This is a transcript of a webinar presented by Jim Sears of the company A2BE Carbon Capture, given on Feb 4 2009. http://ai.connectpro.acrobat.com/p57437324/
Just the slides from the presentation can be viewed here: http://www.euci.com/preconference/feb4algal.pdf
Today's speaker is Jim Sears. He 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.
Presentation: Part 1
Jim Sears: Thank you all for attending and thank you Dave and Kelly for putting this together.
(Slide 2) So, we're going to start right off, I've got 42 slides and I'm going to move through them quickly. You'll notice on the right side we have numbers on the slides...
So starting right off, we're going to be doing an orientation to the industry. We'll be talking about the technology that my company, A2BE Carbon Capture is developing. Talking about industrial synergy examples, how we would work with the power industry using this, as well as technical standards which are extremely important at the beginning of any industry. Also we'll be talking about lifecycle calculations and considerations because, now when we start new industries, especially energy ones, we need to think about the lifecycle. Siting and regulatory can't go forward without it.
And, we'll talk a little bit about the future and how we believe that this industry, the CC&R or carbon capture and recycle industry will be part of all of our futures.
(Slides 3-4) First of all, orientation. What is algae? Well, what we believe algae is, is now truly, it's nature's answer, it always has been to food, fuel, and climate change. In fact, algae created the climate that we have right now. It's at the very bottom of the food chain. Everything we eat at one point started as algae. Not terrestrial plants of course but certainly from the ocean. Most of the fuel that we currently consume, whether it's oil or coal came from algae. And why is this? Well, certainly... algae are masters of photosynthesis, because they are small cells with a large amount of surface area to volume, they have a large membrane transfer capability for nutrients. So it's this smallness in itself combined with the fact that they have chlorophyll that allows them to engage in photosynthesis faster than any other plant type, and that's important. Essentially, because they create so many different chemicals within them, we call them solar powered chemical factories, and that's really what they are.
And, what we're looking at now is being able to use them to create food and fuel on non-arable land, land that can't support other types of agriculture. And, to use CO2 from global manufacturing emissions as a feedstock for them.
So let's start first here. When you start talking about algae and the algal industry, and so forth, you can really discriminate yourself from the rest of the crowd by using the words properly. Within the Algal Biomass Organization, we've decided to really promote proper use of these words. Alga, which we don't use very much is a single cell, We don't use it very much because usually there's a lot of them. Algae is the plural. Algal doesn't get used a lot. So, instead of saying algae industry, you can kind of say that but it's really Algal industry. So, using these words properly helps show you're on the in with all of this.
(Slide 5) You'll see a lot of photos here on this slide of microalgae. All of these are under a hundred microns in size, or at least under a thousand for sure. We have ones that are covered in silica, we have cyanobacteria, we have green algae. There's hundreds of thousands of types of algae, especially the diatoms which have all of these different patterns. But seaweed is also an algae, and it's being considered for energy crops as well. But for the most part, when we talk about algae we're talking about microalgae that can be pumped in fluid-type systems.
So. what is it about algae and how important it is right now? Well, what I tend to look at is, we need to start thinking about the fact that there's industrial respiration, industries take in oxygen and they burn fuel, and they put off CO2. We've been doing this for 100's of 1000's of years, since the earliest campfire. And we as humans take in fuel, food, and breathe oxygen and breath out CO2. So in ways we and other animals are just like automobiles and coal plants. This is good, this is part of the energy cycle on earth, you are a carbon based life form, and so are our energy transmission systems.
So what we need to do is to actually start offsetting on the planet, this use of carbon, to use carbon to actually capture energy. And so crops, plankton, grasses, of course do that.
(Slide 6) What we need to do now is to start an industry that at industrial intensity starts up-taking carbon, adding energy to it through photosynthesis, and creating high-value chemicals that will be sellable on the market.
