Research Turns Swine Manure into Biocrude Products

schideman1Researchers at the University of Illinois have come up with a way to turn swine manure into a biocrude oil, as well as growing algae biomass, capturing carbon, purifying wastewater and recycling nutrients. This news release from the school says Yuanhui Zhang and Lance Schideman, both professors in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, have combined their years of research for the innovative development.

“We first convert swine manure into crude oil in a hydrothermal liquefaction reactor,” Schideman said. “There is a very strong wastewater that comes off that process. It contains nutrients that can be used to grow algae that simultaneously clean the water. Lately, we’ve added low-cost, bioregenerable adsorbents into the system that allow us to grow additional bacterial biomass and further improve effluent water quality.

“Our recent research, a combination of experimental work and some computer modeling, has shown that we can reuse the nutrients multiple times and thus amplify biofuel production from waste feedstocks,” he explained. “If we start with a particular waste stream that has one ton of volatile solids in it, we might be able to produce three, five or even ten tons of algal and bacterial biomass. This new biomass is then recycled back into the biofuel production process,” he continued. “It can also clean the water with the goal of making it suitable for environmental discharge or reuse in some other application. So we get more bioenergy and more clean water resources – both good things in the long run.”

The biocrude oil has higher oxygen and higher nitrogen content than traditional petroleum, but lower sulfur content. The researchers see the process helping bridge the gap between the smaller refineries and petroleum’s requirements of having refineries that process hundreds of thousands of barrels of material each day.

The biocrude oil is being tested as an asphaltic binder in a piece of pavement leading to Six Flags St. Louis.

How to Recover from Algal Pond Crashes

Sandia National Laboratory has developed several complementary technologies to help the algae industry in detecting and recovering from pond crashes, and is Algal Pond Photomaking use of the AzCATI test-bed facility to collect data and apply its technologies. The research focuses on monitoring and diagnosing algal pond health and draws upon Sandia’s longstanding expertise in microfluidics technology, its strong bioscience research program and significant internal investments.

According to researchers, because of the way algae is grown and produced in most algal ponds, they are prone to attack by fungi, rotifers, viruses or other predators. Consequently, algal pond collapse is a critical issue that companies must solve to produce algal biofuels cost-effectively. The issue was identified as a key component in the Department of Energy’s National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap.

To address the problem, Sandia is addressing the algal pond crash issue in three complementary ways:

  • Developing a real-time monitoring tool for algal ponds that can detect indications of a problem days in advance of a crash;
  • Successfully applying pathogen detection and characterization technologies honed through the lab’s Rapid Threat Organism Recognition (RapTOR) work; and
  • Employing its innovative SpinDx diagnostic device to dig deeper into problems after they’ve occurred and help to identify specific biological agents responsible for crashes.

Sandia’s Tom Reichardt, a researcher who works in the lab’s remote sensing unit, led development of an online algal reflectance monitor through an internally funded project. The instruments are typically set up alongside the algal pond, continuously monitoring, analyzing the algae’s concentration levels, examining its photosynthesis and performing other diagnostics.

“In real-time, it will tell you if things are going well with the growth of your algae or whether it’s beginning to show signs of trouble,” said Reichardt.  However, he cautioned, while this real-time monitoring will warn pond operators when the ponds have been attacked, it may not be able to identify the attacker. He notes that quick identification of organisms in ponds is the key to mitigation.

Now that the core principles of pathogen detection and characterization technologies for pond crash forensics have been successfully proven, the next step for the team will be to conduct more robust demonstrations. The research team will be continuing their work as part of the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) led by Arizona State University (ASU), the first national algae testbed. The Sandia team will apply the technologies, collect more data and seek additional collaborations.

Green Tea Could Lead to More Green Biodiesel

UCDavisalgaeResearchers have found that some of the compounds in green tea could lead to more biodiesel production. Scientists at the University of California, Davis found several compounds, including common antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate, found in green tea, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a food preservative, boosted the oil production by green microscopic algae:

“They can live in saltwater, they take sunlight and carbon dioxide as a building block, and make these long chains of oil that can be converted to biodiesel,” said Annaliese Franz, assistant professor of chemistry and an author of the paper.

Franz, graduate students Megan Danielewicz, Diana Wong and Lisa Anderson, and undergraduate student Jordan Boothe screened 83 compounds for their effects on growth and oil production in four strains of microalgae. They identified several that could boost oil production by up to 85 percent, without decreasing growth.

