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Webinar w/ Carel Callenbach and Marc Van Aken: Algae Opportunities
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DISCLAIMER: This is my trancription of a webinar conducted by 3 non-native English speakers. Keep this in mind as your read. Tried my best to infer meanings when not perfectly clear. ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Moderator: Hello everyone and welcome to the Algae Opportunities Production Challenges & Applications Webinar. We are presenting this webinar in line with Algae World 2009's commitment towards sharing a realistic snapshot of where the algae industry is today.

On that note, I am very very excited to introduce our esteemed guests at today's session. Our first guest, Mr. Carel Callenbach is managing director of Ingrepro PV , Europe's largest industrial algae producer. Ingrepro is the world's leading expert in cultivating algae under extreme stress conditions in order to obtain enriched algal biomass. And the company's business model explores algae cultivation for high-value micro-ingredients and for energy.

Our 2nd guest is Mr. Marc Van Aken, CEO of SBAE Industries NV. This Belgian company has developed and patented both indoor and outdoor algae growing platforms, each tailored towards specific applications.

We look forward to presenting you with this very lively and informative session today. And we're going to address your pre-submitted questions from 8:15 a.m. U.S...

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part 1

Carel and Marc, welcome and thank you so much for taking time of your very busy schedules to share at this webinar. I would like the both of you to share a short few words on the algae industry with our audience. So, Carel, why don't you start?

(1:45)
Carel: Well, to give a short summary, I think the algae industry at this moment is still in the very early state, as anybody would probably know, and I would like to invite all research companies and all people starting in the algae industry to actually start producing, and that's why I think we have this webinar now. Just deciding should I or should I not, maybe we can help this afternoon, or this morning, wherever you are, then I hope we can give you motivation.

Mod: We're waiting for Marc to come back in. Let's start with the questions. First, I'd like to introduce a question from ... in India:

(2:40)
Q. What is the best economical and eco-friendly technology for processing and production of biofuels from algae?

Carel: I think, first of all there are two things if you want to make a biofuel, you need to have, you need to cultivate biomass. And of course if you want to cultivate it you have to do it in an economically and ecologically friendly way, and if you look at it from a plant-growth system, you want to have something that grows fast, and the advantage of algae is that you can use residual waters, you can use cheap nutrients, and then you can solve one side of the urbanistic problems, that is all the waste-waters, and you can use less space. If there were any other plant that will grow faster than algae to do it, but at this moment, algae technology, in probably a combination of open pond and photo-bioreactor, although PBRs are still in the R&D phase.

Mod: OK, thank you very much. We're still waiting for Marc, so we'll move to the next question. This is from ... in India:

(5:05)
Q. How would you go about selecting a suitable strain for algae cultivation?
Q. What is the best type of cultivation and processing methodology for a large scale project?

Carel: To answer the first question, I think the strain depends a lot on your local nutrients, salt water or fresh water? Do you want to harvest it only for the oil content or do you want to make a dry biomass? So that's the choices you have to make.

And the second question? If you do it on a large scale, and if you do it for biomass, let's say not necessarily for the pharmaceutical industry, at this moment, if you were to start a business now, then look at open pond systems, and look at strains which grow well in open pond systems. And that will limit your choices of course, and I think the Chlorella, and of course Spirulina are two strains which grow fast and which grow easily in open pond systems. And the advantage of the byproducts that you make, at least will suit let's say food and feed grade. If you go into any other new algae strains, then you're might find yourself in a position to produce a lot of oil, a lot of fats, but at least in Europe and in the US you will have some legal problems to sell the biomass.

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Part 2

Mod: OK, let's take the next question. This is from Richard in Malaysia. He wants to know,

(7:10)
Q. What are the current growth rates and oil content, and I think he wants to explore the relationship between the both. Algae growth rate and oil content.

Carel: I think they are inversely proportional. More or less, I have yet to find an algae that grows fast and which the faster it grows the more oil it makes. Unfortunately if you have fast growing algae they usually have less oil, and commercially viable algal strains which grow under, let's say low-cost conditions with a high growth rate, you would be able to get 15% of oil, maybe a little bit more. Of course, 20-30% is also possible but then you're growth rate goes down.