So, part of what we are doing here is creating a new industry to help balance the old industry that will continue, and thereby through industrialization start to balance our carbon footprint on the planet. But this is not all about carbon, as you'll see, it's about products and profit as well.
So, what can we do with algae? Well, certainly, if we have a source of concentrated CO2 we can really accelerate its growth. So certainly with all of these sources of CO2 on the left, here, using these types of sources... in the atmosphere there's only .04 percent of CO2, but coming off a combustion plant of various sorts, we have 4-12% CO2 ( the rest is unreacted atmospheric nitrogen). With that sort of a concentrated source, and using algae as a mechanism for photosynthesis that is really able to do it quickly, we can empower those carbon atoms again into complex molecules. Those complex molecules form all the different types of fuel that we have, whether they're biofuels or food, methane, bioplastics. Oxygen comes off of some of these as a product also. And soil amendment is a whole other market.
So these are the things that we can take dead carbon, carbon dioxide, and make it into live carbon, all these products that are sellable. So here's an example, it's a complex example, but one that we've been looking at a while because it has so many very delightful characteristics to it. There's many ways to use algae to turn carbon into products. This is just one, so I don't want you to think that this is the only way you can do it, but this is an interesting way to do it.
(Slide 7) If we follow the carbon, we have coal, we burn coal in standard electrical industries. For example about $25 worth of coal makes about $90 worth of electricity, depending on the price of coal, the price of electricity and so forth.
About 300 Kg of that coal, when you make electricity, and you've combined the carbon in the coal with oxygen in the atmosphere it actually makes 1000 Kg of CO2. It's heavier because all the oxygen is attached to the carbon. We'll take that 1000 Kg of carbon and run it through this diagram and see what happens with that.
So we take the 1000 Kg of CO2, feed it to algae within an algae photobioreactor, or other means of growing high-density algae, and we would end up with about 540 Kg of dry equivalent algae. There is actually more when it's wet but that's what the weight would be dry.
In this particular case we actually take that algae, and rather than harvesting it directly, we, hang on to your hats here, guys, we actually have brine shrimp harvest it. We have brine shrimp eat that algae, and the reason we do that is, these are some of the original harvesters of algae developed through evolution. They're very good at it, they do it with a huge amount of energy efficiency, and they convert about 50% of the algae they eat into their own biomass.
So here we have half that weight, 270 Kg of shrimp. But we take the shrimp, which are easy to get out of water, and these are brine shrimp, they're only about 1 cm long, we take those shrimp, and we can get them out of the water through screening and divide them into representative products such as oil, which can be converted into biofuels, into animal protein which is really a very valuable product. Chitin, which is exoskeleton, and then we can take the brine shrimp poop, actually, and move it up here (into an anaerobic digester), mix it with a little extra carbon, which could be sawdust or corn husks, or any of those, and through anaerobic digestion turn it into methane and fertilizer.
So once we look at this whole set of products, what their value is on the commodity market, we find out that we can make a lot of value out of a ton of CO2. The oil, if we look at the amount of Kg, it shows you how many Kg we're dealing with on the diagram, so 54 Kg of biofuel oil is about $40, this is actually a high price these days, this is about $2.50 per gallon for this oil and as we know right now it's less. But look at how much protein, we could get $90 worth of protein on the commodities market here.
$25 worth of methane, about $40 worth of fertilizer/close to fertilizer, soil amendment type, and about $30 worth of oxygen. This is based on how much it would cost, via the coal, to make that much oxygen, when we are using the oxygen in an industrial process. And then we have a carbon credit we threw in there. Let's say that we will have a $25 per ton carbon credit. We add all these up and subtract out some of the costs of the nutrients that we'd have to mine and put in here, for the cost of hauling the carbon waste, end up with a net revenue of $200 for that ton of CO2. So suddenly a ton of CO2 is not just a waste product that pollutes our atmosphere and heats up our planet, but it is a feedstock that with the proper industrial process can be monetized in a hugely significant way, and that's what we're trying to do.