The researchers grew the cultures in culture volumes up to about a pint in size but figure that some of the compounds could be cost-effective when moved up to 12,000-gallon ponds. Plus, the leftover algae mass after the oil is removed still would make a good animal feed.

Algae.Tec Using Shipping Containers to Grow Algae

Algaetecbioreactor1When it comes to alternatives to some of the more conventional sources of oils for biofuels, many companies are looking to go green. And some, such as the folks at Algae.Tec, are looking to green shipping containers to grow a literal green feedstock.

“What we wanted was a significant bulk outcome, in other words fuels and possibly food, producing the algae for cents on the liter, where many of the pond solutions [cost] dollars per liter to make it work,” explains Roger Stroud, the Executive Chairman of the Australia-based company. He says Algae.Tec’s enclosed photo-bioreactor contained in 40-foot shipping containers is a way to produce the green pond scum for those pennies of what it costs in open-air ponds. And they’re looking at producing biodiesel, jet fuels, and even food sources from the algae grown. But Stroud says they are still working on the commercialization process with demonstration projects just south of Sydney, as well as research and development in Atlanta, Georgia. “We’re confident in the outcome.”

rogerstroud1So why is Stroud so confident their system will be successful? Well, besides the testing and work they’ve done, he’s Australian, and that means he’s used to having to do big things against sometimes great odds. “Although [Australia] is a large continent, we’ve got [a small population]. So, we tend to be on the outside looking in, where in the U.S., you tend to be on the inside looking out,” and Australians have to look more to the world economy. That’s why Algae.Tec has worked vigorously to network globally. Projects pending in Brazil and Texas, as well as one in New South Wales, point to that global reach. Plus, he’s encouraged by the Americans’ commitment to algae and biofuels. It all comes down to the Australian, and maybe the algae industry’s, way of making the best of the opportunity that comes your way.

“We’re focused on our task, and we believe we can achieve a profitable outcome, given time.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Roger here: Interview with Roger Stroud, Algae.Tec

OriginOil Claims Solution for Fracking Water Problem

Originoil1The folks at OriginOil say they have the solution for the problem of what to do with all of the wastewater leftover from hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” the process used to free petroleum and other non-renewable fuels from the ground.

Riggs Eckelberry is the CEO of OriginOil, a company dedicated to extracting oil from algae for a variety of uses, including making that oil into renewable fuel. In an interview with Joanna, he said they’ve developed a chemical-free, low-energy process that uses electronic pulses to separate the algae from the water, and that same technique works well getting petroleum out of the fracking water.

“That water when you are fracking an oil well is full of petroleum,” he explained. “We found our process, independent of algae, does a great job of removing up to 98 percent of those particulates … easy to purify to drinking water or groundwater standards.” He added the fracking industry needs to start treating its water or become impaired, calling it of national strategic importance.

Riggs-Eckelberry-Headshot1Riggs went on to say that this process gives the oil industry a chance to be on a more environmentally friendly path, preserving that income flow for them and saving them money. It costs 21-26 cents per gallon to treat the dirty water. His company’s process could get that down to 7-8 cents per gallon, even below the 11-cents-per-gallon rate just to haul the untreated water away. “At that point, why would you do anything else?”

He said the application could work in other contaminated water situations, such as mining tailings and wastewater.

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Riggs here: Interview with Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil

Sapphire Energy To Sell Algae-Based Crude to Tesoro

Sapphire Energy has entered into an agreement to sell its algae-based Green Crude oil to Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company. Under the agreement, Tesoro will purchase crude oil from Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm in Columbus, New Mexico, which recently reached a new milestone: continuous cultivation and crude oil production. This begins the first step of a commercial relationship to process Green Crude oil from Sapphire’s future commercial facilities.

SAPPHIRE ENERGY, INC. GREEN CRUDE OIL ALGAE“In less than one year, Sapphire Energy has started up its commercial demonstration to grow algae; has produced crude oil from our farm; and now with Tesoro as our first commercial customer, we’re providing barrels of our oil to be refined for market use,” said Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, CEO and chairman of Sapphire Energy. “This moment is enormously important for the industry as it validates the benefits and advantages of Green Crude, and confirms its place as a market-viable, refiner-ready, renewable crude oil solution.”

Sapphire says it is now producing crude oil daily from algae biomass. The company says its process enables algae to be processed without the need for a timely and costly drying step. With this process, which is the result of more than four years of research, development and field trials, the entire algae cell is now used in oil production, greatly improving yield. Furthermore, the process is scalable, and has proven to be effective with a wide range of algae strains.

