Biofuel Energy Break Through
With just a little help from the IHI company in Japan, Alabama is now able to lay claim to the first algae biofuel energy system that also processes municipal waste liquid, producing a carbon negative process. They have just completed a demonstration on a 40K gallon per day unit that uses floating photo bio reactors in Mobile Bay, Daphne in Alabama….
That’s a significant scale up from the test tube sized algae bio fuel experiments occurring at the Daphne Utilities plant in the previous fall.
Apart from the carbon negative position, the process is interesting since it depends on local algae that occur naturally instead of those pumped up custom made strains that have been in vogue recently.
A Lot Of Room Inside The Algae Bio Fuel Pot
If you’re just a little doubtful of the natural strain element, consider the comparison with solar powered energy. While extremely efficient solar panel cells are arriving in the marketplace, the most effective solar cell will not always lead to the most cost-effective solar system installation.
Consider the difference between relatively low efficiency organic and highly efficient silicon cells conterparts and you’re on the right course.
Moving that idea over to algae biofuel development, Algae Systems and IHI took a universal, energy efficient methodolgy for the production of algae biofuel energy.
Whilst this new algae biofuel system might not exactly have the more efficient strains for biofuel production, it is a solution that includes a solution for the municipal waste water, by getting value out of it.
The Alabama Algae Bio Fuel Photo Bio Reactors
For anybody new to this issue a floating photo bio reactor is in fact just a plastic bag. All you do is you take long, strong plastic bags, put a nutrient rich growing medium in them (throw away water, for example), add in algae and allow natural light to do it’s work. The algae develop quickly in the enclosed bag and the result is a crop of bio fuel.
The utilities waste water treatment site in Daphne works at 3 million gallons each day, so there’s plenty to go around for the demonstration plant.
That manages the water resource position, which is something that is a real problem for normal algae farming.
The decision to use local algae means that initial costs are little or nothing in comparison to creating a custom strain. It results in lower working costs also, because the local algae are used to the climate they are in and don’t need any additional environmental adjustments. That results in lower energy use too.
The price and energy utilization angles also enter into play with the decision of floating the photography bio reactors out in the bay, instead of building new equipment on land.
The bay waters help stabilize the inner heat, and the waves give a natural method of mixing the contents and giving ideal growing conditions.
As the algae grow, they take in nutrition from the waste water, which would require a power extensive treatment process in any other case. That is where the carbon negative phrase comes into the equation.
IHI state that following the harvesting of the algae, the outcome is water that is clean enough that can be sent directly into the bay with no dead zones being created.
NASA is also messing around with a similar system, with the intention of carrying out recycling in space..
We’ve ended up on and on (and on) (here’s a different one) about the countless ways that human waste materials can be re-purposed for energy development, so add algae bio fuel creation to the list.
The Algae To Biofuel Energy Process
For the change of algae to bio fuel at the Daphne site, that’s the customized area of the system, so we can not let you know too much about this.
What we do know is that the process is dependent on a hydro thermal liquefaction procedure, which showed enough promise to receive over 3 million dollars from the Energy Department for more progress.
This was included in a $6 million biofuel energy development deal made public in the previous month. The other section of the package was given to biomass wood project.
The algae bio fuel funding has gone to a research group headed by Algae Systems and SRI International. It appears that one aim of the project is to reduce the nitrogen content of the feed thus increasing the fuel quality.
Algae Systems is a start-up company that has been in business for 5 years since 2009. However IHI’s beginnings were back in 1853.
The business has focused heavily on equipment for hi-tech systems in the nuclear power, thermal energy and aerospace sectors, so its experience fits in with the hydro thermal liquefaction process.