Another aspect about this, and this one I'll have to go through very quickly, you can just look at this and see it's complex, but the message is profound. What we're saying is, if you take the process that we have, that we showed on the slide before, that process, not every process with algae but this one, we can make a lifecycle that's actually carbon negative. That this process ends up, and I'll go right down to the bottom, is, every 100 Kg of Carbon input into the process on the previous slide would result in 130 Kg of carbon being displaced and avoided from entering the atmosphere.
(Slide 8) What this means, in a kernel, is that, if you make it an industry, and based on those processes, (if all our calculations are correct and we believe they are,) then the larger the industry is, the less CO2 will end up in the atmosphere, yet you will continue to acquire all the benefits of all the products. You'll have all the oil, the methane, the protein, the fertilizer, industrial oxygen within the economy, yet there will be less CO2 in the atmosphere. And this is true even when you burn the fuels, of course you would, you wouldn't make fuel and not burn it, the CO2's going to come out the tailpipe or the end of the jet. And you're also going to use some fossil carbon. And even when you input fossil carbon and burn the fuels this is still true, it's still a carbon negative process. So this is amazing when we discovered that it could be this good.
Again, there's a lot of caveats with this, it's complex calculations, it depends only on the type of process that we talked about in the slide before. Not all algal processes, but it is a huge indicator of the potential of this industry.
(Slide 9) So what is this industry? And we'll start right off just understanding. So, we've all perhaps heard something about the biotechnology side of this, making special algae that make lots of products and are able to, almost do miracles and this is part of the, maybe the hype in the industry. So that all happens in the biotech industry, we're looking at different types of algae that have different applications for this.
What we need to do is, well let me first address a few of these questions.
Please clarify/quantify the fresh water usage per MT of CO2 from an electric plant.
-I'm going to get into that in just a minute. But freshwater usage per metric ton of CO2 - fundamentally you're going to use the hydrogen out of the water if you're going to make a hydrocarbon fuel so some hydrogen gets pulled out, it's not very much, but I quantify the water later in the presentation.
Is the carbon displaced a net or a gross calculation?
-In order to be gross you really have to, look at the costs of building up the industry, so this is a net for the process, or excuse me a gross for the process, when you're talking net it gets a little more complicated. So you have to be carbon-negative a lot in a process before you can, build down the carbon emissions that may have occurred during building an industry. But we look at that.
Ned Leonard: What costs were assumed in CO2 capture at power plant? Built into calculation?
-We did not assume those costs on this one, those costs are not part of that, so we're saying what we would do with the CO2 once it's captured. However having said that, aquatic algae offers an inexpensive way to capture carbon out of a flue gas stream.
(Slide 10) Alright, so back to the industry. We have the biotechnology industry. The biotechnology industry moves (on chart) into the industry that amplifies these huge square miles of farms, that makes one cell into many trillions of cells, into biomass, and harvests that biomass. That biomass goes into a valorization industry which takes that biomass and turns it into things that people will actually buy, like fuels, plastic, chemicals, and so forth.
There's also an industry that will provide nutrients, certainly electricity, and water into this process. There's the source of the raw inputs that feed into this chemical factory. And then we have an industry that will provide all of the support services, the education, the science and engineering, the building of these plants.
So these 5 industries together are what the algal industry is. The industry that I am in is this one right here in the center. And so we'll be talking a lot about what it's like in that industry in the center. And also we'll talk a little bit later about these things such as biotech. We'll talk about the interfaces in-between the industries and that's where technical standards come into play.
