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Archives for: April 2008, 02

Got used vegetable oil?sdf


Permalink 11:44:27 pm, Categories: Background, 243 words   English (US)

Notes from Microalgae -> Biofuel a "Great Green Hope" talk

As a follow-up to the FIT talk from today I wanted to post some notes. The key points I picked up:

  • Open raceways are the only possible cost effective way to produce oil from algae. Closed systems (Photobioreactors - PBRS) are relatively costly as they must try and solve temperature and degassing problems.
  • There are lots of estimates on oil production values from algae, but until real world production is in place, the high side numbers are fantasies.
  • CO2 and Sunlight are not really free inputs. CO2 *costs* from $50-$400 per ton. It takes 2 tons of CO2 to produce 1 ton of biomass.

Dr. Weissman, who worked on the DOE Aquatic Species Program (ASP), covered a lot of ground, from some work in 1953, up through the current work FIT is performing (under a $415K grant from the State of Florida Farm to Fuel program). He showed a picture of PBR's on the MIT roof from 1953! Much of the information being patented today seems to be covered in that decades old work such as In Algal Culture: From Laboratory to Pilot Plant.
With genetic engineering, today's algae can be improved in several ways. Dr. Weissman mentioned modifying the reaction area such that "longer antennae" are used for photosynthesis. These cyclotella mutants use 20 chlorophyll instead of 200 as their light processing engine.
In the current FIT project, smaller tanks have been running with cultures in Vero Beach for almost a year - 1/20th acre raceways are about to come online.

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