And then to give an answer the first question, what techniques, I think you asked me? You have to look not only at the theoretical possibilities but also at the economics, and that you have high growth-rate with a little bit lower yield, and that can be the best option.

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Part 3

Mod: OK, we have a question from Nick in the USA.
(8:10)
Q. He wanted to discuss continual harvesting, and what he refers to as hemostat harvesting. What is the culture maintainable for this type of harvesting regimen?

Carel: Continuous harvesting you mean? I think I missed a word. So, if you want to look at a batch system, then of course you have to dimension your harvesting system most adequately and have a fast growing algae which suits your harvesting method. That could be a decanter sedimentation... so any algae you can harvest in a continuous way, but if your are to do it in a quick way then you have to go with an algae which grows fast. So I don't know if I'm answering the question well or if I should give it another view?

Mod: Well, why don't we ask Marc? Marc has been able to join us. Welcome Marc.

(9:20)
Marc: Thank you.

Q. We were just discussing Nick's question, he wanted you guys to discuss continuous harvesting, and the ideal culture to maintain this type of harvesting regimen?

Marc: Well, continuous harvesting would depend on the production technology that is being used. I mean, some systems are inherently batch and some systems are inherently semi-continuous, and some are almost continuous. I think the real question is a question of productivity. What's the amount of algal biomass that you can generate per square meter per surface, and then whether that is batch or continuous or semi-continuous is less relevant I think.

Carel: I think he also asked which culture would be the best one, so I think from my point of view that would be a fast-growing one, and that's of course the chlorella would be excellent. But you could also grow spirulina and harvest it continuously if you dimension the surface and your harvesting techniques adequately.

Marc: Yes. I would say it would depend on what you are trying to achieve. If it's for biofuel, and you're looking for specific content of the algae, that would drive the species you would be using. We at SBAE are working with the diatom family which is one that's more uncommon I would say but which has some distinct characteristics in the speed of growth and being able to harvest continuously.

Mod: OK, thank you gentlemen for sharing...

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Part 4

(11:20)
Mod: I have a question from Jerry in the USA, he wants to know:

Q. What company has the lowest fuel production costs, in terms of algae fuel, and how do you measure the production costs, and what needs to happen for algae fuel companies to be competitive with petroleum?

Carel: I think production costs for any industry, if it's the algae grower industry, for any industry, you have to add up your costs, and then divide by the quantity that you make. And for any company it's the same thing. But of course if you're growing algae, from a biodiesel point of view, you have to have an, as we call it, an intubated(?) production of your biomass, you have to re-mediate, you have to integrate it into some kind of... waste heat, waste water, and it depends on how much remediation you'll get, on how extensive(expensive?) the algae will be. And then I come to the last part of the question. At least the industry we're in, we don't compete with petroleum. Because we are in a market where we mediate the problems of cities where we treat waters, and as a byproduct we make the algae, and as a byproduct of that we make quantities of oil. Both are sold for a price because we are also selling the other 70% of biomass into other markets. So it is a business model that does not have just one income. It is a multi-income model, and many people who go into the biomass area from the traditional energy area can't cope very well with this multi-income business model. So you have lots of incomes: biomass, oil. So it's a complex thing.

Marc: I would agree with that. It's generational biomass, and one of the components of the biomass is a fat component, an oil component if you want, and for that to be competitive with petroleum, the question is what's the total value of the biomass, and will that component, the oil component, be sufficiently high to carry everything. If you do it purely for competition with petroleum, it's not going to work with the current oil prices. Oil prices will need to go up significantly. However, these oil prices do not represent the full cost of the petroleum, it's just being harvested, if you like, it's not calculating in the production of it. That's the bad news, if you want to. The good news is, as Carel said, the 70% which is not oil, and that has significant value in different markets. So if you add it up it can be competitive even at current oil prices.

Carel: And that is the entry barrier that many people have, is that they come from the petrochemical industry, and they do not know how to solve the other 70%, and it has nothing to do with how fast it grows, or what the price of oil is.

Mod: We have a question from... in Canada, he wants to know

(15:30)
Q. What is the current most achievable productivity for microalgae in terms of ground area, per day?

