Conhecimentos especializados de ciência e engenharia serão utilizados em todo o programa, desde o desenvolvimento de sistemas para aumentar a escala de produção de algas até a fabricação de combustíveis acabados.
“Depois de um volume considerável de estudos, concluímos que as vantagens e os benefícios potenciais do biocombustível de algas podem ser significativos. Entre outras vantagens, a luz solar e o dióxido de carbono imediatamente disponíveis usados para cultivar algas fotossintéticas podem oferecer benefícios de redução dos gases de efeito estufa”, disse Jacobs. “O cultivo de algas não se baseia em água doce e terra cultivável utilizadas para a produção de alimentos. Por fim, as algas têm o potencial de produzir grandes volumes de óleos que podem ser processados em refinarias já existentes, para fabricar combustíveis compatíveis com a tecnologia e a infra-estrutura de transporte já existentes.”

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quarta-feira, julho 29th, 2009 | Author: admin

New Zealand algae-to-biofuel hopefuls Aquaflow Bionomics and Solray Energy have teamed up to see if they can overcome the challenges that have kept algal biofuels from commercial production to date. The partnership will combine Aquaflow’s methods of harvesting algae grown from wastewater streams and Solray’s process of turning that algae into fuel, the companies said.
Aquaflow’s system of growing algae in open ponds using the effluent in wastewater from sources like sewage plants, food processing facilities and dairy farms could help lower costs. That’s because algae helps clean wastewater, a service companies can be expected to pay for. Seattle startup Blue Marble Energy has a plan to grow algae to treat wastewater and then turn the algae into industrial chemicals, for example.
A similar concept is using the carbon emissions from power plants or factories to grow algae – the plan of, among others, the recently disbanded algae-to-biofuel pioneer GreenFuel Technologies, which is now seeking a buyer of its intellectual property (see Green Light post).
GreenFuel’s demise has brought up a key challenge facing would-be algae biofuel makers, however – how to cut the costs of actually getting the algae harvested and turned into fuel.
Using open ponds, rather than enclosed “bioreactors” as GreenFuel had done, could be more cost effective, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Aquatic Species Program, one of the earliest research efforts into algae biofuels that ended in 1998.
On the other hand, proponents of closed systems for growing algae say they’ve found ways to surmount the challenges noted in that report
Startup Algenol says it’s gotten around the harvesting challenge with a process that allows for algae-made ethanol to be extracted without killing the algae. It’s building a test plant at a Dow Chemicals site in Texas.
Despite the challenges – or perhaps because of them – money continues to pour into algae-to-biofuel research and commercialization efforts.
Solazyme last month raised $57 million to push commercialization of its unusual process of growing algae in the dark and feeding it industrial and biomass byproducts.
Oil giant Exxon made a big splash earlier this month when it promised $300 million in a algae biofuel research partnership with J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics, as well as $300 more in in-house research.
As for Aquaflow, it already has a relationship with Honeywell company UOP to work on bio jet fuel, making it one of many algae biofuel developers working with aviation industry partners, such as Sapphire Energy, Solazyme, Inventure Chemical, PetroSun and Chevron.
In March 2008, Aquaflow said it was successfully harvesting algae and planned to commission a prototype biorefinery to turn the algae into fuel.
The announcement didn’t make clear if Aquaflow was continuing its own biorefinery work or switching efforts to Solray’s system.
Solray says it has come up with a way to convert all of the algae – not just the fatty acids that make up a portion of it – into an “Algae Crude” oil that can be processed into transportation fuel.
With several years of testing the process in a prototype plant, Solray – a joint venture of New Zealand companies Solvent Rescue, which reconstitutes used solvents, and Rayners, which makes high-pressure vessels and HVAC equipment – says it commissioned a larger-scale plant in July 2008, according to its Web site. Both Aquaflow and Solray have said they are seeking investment.