So, where are we with this industry? Well, it's good to kind of step back and ask, so, why aren't we driving cars around with algal fuel right now? I asked that question myself when I first started this in 2004. First of all, the biotechnology is hugely promising, but it is at this point just mostly proven in the lab. We for years have understood the potential of algae, but how can we realize it? The engineering of getting carbon dioxide from all these emitters into an algae plant, this is very complex, it'll be very expensive to do this as well. Huge amount of infrastructure development. Workforce: there's a huge number of people who would have to work in this industry, to grow to the size that it wants to be, economically and for other reasons. And developing that workforce that does not exist at the moment is not a trivial aspect of the overall problem.
-Turning algae into things that are worth something
This has mostly been proven in the lab. We fly jets on algae now, not completely but they certainly have algae fuel in there. Putting vehicles on 100% algae based fuel. There's many high-value chemicals, you buy eggs that have omega-3 oils in them, that came probably from algae. There's many things it is being used for. The key to all of it is making enough algae biomass. So the industry that we're going to talk about most today, which is kind of the choke point of the whole industry, is the building of enough square miles of closed and open algal biomass growing systems that have enough reliability, scalability, and value, to create good biomass and productivity to create a lot of biomass, and can do it at a proper cost.
(Slides 12-13) So this is how we see it at A2BE Carbon Capture. We see there's 2 different approaches to doing this in the industry: the open pond approach and the closed photobioreactor approach. What this is is a closed photobioreactor approach, which is where we're working, and so that's what we'll talk about today cause there's not enough time to go into all the different approaches.
Each one of these is a photobioreactor. This is one, this is one, this is one. Each one has about a 1/2 acre footprint, so two of them make an acre. And each one is fed by a manifold of piping that comes from a source in the center. What do we have here? This is, the future I think is going to look like this, you'll look out an airplane window, you'll see this when you go across country. Well, what's here and in a little bit more detail.
(Slide 13) This is a busy chart. But it shows that what we've kind of depicted here is... this is for example a coal to liquid fuel plant. It could be an electric plant, it could be a refinery, but in this case we talk about a coal to liquid plant. Well, a coal to liquid process creates huge amounts of CO2. That CO2 goes out through these pipes into the photobioreactors. What happens in the photobioreactors is that algal slurry biomass, a pumpable biomass of slurry, goes back into the center along with oxygen (because these harvest oxygen,) feeds that oxygen into the coal to liquid fuel process, and feeds the biomass into a separation facility. All CO2 produced in this facility is actually fed out to the photobioreactors. Of course we create a lot of methane so we have huge spheres for storing methane Your anaerobic digestion and so forth.
I'll just say that the reason that these are pink in the corner down here is that we actually use chlorophores(?) in the plastic of these photobioreactors to convert ultraviolet light into the red light that the algae uses.
Mariah Rossel: Are carbon credits for CO2 capture through algae available now?
-We do not have the carbon credits worked out for algae. I think carbon credits need to be worked out for a lot of industries. But there's a lot of advances in bringing algae up to the status of other fuels.
Dave Moll: Has there already been a farm built to this size?
-No, there is no farm of this size. There's really been no high-tech algae farm of more than a few acres. Some of the existing algae farms, we've got algae products at Whole Foods, those are on the order of 50 or more acres. Some of those open systems that have been around for 40 years are fairly large. But we have yet to build these things. So all of this is prospective.
Kelly Murphy: Is algal oil being produced today?
-Yes, algae oil is being produced, but in relatively small quantities. We got enough to run the Continental flight just in January. That was just about 2 1/2% of the flight, it's difficult to get...
Yvonne Groiss: What is the capital cost?
-With capital cost we're looking at, as this gets developed, $100,000 per acre.
Ned Leonard: What purity of CO2 is required?
-That's a complex question, but generally we want to keep mercury out of the CO2. We have to filter all the heavy metals and things that would contaminate the algae, and keep it from being valorized as a food source. With respect to nitrates, it's not a problem, we can eat those. With respect to sulfur, it depends on what you're producing.
Ned Leonard: Does standard power plant scrubbing clean up CO2 sufficiently?
-Yes, and, we need a little extra in the mercury department.