Carel: I don't know what your production systems are, Mark, but let's say on a biofuel, robust, large-scale, low-cost system, you could produce even in Canada or in any other cold country, between 50 and 60 tons per hectare. But then you have to use CO2 from some kind of power station that is nearby, you have to have some residual heat left-over somewhere, and if you divide that by 330 or however many harvest days there are in a year, that's what you should look at. Some people do 40, some people do 60.

Marc: I would agree that with hybrid algal crop systems, that what you could get in an optimal situation, the diatoms we're using have the advantage of being more productive than the traditional free-floating algae systems, and we get a productivity of between 100 and 115 tons per hectare per year. But, as always with algae it's very difficult to compare like for like. So an absolute number is important but is definitely not the only aspect, it's also what's the specific content of the algae, how easily can they be harvested and all these other issues that make up the big picture together.

Carel: Correct, I also agree.

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Part 5

Mod: OK, we have another question from...

(17:30)
Q. What is the progress in non-chemical microalgae flocculation and harvesting technology?

-Non-chemical, huh?
-Yes.

Carel: Well, it's called bio-flocculation. So you have to stress the algae in some kind of a way, to make them stick to each other. And that is possible with microalgae, I don't know if it is possible with diatoms.

Marc: With diatoms it's slightly different because the species we're using are so-called attached algae, which means they attach themselves to carriers, the sub-strata if you want to. The way we harvest them is by lifting those carriers out of the water and blowing the algae off. So we don't need the flocculation technologies, because the algae are already attached to something which makes them harvestable in a very efficient way. Sw we use a different approach there.

Carel: If you do chemical flocculation you have to add other nutrients... but if you know how to bio-flocculate them naturally, without having to add anything, like Marc does or like we do with normal green algae, then that's the way to do it.

Mod: We'll move to the next question from Ken in Canada

(19:10)
Q. What is the most effective and economical oil extraction method?

Carel: Marc, do you have any idea?

Marc: Yes, it's one of these million dollar questions, the answer is it really depends on the species you're using. There's hundreds of thousands of different kinds of algae with different oil contents, and also with different physical characteristics. And the physical characteristics will determine how easy or how difficult it is to get the contents in general out. Not just the oil, but the contents in general. Typical green algae have have a cellulosic cell coverage, which makes it quite difficult to get the contents out. Because it's quite robust, it's a bit like a stress-ball, if you want to. If you push it, it will go in all kinds of directions, but if you release the tension it will go back to its normal shape. So you would need different kinds of technologies, and a lot of work is being done in that area currently, with a lot of different technologies, even going as far as using magnetic fields and ultrasonic technologies and so on.

At SBAE we don't need any of those, because of the work we do with diatoms. Diatoms have silica cell enclosures, and silica cell enclosures have the big advantage that they can be opened using standard technology. Standard mechanical pressure... because of the physical characteristics of the cell covering.

(20:40)
Carel: Yes, with green algae or with other algae, some have a thick cellulosic membrane, some have a thinner one, and indeed it depends on how you grow them, how you stress them, if you use enough sheer, then I think that's a competitive edge that companies will achieve by themselves under the conditions that they have, and the local conditions, how they can get the oil out. So I think that is a multi-million question there, and I don't think many people, when they figure it out, it will be published very quickly. People will use it for themselves I think. At least that's what we do. Marc, you're actually talking about ultrasonic algal oil extraction methods, and Ken McLee has asked whether this is a viable method. Would you like to comment on that?

Marc - Sure. From an engineering point it's quite simple. What's the energy you have to put in to get the oil out, compared to the through-put in number of kilos per second? And if you run that equation and it stands, then it's viable. If not, it's not. Then the other question, does it scale? Can you do this for very large volumes? Because if you're talking oil for biodiesel purposes, you're talking about very big quantities. So, although ultrasonic may work at a lab scale, the question is will it work large scale in an energy efficient way? But that's true for any oil extraction technology, by the way.

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Part 6
(22:30)
Okay, the next question is from Jacitra in India. She wants to know:

Q. What are the best freshwater algae for biodiesel?

Marc: The answer we have at SBA is diatoms again, because there are diatoms that will grow and flourish in freshwater. There's diatoms, relatives of that family, that are in salt water, and diatoms in brackish water. The real question is, of course, if you want to do biodiesel at a very large scale, and you want to do it in freshwater, you're going to risk competing with other uses for freshwater. Because we all know there is a very limited supply on this planet of freshwater. So for large-scale applications for biodiesel, it's very likely that this will be a saltwater production technique that will be used. But as for other reasons, it will work equally well in freshwater, but it is probably not likely that it will happen.