In initial testing by Sapphire Energy, Green Crude oil was refined into on-spec ASTM 975 diesel fuel, proving its compatibility with the existing network of pipelines, refineries and transport systems. Moving forward, the company plans to grow production significantly to further expand its commercial demonstration and begin the transition towards commercial-scale production.

Joel Larkins, vice president of Renewable Development at Tesoro, added, “Tesoro is continuously looking at new technologies for producing renewable fuels. We are pleased to become a purchaser of Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude, which shows promise as an alternative fuel solution.”

Alltech Gears Up for Algae Symposium

alltechalgae1Animal health company Alltech will hold a symposium on algae with hopes of expanding the pond scum’s potential beyond biofuels and into sustainable food production. The 29th Annual Alltech International Symposium is to be held in Lexington, Ky., May 19th-22nd:

“We will focus on algae as part of the foundation of the food chain by identifying the importance of DHA and how it can balance the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in today’s Western diets,” said Becky Timmons, chairperson of the algae-related track at Symposium. “As we look toward the future of nutrition, there is an increasing need to find high-quality, alternative raw materials to feed the growing population. There is a big challenge in front of us – we need to provide consumers the right nutrition, a balanced diet of fatty acids, vitamins and amino acids. We must be forward thinking and identify various opportunities to use value-added solutions in order to provide nutritious food to the world.”

This year the symposium will offer breakout sessions focused on algae, including:

Simplify Your Food Chain: Algae as the Foundation of Nutrition in the Future
You Are What You Eat: Better Health Through Better Nutrition and the Role of DHA
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: Identifying the Opportunities for Value-Added Products

Organizers hope this will offer attendees a more holistic experience, with discussions ranging from algae and agriculture’s carbon footprint to nutrition and marketing.

Registration and more information is available here.

Algal Based Biofuel Retail Pilot Successful

Propel Fuels and Solazyme have announced the results of their pilot retail program and over the 30 days consumers were given a choice to purchase biofuels produced from algae, they chose the algal-based biofuel. In a survey of users, consumers said they prefer its environmental benefits compared to conventional fuels; would purchase more of it if it was widely available and would even pay a premium for it. The pilot program, which marked the first commercial availability of algal derived fuels, offered SoladieselBD in a B20 blend (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel) to consumers through Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose, Berkeley, and Oakland.

Algal-B20 at Propel Photo: Michael Macor, The ChronicleIn the consumer survey, 92 percent of participants noted that they would be more likely to purchase algae-derived fuel for its environmental benefits; 70 percent indicated that they would purchase the fuel more frequently if it were derived from algae; and nearly 40 percent of customers indicated they would pay a premium for algae-derived fuel. The survey responses were reflected at the pump. Sales results reflected a 35 percent volume increase at Propel stations offering the algae-derived fuel over area sites not participating in the pilot.

“Our fuels have already been successfully demonstrated in fleet vehicles, corporate buses, military applications and the first U.S. commercial flight on biofuel,” said Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme. “The successful pilot program with Propel further exhibits strong consumer appetite for the superior performance and environmental properties of Soladiesel.” The algal-based biofuel, SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including superior cold temperature operating performance and environmental benefits, according to Solazyme.

“Propel is committed to providing drivers true choice at the pump by bringing to market the world’s highest quality and most sustainable fuels,” added Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. “The results show strong preference for algae-based fuel, and we are thrilled to have partnered with Solazyme to enable our customers to be the first in the country to purchase this next generation biofuel.”

Fat Worms Play Role in Algal Biofuels

Fat worms confirm are playing a role in improved biofuel and animal feed production.

Catapillar's on Arabidopsis thaliana plantsResearchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves, a feat that could improve biofuel production. The research was led by Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology along with a team from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

The results of the study were published in the journal, The Plant Cell, and show that researchers could us an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in it leaves. This is uncommon for most plants.

To date, little research has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems because in nature, most plants don’t store lipids in these tissues.

“Many researchers are trying to enhance plants’ energy density, and this is another way of approaching it,” Benning said. “It’s a proof-of-concept that could be used to boost plants’ oil production for biofuel use as well as improve the nutrition levels of animal feed.” Continue reading

Algae.Tec Awarded $12.15M from Australian Gov.