(Slide 14) So the basic core component of all of this is, the photobioreactor we're looking at has 2 tubes. These tubes are much like long water beds, about 400 feet long and 20 feet wide, about 10 inches deep. If you went up and pressed on it they'd respond like a water bed. There's a lot of stuff inside them, different types of vents and things that control the currents of the algae inside, so that light gets to all the different parts of the algae.
We have distinctively on these, rollers, that actually push the algae through these tubes, and create the pumping action, and help the evolved oxygen come out and actually push the evolved oxygen out of the end of the tubes. At one end we have what we call a bio-harvester. We use several different harvesting techniques, and we won't get into those too much today although they are a very important part of the industry. There's a whole lot of different components of what's going on inside the tubes. We also have places where the gas goes in and out. Actually the gray end is where the gas goes in and out and the red end is where we do most of the harvesting, but a little bit of both happens at each end.
So again the metrics of what we're looking at here, about a half acre each. The consumption is important to understand. What we're claiming as a consumption here in 2012 will be 110 tons of CO2 per acre year. So in 1 year, 1 acre will convert 110 tons of CO2 into biomass. And that biomass, that 110 tons will create about 60 tons of biomass. We're thinking, with our way of looking at the economics, we'll have a 6-10 year payoff on these farms.
And there was a question about water, before. All the different uses of water, all aggregated together in this system, only account to a quarter-acre foot per acre or 3 inches equivalent rainfall, so it's a very small amount of water. Less than 1/10 of what most irrigated crops use.
Some questions here -
Amaya Arteche: Isn't the bioreactor too thick?
-Well at 10 inches that's... as algae gets dense, and in these systems the light will only penetrate a fraction of an inch to a few inches because the algae substrates itself. What happens on this (system) is the algae is rotated up into this phototrophic zone and then back into the dark. So even though we have 10 inches of total thickness there's what we call helical current in there, counter-rotating helical currents rotate all the algae up to the phototrophic zone.
Ira Sider: what is typical production of Algae for biofuels with CO2 vs without CO2?
-It's much less without CO2. I don't have an exact number but we're talking an order of magnitude between using a concentrated CO2, or more than an order of magnitude.
Ira Sider: Is the 54 Kg's Biofuel per ton of CO2 on the low or high range?
-That is a low number. We are very conservative, that's about the equivalent of about 10% oil content. Some people are claiming 50% oil content. We're claiming pretty conservative numbers in what we're doing.
Stephanie Shaw: What is the annual energy consumption required to operate one of your reactors?
-Energy consumption is quite small in this because the water speeds are low. It's a complex question and and important question. We think that in the end we have an energy gain of about 4x. So instead of things like ethanol that have 1.2, we would be on the order of 4-5x.
Mariah Rossel: How do you calculate CO2 per year?
-This has to do with the productivity that you can expect from one square meter of sunlight intercepted, and there's a lot of things that go into this. On the very bottom of this slide you're looking at right now, in the fine print, because we put a lot of secrets down here in the fine print, you'll see 55 grams of dry weight per square meter, photosynthetic. So that's what we're claiming, as a yearly basis, that this system will do 55 grams per square meter in 2012.
Dan Nelson: Is the 100 tons CO2/acre year metric tons?
-Yes, metric tons, and fortunately metric tons are about the same as English tons.
Yvonne Groiss: Have you already estimated the investment and operating costs of the bioreactor per acre?
-We have, and we believe that we will make money and pay this thing back in about 6-10 years.
Amaya: What is the material cost of the photobioreactor?
-The types of plastic are very similar to low-density blown polyethylene. And so, a waterbed for example is usually made out of vinyl. Polyethylene is more like construction plastic. But there will be a number of different types of plastic used in here.
Zia Abdullah: Is there a single species or a consortium?
-You can do it either way, but we believe that a consortium of different symbiotic species is the best way to create bio-stability over the long term.