(23:55)
Carel: Well I would like to add on that particularly because of the limited amount of freshwater, that could be a reason to go to sewer water or industrial process water that is, let's say, not clean anymore. Then you could use that freshwater to, even in countries where there's not enough freshwater, then you could still grow something on it. So it would be used in some conditions, of course freshwater is limited but in those areas, in urban areas... I went to one of the Dutch Islands in the Antilles, and there they purify water, and that purified water is also used in the sewers. They give very expensive purified water to the sewer companies, and there is a very good possibility to grow algae to make biofuels, because you can't grow anything else with it.

So you can always find in certain local conditions a win-win. So don't fix only on saltwater, don't fix only on freshwater, but look at the whole thing as an individual project. And that makes algae different from a regular industry because if you build a machine in India, it will work in Europe. But if you go into the algae industry, you have to adapt the whole thing.

(25:00)
Marc: I think that's right. What I was referring to is a matter of sheer scale, as soon as we get to replacing a significant part of current fossil oil, that's going to require lots of surface with lots of water. And I think Carel is right: if you do it near cities you get some decentralized production, but it won't scale to the extent that is needed worldwide for the moment. But it will work, I agree.

Carel: No, but Marc, I think you should, at least that's our point of view. I think the largest limitation of biomass for biofuels is not rain, or freshwater, it is nutrients. Of course not only nutrients, but you could fill the strata with a lot of water, but it has to be fed with something.

Marc: Absolutely.

Carel: So I think around cities, anywhere you have got the nutrients, you've got the waste feed, everything there, I think for the preliminary stages we're in now, for the innovation to grow on that will be the first step, and maybe later on, if you want to really substitute fully, the large consumption of energy that we use now with the petro-chemical oil, then you would need a lot of fresh water. But you would also compete with nutrients for normal agriculture, because you need nitrates, and you need your phosphates also to grow algae.

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Part 7
(26:50)

Mod: Well I have the next question from Govind? in India, and he wants to know:

Q: Can biodiesel algae be harvested using the spent wash of sugarcane-based ethanol distilleries?

Carel: Well, yes. All organic wastes which have nitrates and phosphates and other organic minerals, you can grow algae. And then of course, which algae? That's what you have to find out. But yes, of course it is possible to do.

Mod: Okay, great. Well, we'll move to the next question, it's from ... in the USA. And he wants to know:

(27:50)
Q: What are some of the scale-up issues for pond and photobioreactor based systems?
Q: He also wants to know a little batch, semi-batch, and continuous operation systems?

Marc: That's a very long question.

Mod: Why don't we break it down. Why don't we do the first one, which is the scale-up issues with pond and photobioreactor systems, and then we can address the second part.

Carel: I think with the scale-up of ponds you need space, and with photo-bioreactors, maybe Marc you'll agree, but you need a lot of pumping energy, so you need to find a way to keep the cap-ex down, so it depends on how expensive land is I think. Marc do you have any ideas on how you could answer that?

Marc: Yes. Well, the problem with either of those technologies, whether it be open pond or reactor based, is you know, how does the cap-ex, the capital expenditures, scale when the volume goes up? And typically the photobioreactor is quite a linear model. If you double the capacity you're probably going to need twice the capital to invest. Because from a pretty intensive capital point of view, so if you imagine a couple of square kilometers filled with photobioreactors, you might end up in the situation of the first computers, which had rooms full of vacuum tubes, and then you had a failure every other minute almost.

Carel: And the air-conditioning to cool it down...

Marc: And then you need to cool it... it doesn't scale that well. It's definitely an issue with photobioreactors. Ponds on the other hand, you need to do some ground work and some basic work, but from a harvesting, from a processing point of view, you might benefit from scale there better. So that's definitely a different way, an inherent difference between the two systems. Now there are efforts that are being done to make reactor based systems less expensive, but the fundamental challenges, such as cooling, such as gas-exchange, such as bringing the nutrients to the right place, continue to exist.

