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.

Solutions to Threat Oil Poses for Armed Forces

A new video offers solutions to the threat oil poses for America’s armed forces and the nation’s security. The video was developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Truman National Security Project. The new video details the growing danger of oil use to the country’s national security. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest institutional oil consumer, using more than 100 million barrels every year to power ships, vehicles, aircraft, and ground operations. That’s enough oil to drive around the Earth more than 4 million times. According to the two organizations, this high use leads to greater unpredictability for missions, especially given oil’s vulnerability to price swings on the world market.

“Moving fuel on the battlefield is dangerous and expensive,” said Michael Breen, a former Army captain and executive director at Truman. “A ten dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs the military $1.3 billion — money we can’t use to accomplish our mission and protect our troops.”

The groups argue that despite oil industry advertising championing new domestic production, so called “new oil and gas” resources aren’t really new at all. And they are only available because the oil industry is now desperate enough to go after dirtier, more difficult and expensive oil than they were before. They they said is neither a sustainable solution for our armed forces or our country.

“As the era of cheap and easy oil comes to an end, the oil industry’s desperation for continuing profits has led to more and more destructive practices that are not solving the problems associated with oil use,Hybrid Humvee” said Siv Balachandran, an engineer and oil analyst at UCS. “The real solution is to use less oil.”

Balachandran and Breen noted that the armed forces are adopting new, innovative technologies to reduce oil use while creating a stronger, more effective fighting force. For example, the Navy uses biofuels made from algae and other advanced sources, while the Army is powering Humvees with hybrid-electric engines. These technologies could benefit civilians too.

“The country is already making progress on this front, with federal and state policies helping cars go farther on each gallon of gas and putting thousands of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road — saving the country money while reducing emissions and creating jobs, but the work is not done,” said Balachandran. “By supporting policies that cut oil use even further, we’ll keep America healthier, wealthier, and more secure.”

Breen added, “As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the U.S. military is leading the way in reducing oil use and investing in renewable options. That’s good for America’s budget and for national security. Our communities – the veterans and national security leaders of Operation Free, and the scientists of UCS – are united in supporting the military’s innovative clean energy solutions.”

Heliae Partners with Sincere for Algae Project

Algae production technology company Heliae is partnering with Japan-based Sincere Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, to form a joint venture to develop a commercial scale algae production facility in Saga City Japan called Alvita Corporation. The partnership will combine Sincere Corporation’s operational skill, distribution networks and knowledge of the Japanese market with Heliia’s proprietary algae production technology to supply natural astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant with broad health benefits, to the growing health and wellness market in the region.

heliae logo“As we investigated technology partners for algae production in Japan, Heliae offered a truly complete package,” said Yukihiro Matsuzaka, President of Sincere Corporation. “From their algae technology platform, their experience at scale, and their extensive  traction in multiple industries, Heliae is clearly a world-class player and we look forward to building upon this joint venture with them and bringing algae production to Japan.”

Construction of the Saga City facility is planned to begin in 2015 and Alvita’s astaxanthin product should bScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.49.27 AMe available on the market in Japan by 2016. The Saga City facility will be designed based on Heliae’s first algae production facility in Gilbert, Arizona. This original facility has been operational since 2013 and produces astaxanthin for the North American market.

“Local support for the project has been significant and we’re proud that the new algae production facility will bring significant community development for the Saga City area through job creation and tax revenue,” said Dan Simon, President and CEO of Heliae.

“We choose our partners carefully, and the Sincere Corporation has a complimentary culture combined with a long track record of success in Japan,” continued Simon. “This is just the beginning of what we believe will become a long-term partnership to deliver high quality algae products to multiple markets throughout the country. We are honored to have been chosen by Sincere and excited about the potential. Now the real work begins.”

Cellana Deal Could Have Implications for Biodiesel

cellanaA new deal between Cellana, a California-based maker of algae-based products, and Israel’s Galil Algae Cooperative Agriculture Society Limited could have implications for biodiesel. This Cellana news release says the partnership looks to combine the industrial qualities of Cellana’s ReNew™ Algae – high-value algae biomass rich in Omega-3 nutritional oils, proteins, fuel-grade oils, cosmetic-grade oils, acids, and polysaccharides, as well as other valuable micronutrients – with Galil Algae’s whole-algae products that are rich in Omega-3s for aquaculture applications at a new joint algae research center in northern Israel.

“This newly-established relationship with Galil Algae is an extension and validation of Cellana’s core competencies in minimizing contamination in large-scale outdoor algae biomass production and in growing algae strains that naturally produce high-value Omega-3 oils,” stated Martin A. Sabarsky, Chief Executive Officer of Cellana. “Many of the same strains that can be grown for aquaculture hatchery applications can also be good sources of crude oil for fuel applications, proteins for animal feed and food applications, and oils and polysaccharides for cosmetic applications,” continued Mr. Sabarsky. “Galil Algae’s algae strains for aquaculture hatchery applications are qualitatively better than competing products based on their Omega-3 profile and other qualities. We look forward to finalizing the definitive agreements with Galil Algae and working closely with Galil Algae to expand commercial-scale production of these high-value products.”

