Algae Biomass Organization Gets New Leaders

ABONew leadership is coming aboard the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO). The trade association for the algae industry announced that Tim Burns, Co-founder and Board Member of BioProcess Algae LLC, has been appointed Chair and Martin Sabarsky, CEO of Cellana, Inc. has been appointed Vice Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors for the 2014-2016 term.

Burns and Sabarsky will be leading ABO’s board, which guides the organization in its mission to educate the general public, policymakers, and industry about the benefits and potential of algae to provide sustainable solutions for commodity chemicals, fuels, food, and feed applications, as well as for high-value applications such as, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics, among other applications. In addition, ABO’s board works closely with its executive director to advocate for policies that can accelerate the development of key market segments and commercial-scale algae production facilities for the full range of products that can be made from algae.

ABO’s board is comprised of representatives from multiple sectors of an industry that is experiencing more investment and seeing new commercial facilities opening or being planned around the world. Board members come from industry sectors that include academia, professional services, algae biomass producers, technology suppliers, project developers, and end-users.

“Tim and Martin are highly regarded algae industry leaders, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with them as we move the industry forward,” said Matt Carr, Executive Director of the Algae Biomass Organization. “Their expertise in CO2 utilization and the entire range of algae-derived products will be invaluable to ABO’s efforts to improve policy, markets, and investment opportunities for all our members.”

ABO also thanked outgoing Board Chair Margaret McCormick for her contributions made to ABO and the algae industry at large. She’ll maintain a position on the board.

Algal Industry Questions Focus on Biofuels, America

Matt Carr, joined the Algae Biomass Organization this past June as the executive director coming from the BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) where he was introduced to algae and the algae story and he thought this is where the country should be going in terms of sustainable fuels. Carr joined Joe Jobe, NBB and Michael McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association on a panel to give attendees of the 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference a policy update and industry outlook for advanced biofuels.

“We’re in a tough spot,” said Carr when asked the state of the algal industry. “The advanced biofuels sector grew up on the backs of strong federal policy support, R&D funding from the Department of Energy in the early days along with the nabce-14-carrRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and tax policy. Right now all of those areas are uncertain and its causing our members and other across the advanced biofuels industry to question their focus on fuels and their focus on America and to look at other markets in other countries to potentially deploy that technology.”

With elections coming up, Carr was asked if he thinks the political environment will change. He said that the industry is at a point now where it has to see something change. “When we have conservative Republicans recognizing its Washington getting in the way of American innovation and job creation we’ve reached a tipping point.”

What stood out for Carr as part of the panel was the shared sense of frustration with Washington. But he is hopeful that both sides of the spectrum can come together and recognize the opportunity the country has in advanced biofuels.

Interview with Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization
Remarks from Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

ABO Petitions White House on CO2 Recycling

ABOA group advocating for algae-based renewable fuels and other products is petitioning the White House to approve carbon dioxide (CO2) recycling as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) kicked off its 8th annual Algae Biomass Summit kicked off today with the group’s Executive Director Matt Carr challenging the algae industry to think:

Forest fires, flooding, shrinking ice caps and other environmental disasters are becoming more prevalent and severe due to climate change. Food pressures, energy supplies and water shortages are become more serious economic and security challenges the world over. Matt reminded the hundreds of Summit attendees that they have gathered in San Diego this week because the algae industry is part of the solution.

As a member of the algae community, you too can take action by signing ABO’s We the People petition to the White House.

The petition asks the White House to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits states to use carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies as they work to meet emissions reductions targets set by the agency.

ABO points out that farming algae requires large quantities of CO2, and using the waste CO2 from power generation to grow algal biomass that can be converted in to fuel, chemicals and other valuable products can flip the cost-equation that is traditionally associated with carbon capture. Recycling CO2 can simultaneously reduce emissions and stimulate economic growth.

You can sign the petition here.

Algae-based Biofuels to Get $25 Mil from Feds

US DOE Energy logoAlgae-based biofuels will be the beneficiaries of a government-backed effort to get the fuels made from microbes down to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. The U.S. Department of Energy announced $25 million to reduce those production costs, hopefully down to an eventual goal of $3 gge by 2030.