And the question of batch, semi-batch, and continuous, is an economic one. If I can do a batch system, and my operational cost is a fraction of a continuous system, then yes it might work. If on the other hand my operational costs are just limited to the number of days, or directly tied to the number of days and not much else, a continuous system might be best. So it's not easy to give just a clear and simple answer to that question, it will depend a lot on the technology you would be using.

Carel: Well I think to give an answer on this batched or unbatched system, I think the batch systems are also used to initiate some stress conditions. So you may empty the open pond system under stress and then you fill it up again, and so it might have also some reasons to initiate oil growth in your algae.

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Part 8
(31:00)
Mod: I have another question from Erwin who wants to know:

Q: Is it feasible to start an algae project near a coal plant to capture the CO2?

Carel: Of course, algae need CO2, but if near a coal plant, there are no nutrients; and my experience is that CO2 is not a limiting factor. It is limiting for the growth of the algae. But usually when you are near a coal plant you've got gigantic amounts of CO2 which has been fossilized and been produced over millions of years, so it's nearly not expected that within a couple of hectares, within a solar year, you can consume all those CO2 produced by that coal plant. So the proportions are completely out of proportion.

Marc: I would agree. You need surface, you need water, you need nutrients, and you also need CO2, that's true. But probably in that order. CO2 would probably be one of the last ones to enter into the game.

Carel: Yes. Yes. So, if you have all the other things, you've got some cheap CO2 there, but you would also want never be able to completely store or sequestrate CO2 of a reasonable sized coal plant. So it's not logical. You cannot sequestrate in one year what millions of years of biomass are being burnt in one year. Millions of pounds are being burnt in one year. So it's out of proportion.

Mod: Okay, thanks for that...

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Part 9

(Mod) We have a question:

Q. Is it commercially viable to cultivate algae in cold climates?

(33:20)
Carel: We are growing algae in Holland, which is a little bit colder than Belgium, it's a little bit more north, but we get this question many times. If you want to grow your algae for nutrients, for pharmaceutical things, then you can afford to heat the ponds, so algae prefer warmer climates. But if you're producing algae for energy, and you are using waste waters, near urban areas, and in urban areas there is always enough CO2 left over, waste heat left over. So in Canada or Moscow or other cold climates, you could heat up and you could get an algae culture running. You might run out of sunlight if you go too far north, but in cold countries you can simulate using efficiently the inefficiencies of a large city.

Marc: We found that the limiting factor to algae production is not heat, it is light, energy from the sun, and as long as you've got enough energy, incoming energy from the sun, you're able to grow algae, as Carl said, we're doing it in Belgium. I mean not exactly the warmest country on the planet. Even the opposite is true. If it becomes too warm, and the intensity of the light is too high, given the fact that algae are biological systems by themselves, they can suffer from that, and they can react by retreating and stopping dividing, and stopping division, and halt the production. So actually it's a myth that you can only do this in certain parts of the world that are around the equator. The diatoms we use, they grow from polar circle to polar circle. And productivity will be different in different areas, but it's absolutely doable in more places than you would imagine.

Carel: Yes. People say why don't you grow them in Spain? And you see how certain foods are being grown in the south of Spain, they actually shade them. So too much sun isn't good for algae either.

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Part 10
(36:15)

Mod: We'll move on to the next question from Doris in the USA:

Q: In how many years could we expect a commercial-sized algae production facility, specifically for biofuels?

Carel: Well, we will be building one in the Netherlands at the end of this year, so we are applying for the red tape and permits. We are an investor in algae systems, we don't sell machines, so that is probably why it works, we don't have to convince people that it works, we do it for ourselves. But I think there might be some other projects. You hear some things in Spain and in the US there are some projects. So I think that in 2010 some things might arise. Some small plants are being built.

Marc: Yes, I would agree with that. It's probably going to be for the next year that you'll see fully operational plants at a certain size which will be convincing enough to allow for scalability to larger scales. So all the elements are in place, it's a question of making sure projects get started, funding is found for these projects, and I think we're off and running. The question said 'commercial size'. How do you define commercial size?