Jacinta Dos Santos: Where do you get the algae?
-Important question. We think the best place to get the algae is right where the plant is. Use the indigenous algae that's already there, because, all these plants will leak and spill algae, so the best situation from a, ecological standpoint is that, the algae that is already in the soil, in the streams right there where you're building the (energy) plant.
Amaya Arteche: What is the operating temp? How is it controlled?
-I can't tell you how we control the temperature right now because it takes too long. (laugh) It's too simple, but the entire farm is temperature controlled through passive means. (see end of part 2)
(Slide 15)) In the gas exchange end of the photo-bioreactor you can see there's a lot of different parts. I'm just going to cover the large parts so I can keep going. This is about how big it would be because here's a person, you can get a sense of the whole scale. You can also see from this roller how it's pressing the film and pushing the gas out of the tubes and into the end-housings here.
You'll have these slides, and I'll certainly entertain questions on this in the future. There's also a published patent and the patent number is right on our website, with a lot of details far beyond what I can discuss today.
(Slides 16) Part of doing algae is you have to inoculate it. So you start with just a test tube worth of cells, you grow it up to say a gallon worth of cells, then maybe a hundred gallons worth of cells, and then what we call our Series 2 machine. it's about 15,000 gallons worth of cells, and then you go to Series 3, which is here, which is 150,000 gallons of cells. So this is kind of how you build up biology as it divides.
What we're looking at, the technology that we're working on developing here is a universal technology that will grow a lot of different types of algae. So we have blue-green, or cyanobacteria type of algae, salt-water, strains of dunaliella we're looking at, fresh-water strains, and even diatom strains that have silica as part of them.
And then also be able to harvest them, in numerous different ways. Because how you harvest the cells and when you harvest the cells during the day determines what their chemical content is and of course how expensive it is to get it out of the water. So, using a number of different harvesting ways in combination is a way to get the maximum amount of value out of the algae.
(Slide 17) Here's something that's obviously too detailed, we have this published on our website in the downloads.
When you look on the web at all the different ways people are doing photobioreactors, or open systems, or trying to start this industry, what we've come up with through our system and engineering is 10 essential characteristics that every commercial operation will have to have to be part of this industry in the future.
(Slides 18-19) These 10 essentials are... essential. They're not optional.
I. Flexibility in Cultivation and Harvesting
This is an essential aspect for economic viability. Because the crops are going to change, as the decades go by, we get different types of pathogens and different types of different market conditions.
II. Long-Term Biologic Stability
There's a propensity of algal systems to crash and burn so to speak. To have bacteriological infections. These industrial systems will have to last for a year or more.
III. Efficient Temperature Control
If you can't control the temperature of your biology, it's going to die. It's as simple as that. You can have a whole farm die in an afternoon if the temperature gets too high. And it has to be controlled in a highly temperature-efficient way because you're not actually capturing that much energy from the sun, you can't afford to spend a lot. We have a very efficient way to control the temperature.
IV. Functionally Unlimited Scalability
What does that mean? That means, as big as you want to and need to make it, you can make it with the amount of resources you have on the planet. So we kind of look through all the elements of this design, it's mostly made of concrete and steel and polymers that it can make itself. All the different elements of this, including the industrial resources, we have in enough abundance that we can make this however many 1000's of square miles throughout the planet that we need to.
V. High Areal Light Productivity
If you don't make these things with high productivity, they'll simply cost more. There is so much technology, that, you have to have high productivity for each square meter so you don't have to surround it with as much cost in technology.
VI. Frequent Cellular Re-Suspension
You have to suspend those cells all the time.
VII. Frequent Biofilm Management
You have to control biofilms. Biofilms happen all the time. They decrease the amount of light that can get in the system.
VIII. Efficient Gas and Nutrient Management
You have to handle gas and nutrients very efficiently. Because there's a lot of gas that you have to pass through these systems.