The funding announced today will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 1–3 selections) will range from $5–10 million and focus on the development of algae cultures that, in addition to biofuels, produce valuable bioproducts that increase the overall value of the biomass. Topic Area 2 awards (anticipated at 3–7 selections) will range from $0.5–1 million and will focus on the development of crop protection or carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost biomass productivity in ways that lead to higher yields of algae.

You can learn more about this funding opportunity here, including signing up for an informational webinar to be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

ASU Professor Recognized for Microbe-to-Biodiesel Work

rittmann1A professor from Arizona State University is recognized for his efforts to turn bacteria and algae into biodiesel. ASU announced that Professor Bruce Rittmann received the first presentation of the International Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME)/International Water Association (IWA) Bio Cluster Award in Lisbon, Portugal, for his work to promote research between the microbial ecology and the water and wastewater treatment fields.

Rittmann’s research focuses on the scientific and engineering fundamentals needed to manage microbial communities to provide services to society.

“It’s individual organisms comprising a community that’s working together,” said Rittmann. “And now we have a chance to really manage that community to get the right organisms doing the right job.”

His research team developed the membrane biofilm reactor, a technology now being commercialized to destroy a wide range of pollutants found in waters and wastewaters. This technology can remove harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, nitrates, and arsenate from water and soils – problems that are vital to the future of the Southwest, where Colorado River water is used by seven states.

Rittmann is also part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like biodiesel.

Rittmann and his colleagues are the first to link the modern tools of molecular microbial ecology to understanding and improving the performance of microorganism-based water technologies.

Schott, Algatech Ink Research Deal for Biodiesel Feedstock

durantubes1An international glass maker and a biotechnology company specializing in algae production have signed a deal that could improve cultivation of the biodiesel feedstock algae. Schott AG and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), studied new DURAN® glass tubes that significantly improved cultivation efficiency in the yields of Algatech’s AstaPure® natural astaxanthin and plan to present their findings at the Algae Biomass Summit, at the end of this month in San Diego, Calif.

Algatech sought to optimize cultivation of AstaPure, a premium natural antioxidant known as astaxanthin, as part of its goal to double production capacity. SCHOTT partnered with Algatech in 2013 to produce 16 kilometers—nearly 10 miles—of thin-walled DURAN glass tubes for testing in Algatech’s photobioreactor (PBR) production systems at its array in Israel.

SCHOTT reduced the wall thickness of the special DURAN tubes while maintaining their strength and stability. The thinner walls facilitate higher volume and increased sun exposure of the microalgae. The use of DURAN tubes resulted in an increase in algae production efficiency and higher yields of AstaPure astaxanthin.

“From energy to medicine, cosmetics to nutraceuticals, many different industries rely on algae,” said Raz Rashelbach, R&D manager at Algatech. “The success of the thin-walled DURAN tubing has helped increase the AstaPure production efficiency on a small scale that can now be replicated on a much larger scale.”

“Further testing and development of new products in partnership with Algatech will allow us to continue finding new ways and methods to improve algae production,” added Nikolaos Katsikis, Director, Business Development at SCHOTT Tubing.

The agreement signed is expected to expand the two companies’ joint cooperation on new microalgae-based products.

Boise State’s Biodiesel Truck to Take Its Shot at Salt Flats

greenspeedtruck1As one truck from Utah State University running on biodiesel just finished tearing up the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, another truck from another school out west is out to prove its power running on vegetable oil and biodiesel. Boise State University’s Greenspeed club is looking at breaking the land speed record for its class of truck at Bonneville at more than 215 mph later this month.

“We’re just using vegetable oil as proof of the concept,” said Dave Schenker, mechanical engineering student at Boise State and co-founder of the club. “It’s in its raw state, not even a fuel. Here we are beating petroleum at its own game.”

