Monday, October 3, 2011

From Greenhouse Gas to Biofuel

Algal fuel growing in open pondsMarine-based algae, which are actually tiny plants, live on a diet of carbon dioxide and sunlight. Theoretically, an algae pond could produce 30 times more feedstock for biofuel than the land-based crop alternatives. However, so far nobody has been successful in figuring out how to do this in a cost-effective manner.

Approaching the challenge from a different direction, Seambiotic, an Israeli clean-tech company, offers a way for its partner power plant owners to see a return on investment for reducing carbon emissions immediately.

By sucking out power plant effluent and feeding it to algae -- filtering out heavy metals first, of course -- Seambiotic and its partners generate a healthy income by producing a valuable nutraceutical based on algae, which is especially popular in Eastern countries such as China.

Seambiotic's venture with Yantai Hairong Electricity Technology and Penglai Weiyuan Science Trading (both associated with China Guodian Corporation) involves a 500-megawatt power plant in eastern China, the fifth-largest such facility in the country.

The first commercial farm of 30 acres is expected to cost $10 million. It will be situated in Penglai utilizing carbon dioxide from the Penglai power station and is planned to become operational in the fall of 2011. The agreement contemplates additional farms to be established based upon a pre-agreed timetable.

For every 25-acre algae pond, Seambiotic can reduce 1% of the carbon dioxide being emitted from the power plant. The company could add as many as 10 pools per power plant, resulting in a 10% reduction of this greenhouse gas.

It is expected that the Penglai plant will be able to produce algae biomass to convert into fuel at prices competitive with traditional fuel by 2012.

Sources: Israel21c, Algae Industry Magazine

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