IX. Industrial Reliability
It has to have industrial reliability if you want it to be an industry. If there's upstream and downstream industries, like upstream the CO2 industry, we've got to ship our CO2, you'd better be able to use it. Downstream has to need your products.
X. Politically Deployable
And it's got to be politically deployable.
By looking at these 10 essentials you can pretty much grade for yourself any technology that you come about.
OK, I'm going to stop and look at the questions quickly.
Gerardo Galvan: How do you select the harvesting method?
-Depends on the crop. These are crops, even though they're algae, so you use different methods...
Q. Recent surge of financing?
-Why is that? I think that what has changed is, people are realizing we have to do something with CO2, and we have to do something about food and fuel. And it is the technology and attention to this has just come out. Interesting question, it's a sign of our times.
Gerardo Galvan: What are the capital cost and the operational costs to obtain biodiesel from algae? what separation method are you using?
-Capital costs are expensive, and we're driving those down.
Dan Nelson: Are the CO2 conversion rates contingent on latitude location of the facility?
-Yes. This is sunlight that does this. And so the more sun you have, the more you're going to be able to produce. It's all, the whole process is photosynthesis. And also temperature. So we want to do these within the central latitudes, but we're looking at technology that should work up into the northern end of Colorado, perhaps even Wyoming, depending on the weather conditions.
Jacinta Dos Santos: Do you have a partner in the power plant industry?
-We have a number of partners that we are working with, we are always interested in power plant, industrial partners that are willing to work with us to create the details of the interface.
(Slide 21) So, here's a detail. Let's start at taking a power plant and retrofitting it. If you look at a typical power plant, there's a place you burn natural gas or coal, create electricity. You would typically have some sort of filtering or bag house to pull out particulates and other things, and you put CO2 up the stack. We're saying with a plant like that, if we simply tap in to where we go up the stack, make sure we remove any mercury that's in the system, because we need to keep the mercury out of the system, not for the algae's sake, but for the value of the algae biomass's sake. The algae probably won't die, but you won't be able to sell that algae for food if it's got mercury in it.
Take that CO2, put it into a large number of these photobioreactors, many more than I've shown here, and we take the biomass and process it into all the different things, biofuels, protein, nutraceuticals, chemicals, and so forth, including methane that we can run back into the process and offset some of the fuel use.
Also, we create in these photobioreactors pure oxygen, and with that oxygen we can increase the efficiency of combustion in a plant.
(Slide 22) So, with this type of retrofit, it's gas exchange is where we tie in. So, I should have a little drawing to show exactly where this comes from, but this is the grey end of the photobioreactor: inside that grey end, you're looking at a cross-section right here.
So what we essentially do is we take flue gas, in this case we bubble it actually through the liquid, this distance from here to here is just about 2 feet, so we bubble engineered-sized bubbles through 2 feet of this algal media, the green stuff, the water. The CO2 goes into carbonic acid and gets to where the algae can actually use that carbon. Some amount of oxygen gets into these bubbles, some nitrates dissolve into the water. Most of the oxygen however evolves in the length of the long tube, rises to the underside of the top tube, and is pushed out by these rollers, and is vented into a water dammed area. We have essentially pure oxygen out that we can deliver to the plant.
(Slide 23) A different way of using this system is with a gasification type system. In this case we probably build these combustion plants, or gasification plants would be built with this in mind. So we have a standard gasification process, that can pretty much take anything and gasify it; trash, sludge, biomass, coal. You turn it into syngas. Syngas is the greatest stuff because you can turn syngas into just about anything of value in our society.
When the syngas runs through it, this is a little out of order but, during the conversion you create CO2. That processed CO2 goes into the biomass. But this is where an interesting synergy comes in. As you create syngas, that takes oxygen to support that process. So we can create the oxygen through the algal system and make the cost of doing IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle), and the energy efficiency of IGCC much higher, by not having to generate oxygen.