Carel: There's something else too, Marc. You've got commercial size and commercially managed. So of course you could have a commercial size which is funded by a lot of money, but it is not commercially viable, it is a research project. So I think some of them will be commercially sized research projects, and some of them will be commercially sized and commercially run.

Marc: And those are the ones we would be looking for obviously.

Carel: And the later, commercially run, commercially sized, those are the companies to watch, and those companies will probably not only focus on the oil, but will focus on the biomass and its derivatives, not only the biodiesel.

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Part 11

Mod: We have another question from Steven Miller in the USA,

Q. What are the operating costs involved in removing algae from a raceway pond or photobioreactor, and processing it into a final product?

(39:10)
Carel: Well I think, generally speaking, people tend to think that in photobioreactors where concentration is higher, where harvesting is cheaper. But within the open pond systems you can do some pre-concentration steps, and finally the harvesting will be as expensive for both systems. What are the costs? The costs are still high now. There's a learning curve with flocculation systems, and concentrating the algae. Then of course the final product would be the oil and its derivatives. And that's I think very company-specific, and not general for everybody. It depends a lot on what markets you want, what specialities you want to go into, into fish feed, or if you want to go into human consumption, and then sell the fatty acids to the coating? industry, or jet fuel. So there is a learning curve, and the costs are going down.

(40:20)
Marc: Well, we at SBA are again are a bit specific with our technologies, with our attached diatoms, because by removing the carriers out of the water and blowing the algae off, literally blowing them off, we only have to process between 3 and 5% of the total water volume of the system, which has a clear impact on harvesting costs. Processing into a final product depends on what the final product is, and there's not one answer you can give to that, absolutely not.

Carel: It also depends legalities, food grade, or if it's just for the bioplastics industry. It depends what your business is. If you are a saltwater bulk raw material market or if you want to go into the downstream process.

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Part 12
(41:25)
Mod: This is from Steven Miller again, he wants to know:

Q. How do you keep a raceway pond from getting contaminated?

Carel: My question would be, why does he only want to know for an open pond system, because people think open pond systems are more difficult to keep sterile, or to keep in ...culture. In a photobioreactor, if you ask people around with photobioreactors, they also have problems with contamination. And so for growth systems I think you have to find the optimal conditions that they grow in, and that in an open pond system limits the strains that you can use, which sometimes is easier than in a photobioreactor. In a photobioreactor you have to keep the thing shut and clean. And which sometimes is more difficult than using a pond. But then you are limited in pond systems to what algaes you are growing, and then you go and raise the ph, or you go to certain temperatures, or certain nutrient levels, and that's how you keep them clean.

Marc: At SBAE we don't worry about contamination because we're working with a polyculture, which is inherently a mix of different algae, and it's a living ecosystem if you want to. So there's different kinds of diatoms and as long as the diatoms prevail, as long as they are the most productive system, they will automatically keep other algae out of that system. So this is again a somewhat different approach, using the biological properties, and not trying to go for a monoculture, but leveraging actually on the fact that a polyculture is able to sustain itself.

Carel: And Marc, I think that is a very good question in that especially if you go into the growth of algae for biomass, then of course if you have a 10% or let's say a 5% contamination with other algae which also have good oil content, and you can keep that culture 95% on a stable growth rate then that's fine. So you don't need, it's not a must, but the must is that you get a good yield with a lot of oil. And if it's a mixture, that's fine.

Marc: Yes. And if it's predictable and stable...

Carel: That's the good part about a pond system, they are less, stringent let's say. And if you are in a photobioreactor then the whole thing can just collapse. But it is quite strange. People want, are more fond of photobioreactors, but they are the most difficult thing to actually get growing for let's say large scale production. So that's some kind of paradox which always gets me thinking.

Marc: Well, the thing with algae open pond systems is that they look very low-tech, and low-tech, for a lot of people, a lot of investors, seems to be not necessarily attractive in coming out of an era where you know, high-tech was the standard. It's a bit of a perception, because there's a lot of technology, and a lot of knowledge, and a lot of steering required as well in open systems. So there is a lot of technology there, but you know it's not as flashy I would say.