According to Schenker, their diesel engine has only been modified for power, which is a testament to the value vegetable oil has as a fuel source. When vegetable oil is heated to 175 degrees, it becomes the consistency of regualar fuel, which can then be used with their diesel engine.

However, this isn’t the only fuel source they use. They also run on diesel and a biodiesel, which they hope to start making on their own soon.

“Vegetable oil is not a good fuel for over the road use, which regular people use in their vehicles,” said Patrick Johnston, graduate of Boise State’s mechanical engineering program. “What we really advocate is biodiesel derived from algae.”

The truck has a computer that reads 70 points of contact on the truck between the chassis and engine, allowing the team can see exactly how each fuel type works with the truck to choose the most efficient.

Team members hope to be running on their own algae-biodiesel next year.

OriginOil to Take Demo System on the Road

As extreme drought continues to grip most of California, the maker of a system that cleans up water to gather algae (for later applications, such as biodiesel) and take out contaminants from industries such as oil and gas, will be taking a demonstration of its technologies on the road. OriginOil says it will show off an industrial system already cleaning up frack in the Bakersfield, Calif. area and hopes to cash in on the state’s $7.5 billion dollar bond issue to address water issues.

OriginOilbakersfieldwatersampleEckelberry also reported that OriginOil and its partners are preparing to benefit from portions of this bond issue, with an industrial demonstration system already processing Bakersfield-area frack and produced water.

In response to industry requests, Eckelberry also said that the company plans to take a demonstration system on the road starting as early as September.

You can read OriginOil’s full take on the situation here.

Algae-Biodiesel By-Product to Power Electric Grand Prix

formulaeA grand prix racing series, the world’s first to run on electric power, will get its energy from a by-product of algae-biodiesel production. This article from GreenBiz.com says the Formula E races will use U.K.-based Aquafuel’s glycerine to power generators.

“It’s a very innovative compound,” [Formula E’s sustainability manager Julia] Pallé said at an event at Donington Park last week to unveil some new technologies used by Formula E. “It comes from algae so it’s a first generation compound and it uses glycerine so it has no CO2 emissions, no smoke, no noise, no smell. It’s something that isn’t harmful at all. It’s super-efficient and we’re really happy to be working with [Aquafuel] on that.”

Aquafuel chief executive Paul Day told BusinessGreen in 2011 that glycerine could power everything from generators to ships, calculating that a saltwater algal pond the size of Switzerland would meet global energy demand.

The Formula E races start Sept. 13 in Beijing, and include locations such as Miami, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo, Berlin, and London.

Algae Systems Converts Algae to Biofuels, Clean Water

Algae Systems has completed a biofuel production demonstration project in conjunction with Japan’s IHI Corporation. The demonstration plant is located in Daphne, Alabama and the process combines wastewater with algae to produce the world’s first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both biofuel and drinking water.

Algae Systems Daphne projectMatthew C. Atwood, president and CEO of Algae Systems explains that while algae is a component in a number of worldwide experimental production strategies, their approach differs by using a system that can apply a variety of algae types to production, adding value by treating wastewater, and producing a drop-in fuel solution using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce fuels that do not need to be blended.

“This is the first demonstration of producing clean water and biofuel from wastewater and algae. We have demonstrated that we can treat wastewater at a low-cost while beating the current price of fuel,” said Atwood.

The project approach takes local strains of algae to increase production rates and optimize wastewater treatment opportunities and focuses on a systems approach. Floating membrane photobioreactors accept wastewater from a local community municipal wastewater utility, drawing nutrients from the wastewater to Algae Systems Daphne project2promote algae growth. The algae consume nutrients in the wastewater, reducing the cost of treating wastewater. In this approach, municipal wastewater becomes an asset to produce energy, rather than a commodity to be expensively processed. Photosynthesis creates the chemical reactions that can power our future.

Atwood said the use of offshore photobioreactors means that a valuable land footprint would not be required to deploy the system commercially, and the motion of waves and wind provides ideal temperature and mixing controls as well as a reduction of operating costs. From an environmental perspective, ecological dead zones can also be eliminated.