Photo From Algae.TecAlgae.Tec has been awarded AU$12.15 million cash refund on Australian and overseas development costs for the financial years June 30, 2012 through June 30, 2015. The terms of the payment allow for an additional investment of AU$27 million on Algae.Tec technology developments, of which the Australian Government will reimburse 45 percent or $12.15 million. The approval is to support the funding of at least three algae bioreactor facilities in Australia, Asia and the U.S. The refund will be paid in cash to the company following expenditure. In addition, additional investments above the AU $27M will also be eligible for further government grants.

According to Algae.Tec, its enclosed bioreactor technology takes waste C02 from power and manufacturing facilities and uses it to grow valuable algae oil for transport fuels. The tax offset payments, called R&D Tax Incentives, are awarded and managed by the Australian Government entity AusIndustry and are designed to provide business with a “more predictable, less complex,” financial support structure.

Algae.Tec Managing Director Peter Hatfull said the company had applied for the approval last year as part of a range of attractive financing options available for the Company’s growth plans. “It was a rigorous process involving a complete review of our technology and global expansion plans. We see this as a real endorsement of our technology and strategic direction, and we are very pleased to have the support of the Australian Government’s AusIndustry. This is excellent news for the Company and our Australian and international investors,” said Hatfull.

Ethanol Industry Pleased With Tax Extensions

Very early this morning the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed that included several one-year biofuel tax extensions including the Cellulosic Producer Tax Credit. While the ethanol industry was pleased with the bill, they remain outspoken that the biofuel industry needs a long-term federal commitment – not just one year.

aeclogoBrooke Coleman, Executive Director of Advanced Ethanol Council responded to the passage of the bill. “The advanced ethanol industry commends President Obama and the 112th Congress for extending the cellulosic producer tax credit and accelerated depreciation allowance as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Just five years after the passage of the amended Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the cellulosic biofuels industry is breaking through at commercial scale.”

Coleman continued, “The one year extension will allow those projects coming online to continue development while Congress acts more broadly to reform the U.S. tax code to allow new players in the energy space to compete on a level playing field with oil and gas. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration and the next Congress to ensure that we continue to grow the next generation of biofuels right here in the United States.”

Growth_Energy_logo-1In addition to the Cellulosic Producer Tax Credit, the package included the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit. Tom Buis CEO of Growth Energy noted that by extending the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit to retailers through 2013, “Congress has also taken a critical step to bring E15 to the marketplace, “providing a choice and savings to the consumer. Furthermore, this provision will help decrease our addiction to foreign oil and help the renewable fuels industry break through the blend wall.”

“However,” added Buis, ” by only extending them for one year, Congress failed to provide the necessary certainty for investors and businesses to plan for the long term, which is imperative for continued stability and growth.”

Despite extension of one-year only, there were still some achievements with the second generation biofuel producer tax credit and the special allowance for second generation biofuel plant property. The Act, says the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), will incentivize both cellulosic and algae biofuel production with the renewal of the $1.01 per gallon tax credit for producers, accelerated depreciation for newly constructed facilities during 2013 and modifying these credits to include algae. Continue reading

Solazyme Project in Iowa Achieves Milestone

Solazyme has confirmed they have completed several initial fermentation runs at ADM’s facility in Clinton, Iowa. According to the company, the runs achieved commercial scale production metrics, exhibited linear scalability of its process from laboratory scale, and demonstrated the ability to run at this scale without contamination. The fermentation process is one of the critical steps needed to convert feedstock to biofuels, biochemicals or biomaterials.

The fermentation tests were conducted in approximately 500,000-liter vessels, which are about four times the scale of the vessels in Solazyme’s Peoria facility. Solazyme is initially targeting annual production of 20,000 metric tons of oil starting in early 2014 at the ADM facility, with targeted expansion to 100,000 metric tons.

Solazyme said in a press statement that the achievements in Clinton were comparable to the fermentation equipment being installed in the Solazyme Bunge Renewable Oils facility in Brazil. The facility is targeted to begin production before the end of 2013 and will have a nameplate capacity of 100,000 metric tons.

“Working with ADM’s world class fermentation team to achieve commercial scale operations at the ADM facility shortly after announcing the partnership exhibits our ability to rapidly and successfully scale in large commercial fermentation facilities,” said Peter Licari, CTO, Solazyme. “Solazyme is currently developing commercial facilities in the US, France and Brazil, and with these runs we have now achieved linear scale-up of over 70,000-fold from our labs.”

ISU Researchers Growing Algae in Poultry Houses

A research project conducted by several Iowa State University (ISU) researchers is studying the feasibility of growing algae in poultry houses. Poultry manure generates ammonia, a health and safety concern for both animals and workers. Ammonia can burn the eyes, but if released into the atmosphere, could also cause acid rain. But if Honwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU he will turn a challenge into an opportunity.

