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  •  There is a new process, (patent pending) for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winterbanyan, NCrissieB

    extraction that doesn't require dewatering and they're looking to license the process, so that looks promising. The link about algae to energy below has the newest info. One of the producers is exploring linking to coal fired plants for CO2 enrichment/sequestration cogeneration.

    The two open pond producers are using non-GMO strains in FL and haven't reported significant contamination, but don't know how they're set up. One is scaling up from pilot to demo.

    I'm pretty sure the Boeing jet test used algae based fuel.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 08:09:38 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  there are several non-dewatering methods (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NCrissieB

      I'm NDA for one, but none have been proven on even medium sized pilot plant scale.  The designer says to expect 5+ years to get it working well enough to be commercial and 'green' - not taking so much energy that the plant becomes a net energy sink.

      Almost no one has done GMO algae, mostly the old standard selection of strains for high yields.  Going back to the early 1980s these all suffered from contamination when used in open ponds for more than 4 months. Several got 'infected' with algae gulping critters that dropped yields.

      Almost every more recent design includes some source of CO2, some fossil fuel plants produce clean enough CO2 that they make decent direct feeds, some power plants don't.  In warmer climates cooling can become an issue with such combinations, the relatively shallow ponds heat up from the sun quickly and the warm power plant exhaust just makes it worse; cooling means increased water consumption. Balancing everything gets tricky.

      •  Check out the link (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NCrissieB

        for current info. Last updated in April. A couple of them are projecting over a million gal/year production by 2011, one as low as ~$1.30/gal.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:27:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've read OriginOil's patents in the recent past (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

          and was not struck that they have any real breakthrough. They are replacing the use of ultrasonics to disrupt cells, which a turbulence based system that generates very small bubbles which then collapse and generate intensive sound similar to the ultrasound process.

          It sounds good, but erosion of the bubble forming apparatus can be an issue.  They also state that digestive enzymes are used beforehand to weaken the cell walls, and that can be expensive.

          While patents aren't as bad as press releases when it comes to the handwaving done, patents in the last quarter century or so have included a decreasing amount of information and increasing amount of noise to cover as many bases as possible.  In not a few cases the patent appears to be an attempt to own a concept that really isn't ready for prime time yet, but might be useful with more development.  With startup type companies patents are also used as assets to help attract further venture capital.

          I and others I know have attempted to recreate processes and results described in various patents (not these OriginOil ones) without success.  In several cases someone else worked on the project, the patents had expired and described a still useful process or result, and could not be made to work at all even after extensive research and trials.  The claims made in the patent were bogus, little detail had been given and the processes had never been published in a peer reviewed publication.  

          Just because something has been patented and is being promoted doesn't mean it actually works, or the while it does work does not imply that it is useful or practical.

          So I wait to see how the large scale pilots go, provided enough data is given to evaluate production costs and yields, or see if the company starts selling product at competitive prices.  I've stacks of literature describing various processes that were going to be great successes, but instead faded away having never even made it to the commercial stage.

          •  Thank you for taking the time to expand on (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wondering if, NCrissieB

            this. I don't doubt there are lots of people trying to look ripe for acquisition so they can cash in and trying to sift through and evaluate the signal to noise ratio isn't easy. My background is stronger in other areas of conservation and efficiency, I've only been looking into biofuels for a couple of years, so I appreciate your explanation.

            I understand that enzymes have been the major stumbling block for cellulosic ethanol.

            Biofuels sound very promising and are much needed, I hope we can get them online in time.

            If you don't mind, what are the drawbacks to the original ultrasound approach to breaking down the cell walls?

            Thanks again.

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

            by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:45:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Energy input (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FarWestGirl

              ultrasound generators can be fairly inefficient, and soupy messes such as algae cultures can further waste some of the generated ultrasound. Then the sound make not be real effective at disrupting the cells walls, taking much more energy than expected.  Ultrasound cell disruption is used all the time in the laboratory, but efficiency is not an issue there.

              OriginOil has some good ideas, but there's very little published in the scientific press so evaluation is difficult.  What they've done is not unusual, you have an interesting process that may become practical, so you patent it and hope that you can refine it. Perhaps you are getting some more venture capital to help out, boosted by the optimist tone of the patent and PR you turn out, and you genuinely think the process can be made economically successful with that additional funding.

              Harvesting seems to be the biggest stumbling block for algae derived fuels; a bit similar to processing ethanol from fermentation - a dilute starting point and somewhat energy intensive to concentrate.

              •  Thank you. It would seem that if the cells were (0+ / 0-)

                fully hydrated the tension on the walls would make them more susceptable to disruption by the US. Do they use weak osmotic solutions to adjust the fluid balance in the cells prior to US?

                Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                by FarWestGirl on Sat Jul 04, 2009 at 11:10:12 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  in the lab - sometimes (0+ / 0-)

                  and sometimes just use osmotic pressure to burst the cells, if the particular cells have weak walls.  A lot of methods, depending on what is being processed and the goals.

                  There's been a lot of work on concentrating algae cultures for harvesting purposes. Ingenious mechanisms that don't use much energy, but are prone to clogging. Clog-prove ones that take a lot of power. Cleaver ones that take too much maintenance.  It simply isn't an easy task.

                  I suspect that a workable solution is a genetically engineered variety that needs special, although not too hard to provide, conditions to grow as a way to keep it from spreading in the wild, and that takes on a clumping behavior when triggered by some low cost means. The clumped masses would be easy to strain out, possibly floating to the surface through entrained gas bubbles (plus the oils they make).  As starvation, particularly nitrogen starvation, usually triggers oil formation, a similarly triggered but delayed formation of sticky polysaccharides that bound the cells into a mat and trapped the O2 they give off might work. The combined buoyancy of oil and gas floats the mats, concentrating the cells enough that the more energy intensive harvesting methods could be used.

                   

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