Carel: I think you're right, Marc. I think that's one of the pitfalls for new investors, new people starting in the business have. They should try and find investors, if they need them of course, that are open to not what the thing looks like, but if it works. And if they have something that's a photobioreactor that works, then of course use it. I am not against photobioreactors, we also use them here, we have a hybrid system. But don't be too much tech oriented at this stage, but be production oriented, and start. And I think the technology is good enough to actually start, and people are being pushed by the investors to do more and more research. Which I think they should also do, but they should also start.

Marc: Along the same lines, the entire GMO, genetic modification discussion. We're getting into you know trying to change the organism genetically, and we don't even know how to grow them properly today. And we want to start improving on something which still needs to be ruled out. Which is kind of working backwards in my view. But a lot of money goes in that direction as well.

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part 13
(46:40)

Mod: We have one from John Hughes in Canada, and he wants to know:

Q. What are the realistic algae production volumes with existing or near-term technologies?

Carel: In terms of oil production?

Mod: Yes.

Marc: Well, I can give some numbers to that. Our current production is between 100 and 115/150(?) tons per hectare per year. And roughly 20%, 20-25% of that could be oil, triglyceride oil really, so if you're looking at biodiesel that would be the parameters.

Carel: Theoretically, I think we have done some calculations, 90 tons per hectare could be possible. But I'd say for now, at this moment, for us 60 tons, and then about 15-20% of those 60 tons per 10,000 sq meters is oil, is ppo, pure plant oil, or pure algae oil, whatever you want to call it. And it's not only the pure triglycerides, but there are some other components in it.

Marc: Some of it are phospho-lipids, but they are the minority fraction.

Carel: Yes, correct.

(48:15)

Mod: We have the next question from Alan in Spain.

Q. What is the potential and limit for algae in sequestering carbon and remediating water?

Carel: What is the limitation? And the potential? Well, I think that the limitation of the CO2 I already told that the amounts of CO2 being blown into the air are a... projection of millions of years of CO2 that have been stored under the ground. So it is out of proportion, there's not any other plant that will sequestrate as much CO2 as algae, so from that point of view it's very good. But as a whole, you won't solve the CO2 problem with growing algae or any other plant by that means.

And with the cleaning of water, I think it is a very cheap and profitable way of remediating the nutrients and some part of let's say your heavy metals and other minerals out of water. So the potential is there.

Marc: And what I would like to add is, you know, the question was to sequester carbon. What you're doing of course is your starting to recycle carbon out of the atmosphere. To sequester it you would have to grow the algae and then bury it, which is probably not something that anyone would be ready to do for the moment. A bit like the fossil oil is actually diatom oil, it's from historical algal blooms of diatoms that have been buried under these different layers, and then the oil is still there in those layers. So yes, with our process we're actually doing what nature has done, produce these sources of energy. However, as Carel has already rightly said, mankind is burning it at an enormously fast rate, and it's going to be difficult to catch up with that rate.

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Part 14

(50:40)
Mod: We have the next question from Dick McDaniel in Great Britain.

Q. What is the chemical consistency of biodiesel from algae? And is this chemically equivalent to petroleum diesel?

Carel: Well first of all, algae don't produce diesel. Not even diatoms. You have to have a transesterification process, and that depends on the company that will start transforming the oil. So these companies... have all their technologies, but you can make on-spec biodiesel from any plant oil. So that is not our business. That is your business Marc?

Marc: Algal oil is vegetable oil with a high content of triglycerides, which lend themselves to transesterification and conversion into biodiesel. Which is what all the biodiesel manufacturers around the world are doing for the moment. Whether they're doing it from animal fat or doing it from palm oil, they're doing it from soy oil, they're doing it for all different kinds of feedstock. And in that respect, algal oil is another feedstock.

Carel: Yes, but not all companies doing it are really making biodiesel on specs with diesel. So I think in ester oil they have a process which is quite on spec, I think EOP(?) has a very good system, and there are other companies... But that's no rocket science, it's regular petro-chemical industry which is used to harvesting, getting out of the ground, getting other producers... palm oil or algae oil, transforming lipids into something else. That's a chemical reaction, and that is no big deal, really. It's not unique knowledge. It's old knowledge used in a different way.

(52:50)
Mod: Question from Anthony in Oman:

Q. Can the algal lipids produced be fed into a traditional refining plant, or would the processing of algal fuel be a different process altogether?