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quarta-feira, julho 29th, 2009 | Author: admin

Solix Biofuels Inc. said Thursday it has started the production of oil made from algae at its Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility, with full-scale commercial operation set for late summer.
Solix, a Colorado State University startup company based in Fort Collins, has been working on techniques to produce renewable, biologically based fuels from microscopic algae organisms. “We are ready to prove to the world the viability of algae as an alternative to petroleum-based fuels,” Solix COO Rich Schoonover said in a statement.
Coyote Gulch is located on a two-acre site in the Durango area on land provided by the Southern Ute tribe.
Algal oil production began July 16, Solix said. It said Coyote Gulch is expected to produce the equivalent of 3,000 gallons per acre per year of algal oil by late 2009.
Solix, started in 2006 and financed by private equity, is an outgrowth of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program, launched in 1978 to research ways to produce biodiesel fuel from algae.
Others in the field include oil giant Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX), based in San Ramon, Calif., which signed a contract with Golden’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in November 2007 to pursue algae-based fuels.
Experts estimate the organisms can make as much as 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of oil per year per acre, compared to 50 or 60 gallons per year using soybeans, 20 gallons using corn, and 150 gallons using canola or rapeseeds.

quinta-feira, julho 23rd, 2009 | Author: admin

Healy Biodiesel is to convert from production of traditional biodiesel to become the first commercial producer of a new type of renewable diesel.
The Kansas-based producer signed a letter of intent with New Mexico’s Cetane Energy on 17 July. It is to abandon transesterification to become the first manufacturer to produce renewable diesel using Cetane’s patent-pending hydroprocessing technology.
Unlike biodiesel, renewable diesel can be used in a standard diesel engine without blending with fossil diesel. It also has higher energy density than conventional biodiesel and produces lower emissions.
Cetane Energy’s process deoxygenates biofeedstocks by adding hydrogen to produce a highly stable diesel fuel. It is currently used only in a demonstration plant operated by Cetane itself in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The Healy Plant is projected to come online in April 2010. Cetane is currently in commercial negotiations with a further four produces to license its technology for commercial use.
The process is feedstock flexible. Cetane Energy has developed a process to convert algal oils to renewable diesel and is currently driving it towards commercialisation.

quinta-feira, julho 16th, 2009 | Author: admin

A new Worldwatch Institute report provides a survey of the most recent developments in the rapidly evolving U.S. biofuels industry as well as policy recommendations for the expansion of biofuels that are far more sustainable.
Red, White, and Green: Transforming U.S. Biofuels offers an assessment of the policies, technologies, and market factors that have driven the rapid growth of the industry over the past decade, as well as recent developments that have left some 21 percent of U.S. annual capacity idled in the first months of 2009.
In addition to the impacts associated with large-scale production of “first-generation” biofuels such as corn-based ethanol and soy biodiesel, the report highlights the potential of “second-generation” fuels such as cellulosic ethanol and “third-generation” fuels such as algae biodiesel.
Among the recommendations, the reports calls for reducing the ethanol import tariff, pointing that “expanding the U.S. ethanol supply to include more sugarcane ethanol imports from Brazil could reduce pressure on U.S. cropland, reduce the costs of corn, and provide greater climate benefits.”
Here are the report’s “recommendations for spurring rapid development of cellulosic and advanced biofuels:
- use existing and new economic instruments, such as the blending tax credits, to spur devel-opment of advanced biofuels, and phase out incentives for corn ethanol.
- base the tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel on performance, with fuels that achieve deeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions eligible for greater support. Or, set a floor for government support that requires lifecycle reductions of at least 50 percent or better.
- revisit the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate to ensure that it will promote second-generation biofuels instead of propping up first-generation biofuels.
- lower or eliminate the ethanol import tariff for fuels that meet sustainability criteria.

domingo, julho 05th, 2009 | Author: admin

Dow Chemical supports algae-to-ethanol project


, US-based Dow Chemical has backed Algenol Biofuels’ pioneering pilot-scale project to convert algae and carbon dioxide into ethanol fuel.
The project will use Algenol’s technology that calls for carbon dioxide and saltwater supplied to algae in photobioreactors to produce the biofuel. The project aims to create a breakthrough in ethanol production that does not use food sources.
The US, the world’s top producer of corn-based ethanol, is looking to divert away from fuel from food supplies due to raising food prices on world markets.
The algae-to-ethanol facility will be located at Dow’s Freeport, Texas site.
Also involved in the project are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research.

Landfill site to convert algae into ethanol


US, New Jersey-based Garden State Ethanol has selected a landfill site in Woodbine, Philadelphia, for the location of a $200 million (€142 million) biofuel plant that would use more than 100 bioreactor tanks to convert algae into ethanol and biodiesel oil.
An environmental study has cleared the site over the threat to any endangered species and a site analysis is planned, nearby rail lines are being upgraded and the company is seeking regulatory approvals from the Pinelands Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Garden State Ethanol is currently seeking funds for the project. If approved, work on the plant may begin as early as next year.