Non arable land Algae bioreactor.. A solution to the world..

Nature took hundreds of millions of years to produce the crude oil which, in about 200 years, we’ll have exhausted.

If we can speed up this process, and produce all our liquid fuels and chemical industry feedstocks, and some stock feed and human food from atmospheric CO2 and waste, by a process many times as efficient as farming, without diverting farmland or native bush, on the same timescale as the rate at which we deplete fossil fuel, we’ll have solved the problems of peak oil and global warming, and a few lesser problems.

Conventional biofuel production isn’t particularly efficient. It requires fuel inputs for farm vehicles, and it either diverts farmland away from food production or destroys native bush.

What’s needed is a continuous process, not a batch process like conventional harvesting. The world is running out of land suitable for conversion to farming. An algae reactor can be set up on land which is unsuitable for farming or anything else, and can still produce more than 15 times as much fuel per hectare as canola or palms.

Unlike natural crude, it can yield a product free of contaminants like nitrogen, sulphur or benzene. The first generation will use sunlight for their energy source, but later, as energy sources like pebble bed fission reactors and ultimately nuclear fusion become available, these will drastically increase yield.

Some natural cyanobacteria can double their mass every hour. With genetic engineering, high temperature varieties, and varieties which fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere are possible. The obvious raw materials to use are untreated sewage and atmospheric CO2, helping to solve two environmental problems. Eventually, when energy sources other than sunlight are available, the demand for sewage will outstrip supply, and other sources of micronutrients will be needed.

But as with conventional agriculture, micronutrients are in principle recyclable. All you need is a way to reclaim elements like phosphorus, sulphur, iron, molybdenum and the rest.

This is feasible with a bioreactor producing algae, but not on a conventional farm, where they drain away, and not only are they wasted, but they cause problems like nitrate in drinking water and eutrophication in waterways.

The only high tech part of producing green crude is the final step; converting algae into oil. There’s no reason why bioreactors can’t be operated in the world’s poorest countries, as well as everywhere else where a demand for the products exists.

Being a factory, rather than an outdoor farm operation, it can be conducted close to population centres, or anywhere else. CO2 is available everywhere, and low-grade water supplies unfit for human consumption, almost everywhere.

An obvious location for a bioreactor is right next to a thermal power station, where there’s waste CO2, waste heat and transmission loss free electricity, but in principle one can operate anywhere.

The algae is harvested continuously, 24/7. Currently four technologies exist to extract the oil.

1. Dry the algae and press the oil out. This is the simplest method.

2. Dissolve the oil in a supercritical fluid like CO2 at high pressure. When pressure is reduced the oil separates out and the CO2 is reused. This is the most promising method.

3. Hexane, a hydrocarbon similar to petrol, dissolves the oil. The hexane is then separated from the oil and reused.

4. Ultrasound breaks open the algae cells, and the oil is pressed out.

The remaining dry matter is a high protein stock feed.

A bioreactor producing algae which are processed into liquid fuels, foods and petrochemicals, is a machine for converting waste, including CO2, into essential commodities which are getting scarcer every year. The only input needed is energy. It’s a closed loop. There is no waste and no collateral damage to the environment.

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DOE Awards Dynaflow

Dynaflow, Inc., a leader in R&D services and products in fluid dynamics and applied sciences,  that it has been awarded a Department of Energy (DOE) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop and demonstrate a new system to extract oil from algae.

The program objective is to contribute to the development and commercialization of cost competitive algae based biofuels that can serve as alternatives to petroleum based fuels.

Dynaflow’s new system utilizes a low-cost, sustainable method that combines the algae harvesting and oil extraction steps. The approach promises greater energy efficiency and scalability than traditional methods for producing biofuels from algae and provides a path to large cost-effective algae based biofuel production.

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NASA backs Omega system

NASA ,the U.S. space agency has thrown its weight behind a clever method of growing algae in wastewater for the purpose of making biofuel.

The OMEGA system consists of algae grown in flexible plastic bags floating offshore, where cities typically dump their wastewater. Oil-producing freshwater algae would naturally clean the wastewater by feeding on nutrients in the sewage. The cleansed freshwater could then release into the ocean through forward-osmosis membranes in the sides of the plastic bags.

Trenta bioengineer at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.   envisions harvesting the algae with barges every ten days, and then flushing the plastic bags with salt water to clean out any freshwater algae that might foul the sides of the bags or the forward-osmosis membranes. The algae would be turned into fuel in a manner similar to using corn to make ethanol.

Municipal wastewater pumped into the bags would then start the cycle all over again.

Such a process would mainly rely on the energy of the ocean waves to mix the algae, as well as sunlight and carbon dioxide. The offshore locations and the wide oceans would also have more than enough room to grow massive amounts of algae needed to produce biofuels for an energy-hungry world.

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