Another feature of the demonstration facility, said Atwood, is significant advancements made in the production of fuels from biomass. Algae Systems has demonstrated a new proprietary technology for the conversion of wet algae and other biomass feedstocks into biocrude oil, and has successfully demonstrated upgrading the bio-crude oil into diesel, jet and gasoline.

“Building commercial plants around the world that will enable low-cost wastewater treatment and fuel production,” said Atwood when explaining what success looks like. “Our next steps are to find commercial sites and raise additional financing for the company to expand.”

Multi-tasking Could be Key for Algae-to-Diesel Ops

algaesystemsA company from Nevada thinks it has found a way to make a profit turning algae into renewable diesel: multi-tasking. This article from the New York Times says Algae Systems, which has a pilot plant in Alabama, believes it will be able to turn a profit by doing several other things while turning the algae oil into a usable fuel, namely, making clean water from municipal sewage, using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and generating valuable credits for advanced biofuels.

“We think it is a really elegant solution,” said Matt Atwood, the chief executive. At its heart is a “hydrothermal liquefaction” system that heats the algae and other solids in the sewage to more than 550 degrees Fahrenheit, at 3,000 pounds per square inch, turning out a liquid that resembles crude oil from a well.

The company sent the liquid to Auburn University, where scientists added hydrogen (a common step in oil refining) to produce diesel fuel. An independent laboratory, Intertek, confirmed that the diesel fuel met industry specifications. The thermal processing has caught the attention of independent scientists. The Department of Energy recently awarded a $4 million grant to a partnership led by SRI International for further work on Algae Systems’ hydrothermal processing system.

Engineers hope the system could dispose of a variety of unwanted or hazardous materials. It also destroys pathogens in sewage.

Developers of the high-temperature processing technology say this method is much less energy intensive than more commonly used practices that dried out the algae and broke down the cell walls to separate the oil from the microbes.

Algae, Power Tech Companies Collaborate for Biodiesel

RAEA company in the algae business is teaming up with a giant in power technology to produce algae for biodiesel at a commercial level. Tennessee-based Renewable Algal Energy, LLC (RAE) and Swiss-based ABB, a leader in power and automation technology, will collaborate to use ABB’s technology for control and efficiency of algae harvesting and conversion process.

“We are honored that ABB has selected to work with RAE in the development of infrastructure for RAE’s unique technology in complete integrated algal production systems,” stated Jeffrey S. Kanel, Ph.D. and CEO of RAE. “To have the global leader in power and automation technologies as a strategic partner is a huge endorsement of RAE’s ability to commercialize our technology in the creation of sustainable algal products.”

RAE will produce the equipment that harvest and extract algae and its co-products, including oil, for renewable fuels, as well as proteins and carotenoids for animal feed and nutritional supplements. The scalable systems are designed for medium to large scale algae farms, up to 2,000 hectares (10,000 square meters). ABB will supply 800xA control systems, instrumentation, low voltage electrical equipment and variable speed drives that will help those integrated algal production systems operate efficiently and reliably. In addition to process control, 800xA provides remote access to the base control room on each algae farm, so that multiple locations can be viewed and managed by one operator. The variable speed drives help the pumps and motors operate at their peak energy efficiency, using up to 10% less electricity.

Officials from both companies say this will make the harvesting of oil from algae, as well as other products for nutraceuticals and animal nutrition, a much more efficient process, one of the biggest hurdles algae growers have faced in trying to make algae oil commercially viable for biodiesel production.

Sapphire’s Algae Project Picked for China Eco Program

Sapphire1Sapphire Energy has been picked to partner with China’s Sinopec’s to produce algae-derived renewable crude oil. This statement from Sapphire says it’s part of the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships program, one of six new U.S.-China partnerships that promote cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese companies that work on clean energy, climate change, and environmental protections.

“This collaboration between our two companies exemplifies the mutual goal of producing cleaner energy solutions for the U.S. and China. Together, we will demonstrate that crude oil from algae can be produced with favorable economics; that it can be integrated into existing fuels distribution networks; and that it will deliver substantial advantages for the reduction of CO2 emissions in both nations,” [said Sapphire Energy CEO Cynthia Warner].

“Projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that China, the world’s most populous country, will be the largest importer of oil in 2014. The need for renewable, sustainable and low carbon energy solutions to meet growing demand is vital. Given China’s leadership and strong support for embracing new, clean, sustainable fuel options, along with the country’s abundant availability of non-farmable land and non-potable water, Sapphire Energy’s proven algae-to-energy technology platform offers a promising solution.”

Sapphire Energy is based in San Diego, Calif. with an R&D facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is currently operating the first Integrated Algal BioRefinery in Columbus, New Mexico.

Biostimulation for Algae Growth Could Help Biodiesel

solarmagnatron1Growing algae for biodiesel seems like a viable option when you consider how oil-rich (and thus, feedstock-rich) the one-celled organisms can be. But while algae is one of the fastest growing organisms on Earth, getting enough growth out of the microbes to make the proposition commercially viable is the holy grail for algae-biodiesel producers. Researchers from AlgaStar Inc. have found a way to increase algae growth rates by 300 percent using a technique called biostimulation and a biomass grower called the SolarMagnatron.

Biological stimulation from electromagnetic fields and/or microwaves offers a novel technology that can accelerate algae growth substantially compared with natural sunlight. Laboratory tests at AlgaStar, Inc. and research collaborators at the University of Western Ontario, (UWO) have proven the biostimulation concept but considerably more research is needed. Additional research efforts are now funded for AlgaStar with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Additional grant applications and research sponsor funding will include Dr. Bruce Rittmann’s lab in the Biodesign Institute at ASU, the world class AzCATI Test Bed at ASU, NanoVoltaics, UWO and others.

The AlgaStar algae production and biostimulation system integrates two types of electromagnetic energy. The first is a millitesla generator and the second a millimeter microwave generator that radiates spontaneous growth energy into large volumes of algae biomass. The research teams have demonstrated that electromagnetic energy waves can provide an increase in algae biomass and its corresponding lipid oil production by up to 300%.

AlgaStar is using it’s patented 4500 gallon SolarMagnatron biomass production system that has an automated biosystem controller (ABC), which optimizes biomass production and uses light very efficiently. During the day, it maximizes natural sunlight, and when it’s night, special domed acrylic lenses and flat-panel glass reactors containing high-efficiency florescent and LED lights produce artificial sunlight at specific wavelengths and power levels that optimize algae photosynthesis.

More information is available on the AlgaStar website.

Biodiesel, Hydrogen Studies Continue Despite Setback

scstateA school in the southeast will continue its studies into biodiesel and hydrogen production, despite an academic setback. This story from the Orangeburg (SC) Times and Democrat says South Carolina State University was trying to get its multi-disciplinary study of energy accredited but was put on probation and denied approval of a new master’s in energy and environmental science program by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But Dr. Kenneth Lewis, dean of the College of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, calls the decision a “minor setback,” and while the classes in the program scheduled for this fall won’t happen, the research the school does on biodiesel and hydrogen will go on.

Biodiesel from the cafeteria’s waste cooking oil has gone through various stages and is now at the point where it’s being tested, Lewis said.

“Right now we’re testing the fuel on small engines,” he said. But he’s looking at having the university’s vehicles operating on biodiesel produced at the center within three to five years. He noted that the lab can produce up to 40 gallons of fuel a day.

It’s a great advantage that the supplies for the process and that of the switchgrass/cow manure project [to make hydrogen] are practically free, according to Lewis.

“We can go to any farmer, any slaughterhouse and get the manure,” he said.

Lewis said that bacteria found in cow’s stomachs and manure break down cellulose in the switchgrass and produce hydrogen.

The school has also applied for a $300,000, three-year grant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the aquatic tanks and other supplies to grow algae to turn into biodiesel. Lewis is also looking at Jatropha for biodiesel production noting that South Carolina’s climate matches that of the plant’s native home, Mozambique.