Marc: Well, it goes to a biodiesel plant first, then it goes into a network of the petrochemical industry.

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Mod: From Helena Erickson in Italy:

Q. What is the greatest challenge for the algae industry today?

Carel: That's a good one.

Marc: That's a good one.

Carel: We first have to define who is in the industry. I think most people are not in the algae industry. They are doing something with algae, but they are not in the industry. I think they are doing research, or they are doing some kind of a project which is... I don't want to be negative about .. I think we do need them, but the algae industry itself one of the largest, it's... the algae industry in the 50's and the 60's Hawaii and company, there's been an algae industry in the food area, algae industry in the biomass fuel area I think the largest thing there is to find is the right people with the right mindset. And you have the multi-disciplinary knowledge of feed, food, and energy, to get these companies running. And then, of course, get the confidence of the funding, and to get the nutrients, and to convince sewer companies, and convince local governments to not be afraid of this transition we are in. And so it's a bit of a complex answer that I'm giving, but it's not just a technique we're looking for now, but its, you have to have the right spirit and you have to have the right thrive to get things going, and you need, I think, the first pioneers to be doing something with algae, but for biomass, for biofuels, they have to be multi-disciplinary, so they have to have some knowledge of selling the byproducts. Otherwise they're out.

Marc: I would say the biggest challenge is making sure that we can move on with it on, and prove that this is working. As opposed to doing more research, and doing more tests, and doing more... there's a lot of fog that's being created for the moment, and because it's an industry, or it's an area of research that is getting a lot of attention, the drawback of the fog would be that investors are reluctant to get going because of all the messages that they hear, and the messages are: there's a lot more research needed before it will work.

And you can use the example of the mobile phone. You know the mobile phone you hold today in your hand, if you had that in your hand in say, the mid '90's, it was a very heavy thick brick with a separate battery that you had to carry around. If you would show that now to people, you know, nobody would want it. But because the first generation was there, today we have the apple iphone. And we shouldn't shoot for the I-phone immediately. There's more than enough to get going, and the biggest challenge is to convince the parties, to convince the investors that this is more (than a brick) that we have today.

Mod: Well gentlemen, we're running out of time today, so we have to call it a day. But before I end it, would you like to make any final comments about the webinar and the algae sector as a whole, and of course Algae World 2009?

Marc: Well, you know we had some technical problems getting this started, it doesn't mean that the internet is not worth using. And I think with the algal industry, there's a lot of things happening, there's a lot of very good work that's being done. I think we should try to create the same industry as we've done with the internet industry. The opposition to the internet industry came from the traditional telephone companies, who said what we have is good enough, and we don't need anything else. The big challenge with the algal industry is it changes the ground rules, it changes the way the industry is shaped and structured for the moment. So in the future it will be more decentralized, and it will use different paradigms, that's a big challenge, but that's the one we're working on.

Carel: I think that's, I liked the anecdote that we started with some technical problems, but it's working well. I think in the algae industry, there's some technical things which have to be overcome, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile to actually get going.

Mod: Thank you so much for participating...

(end of webinar.)
 
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Other Webinars:

Avigad Vonshak at Algae World 2008 Presentation

"27-minute video by a thirty year algae industry veteran, who explains the potential pitfalls facing commercial-scale algae farming for biofuel production..."

http://biodiesel.infopop.cc/ev...01000031/m/421103531

Webinar - Utility Scale Algal-Based Carbon Capture with Jim Sears of A2BE

"Jim Sears is the Chief Technology Officer for A2BE Carbon Capture and the chairman of the Technical Standards Committee for the Algal Biomass Organization. He has been a thought leader and organizer for the unfolding algal industry since the year 2005..."

http://biodiesel.infopop.cc/ev...01000031/m/643100301

Webinar w/ Carel Callenbach and Marc Van Aken: Algae Opportunities

"Hello everyone and welcome to the Algae Opportunities Production Challenges & Applications Webinar. We are presenting this webinar in line with Algae World 2009's commitment towards sharing a realistic snapshot of where the algae industry is today..."

http://biodiesel.infopop.cc/ev...01000031/m/180108221

Algae Realities from the Guy who Wrote the Book - John Benemann

http://biodiesel.infopop.cc/ev...01000031/m/908105151

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