Galil Algae officials see the deal as a way for them to partner their high-performing, high-Omega-3 algae strains with Cellana’s approach to commercial strain development and market focus within the nutraceutical and aquaculture sectors.

Neste Inks Algae Oil for Renewable Diesel Deal

RAE algae1Neste Oil has signed a deal that should help keep up its feedstock supply for its renewable diesel. This company news release says the agreement with U.S. algae producer Renewable Algae Energy (RAE) will secure algae oil as an alternative feedstock for Neste Oil’s NEXBTL renewable diesel for the future.

Cooperation with RAE is intended to secure Neste Oil’s access to a cost-effective supply of industrial volumes of algae oil in the future. Implementation of the agreement will require RAE to increase its algae oil production capacity and to comply with the requirements of biofuel legislation with strict sustainability criteria in the US and the EU throughout the production chain. RAE anticipates that it will be able to produce commercial-scale volumes of algae oil from 2016 onwards.

“Algae oil is well suited for producing Neste Oil’s renewable products,” says Lars Peter Lindfors, Neste Oil’s Senior Vice President, Technology. “The agreement we have just signed is yet another step in our constant work to support the commercialization of the algae industry and to take part in research on new, sustainably produced feedstocks.”

“We are honored to partner with Neste Oil,” said Jeffrey S. Kanel, Ph.D., CEO of RAE. “Neste Oil is known worldwide as the industry leader, and they are committed to producing a sustainable energy source. This commitment aligns perfectly with RAE’s mission and values, and we look forward to assisting Neste Oil to produce renewable fuels that will benefit the world.”

The agreement is non-exclusive, as Neste Oil wants more partners able to produce algae oil at a commercial scale.

Navy, Arizona State Work Together on Algae Biofuels

mcginn at asu1The U.S. Navy is working with Arizona State University to develop biofuels from algae. This article from the school says Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, visited the school’s Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) to discuss how the Navy and civilian industry have some key overlapping issues, such as cost, sustainability, efficiency and energy security, and how the Navy wants to work with research institutions and industry to solve these problems for everyone.

“We are thinking about energy in three different ways: first in technology terms; biofuels, wind and solar energy storage, power grid systems and more,” McGinn said during a visit to Arizona State University. “But it takes two other critical elements to achieve our energy goals: partnerships and culture. This is why we’re interested in forging and strengthening relationships with outstanding organizations like ASU.”

While the Department of the Navy broadly funds energy research, another key aspect is its considerable influence in setting purchasing standards for their operations. The Navy is using its authority under the Defense Production Act, which allows the Navy, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in industries that are determined critical to national security; in this case, biofuels. McGinn said that the Navy has already invested millions in projects with the DOE and USDA in order to bring down the cost of producing biofuel.

“The Navy wants to buy anywhere between 10 and 50 percent biofuel blends for our ships,” he said. “We want it to be a cost-competitive program. We are working specifically with the USDA to bring down biofuel costs to $3.50 a gallon or less at the commercial scale of 170 million gallons a year by 2016.”

McGinn went on to say that algae biofuels show great potential as an alternative transportation fuel for the nation’s fleets because of their sustainability and scalability.

Microalgae Project Underway in Portugal

A one-hectare pilot project for the production of microalgae is under construction in Portugal. The facility will demonstrate, what a consortium of biotechnology experts say, is an innovative approach to produce microalgae biomass with biodiesel validation in a sustainable manner.

The demonstration pilot facility is one of the milestones expected from the Integrated Sustainable Algae (InteSusAl) project. The project aims at optimizing the production of algae by both heterotrophic and phototrophic routes. It will also demonstrate integration of these production technologies to achieve the microalgae cultivation targets of 90-120 dry tonnes per hectare per year.

algae“InteSusAl’s demonstration unit comes in a time of extreme importance to ensure Europe’s energy supply security, said Dr Neil Hindle, coordinator of the InteSusAl project. “We are glad that the European Commission is making it possible to demonstrate this new approach to produce microalgae biomass. We hope that our results will attract attention from investors interested in financing a 10-hectare site to produce microalgae in a sustainable manner on an industrial scale.”

The project integrates heterotrophic and phototrophic production technologies, using biodiesel glycerol as a carbon source to the heterotrophic unit and validating the biomass output for biodiesel conversion. The demonstration unit will be located in the municipality of Olhão, in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. The pilot site will be composed of a set of fermentation units, tubular photobioreactors and raceways.

The sustainability of this demonstration, in terms of both economic and environmental (closed carbon loop) implications will be considered across the whole process, assessed via a robust life cycle analysis.