Juhyon Kang, graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition is joining Xin in the research and are working together, according to an article in the Iowa State Daily, to design and develop a bioreactor that will filter  ammonia out of the exhaust air. The gas will then be repurposed to grow algae in a controlled environment.

“We want to improve the environmental stewardship of the poultry operation,” Xin said. “It would be a perfect match if we could remove ammonia from the exhaust air in poultry houses and use it to grow algae.”

Algae can be used to create a myriad of products including biofuel, biojet fuel, biomaterials, biochemicals and animal feed. Algae thrives on gases that for humans, can negatively affect health such as carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Kang said tests have shown that up to 96 percent of the ammonia is removed from the [air] exhaust. She is currently working on scaling up the algal bioreactor ro commercial scale while other team members study optimal algae growth conditions, analyze algae to produce feed and exploring optimum amounts of ammonia concentration for the algae to grow.

Xin added, “Algae can serve as a feedstock for biorenewable energy or [an additive] for animal feed. It’s a win-win situation; you kill two birds with one stone.”

Algae. Tec Facility Continues to Attract Attention

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly recently visited Alage.Tec facility in Shoalhaven (Australia). The plant is proving out technology that produces low cost, high grade algae-based biofuels. While on site, Dr. Kelly was briefed about the technology by company representatives.

One element with great promise is the fact that algae “eat” carbon to grow. In Israel and China, for example, the carbon-hungry algae are being used to abate emissions from coal-fired power stations that are a similar size to the ones used in Australia.

“This region is fast becoming a flagship for renewable energy in Australia,” said Dr. Kelly during his visit. “We have already seen over $1 billion being invested in renewable energy projects in Eden-Monaro and the lower Shoalhaven region – that includes wind and wave energy, solar, biomass and geothermal.”

Dr. Kelly continued, “To have a company like Algae.Tec here in Bomaderry, which recently signed a collaboration agreement with Lufthansa to produce aviation biofuels and also with Holcim Lanka, is a wonderful boon. The possibilities of this technology are extremely exciting. Their algae technology has almost no impact on the environment and could potentially eliminate emissions from coal-fired power stations.”

Roger Stroud, executive chairman of Algae.Tec noted that that the biofuels technology being used in Shoalhaven is the same technology that will be used by the company to produce aviation and other transportation fuels.

“We currently have feasibility studies underway with interested parties in Texas, Brazil, China, Sri Lanka and Germany, as well as another site in New South Wales,” said Stroud. “The Shoalhaven facility has already had VIP visits from some of the world’s largest companies wanting to see how the technology delivers sustainable low cost fuel, carbon capture, and energy security.”

Transforming Marine Algae into a Biofuel Crop

Are marine algae just as good as fresh water algae in producing biofuels? Yes, according to biologists at University of California San Diego. In a research study published in Algal Research, scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes. The same process, say the researchers, could be used to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from salt water algae.

Researchers say this discovery is important because it expands the kinds of environments in which algae can be conceivably grown for biofuels. For example, algal biofuels could be produced in the ocean, in brackish water of tidelands, or on agricultural land where crops can no longer grow due to the high salt content of the soil.

“What our research shows is that we can achieve in marine species exactly what we’ve already done in fresh water species,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research project. “There are about 10 million acres of land across the United States where crops can no longer be grown that could be used to produce algae for biofuels. Marine species of algae tend to tolerate a range of salt environments, but many fresh water species don’t do the reverse. They don’t tolerate any salt in the environment.”

“The algal community has worked on fresh water species of algae for 40 years,” added Mayfield, who also directs the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. “We know how to grow them, manipulate them genetically, express recombinant proteins—all of the things required to make biofuels viable. It was always assumed that we could do the same thing in marine species, but there was always some debate in the community as to whether that could really be done.”

The timing of the research was fortuitous – in October, the National Academy of Sciences committee published a report concluding that the production of algal biofuels might be limited by fresh water. “But now we’ve done it,” said Mayfield. “What this means is that you can use ocean water to grow the algae that will be used to produce biofuels. And once you can use ocean water, you are no longer limited by the constraints associated with fresh water. Ocean water is simply not a limited resource on this planet.”

In addition to expanding this research, the scientists would like to determine whether whole algae, post-oil extraction, could be sued as a feed additive to improve animal feeds.