Another interesting synergy is that, of all the biomass or coal that comes in, some of it actually contains phosphorus and other nutrients. Those are not destroyed by the process. Those actually end up in the Mineral Granulate that we can extract the nutrients from. And between the syngas and the nutrients we can make the fuels, plastics, methane, electricity of course, get our phosphorus out, we can make nitrogen needed by the algae, and move these nutrients back into our system. So this is actually beautiful synergy we're looking forward to in the future, and that's why we have, carbon capture and recycle loves gasification, there's a beautiful future here. I believe the future of this industry will be in this type of industrial set-up.
(Slide 24) So how would you do the gas exchange, I have to keep moving quickly, but here is a gas exchange where, basically, from the gasifier, we are delivering high CO2, low oxygen, gas. We keep nitrogen out of gasifiers. so we deliver that gas, we bubble it through the end of the photobioreactor, the CO2 goes into the algae media which is growing, and the oxygen comes back out, because it's almost super-saturated here, and it wants to come out.
So these bubbles will rise to the top, they're suddenly high oxygen, low CO2 bubbles. So we move those back into gasification, use them to combust fuels, and turn them into gas, and the cycle keeps going. We have almost a muscle-lung arrangement, but the relationship with oxygen and CO2 is reversed.
(Slide 25) Now, if we were to take this same thing, and we think about just using it with a natural gas, methane powered Peaking Plant, then we could do the same thing, we could move this high-oxygen fuel to the plant, and return oxygen back, to the extent that we're able to store some of the CO2 and oxygen in between, then we can accommodate intermittent operation of a plant throughout a day, and rate match in between when the sun's up and the sun's down, because there's a certain amount of storage of CO2 in the media itself, dissolved CO2, and a certain amount of storage of the oxygen that's available in the system built in-between.
(Slide 26) If we look at this on a large scale, not just one farm, one plant, but a whole pipeline, we get another opportunity for a huge amount of industrial synergy between industries that emit CO2, farms that use CO2, and pipelines in between them that can exchange the CO2 that the industries use with the oxygen that the industries use, and uses a storage medium, the pipeline system itself, for the oxygen, and underground wells for the CO2.
Of course, we're talking about carbon capture and sequestration. (Instead of) Putting much of this CO2 down for 10,000 or millions of years, this would be putting it down for a matter of days or months or a season, and being temporary storage of CO2, making this whole idea of underground storage much more viable.
Think of this on a whole, country-wide basis, and you see that as you move these pipes around the country, you're having an opportunity with farms. Much like the railroads, that brought commerce and prosperity wherever they went, these pipelines, wherever they go, will create prosperity, in areas where these farms can be.
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This is all fine & dandy, but most cement kilns & asphalt pavement facilities are NOT going to just up & relocate to the countryside just so they can slap sealed algae farms onto their smokestacks & call their product "green" concrete or "green" asphalt. Even the most efficient algae farms would still need significant space to grow enough algae to use all the waste CO2 generated by an asphalt or concrete plant.
Their costs of shipping for moving their product back into the cities would be punitive, although they may be able to buy rural real estate cheap enough to gain handsome net profits by pre-selling their urban real estate after tentatively securing rural locations large enough to accomodate the extra space required for algea farming.
Presentation: Part 2
(Slide 28) We're talking about a new industry, so there's many technical standards. I'm not going to go through all these, but if you look at this diagram, each one of the parts of the diagram has an interface in-between each one of the other industries. So, between the biotechnology, and the cultivation and harvesting technology, there's a standard called BT for Biotechnology. And in between the market and the valorization there's a BV for Biomass Valorization. So we look down here, BV, and here's the standards that would go into an industry having to do with valorizing or selling these products. Obviously, if you have a fuel you're making that's going to be a drop-in replacement, you have to say, what does that really mean? What's it mean to be a drop-in replacement when we're talking about fuel made from algae? That's different from oil, so we have to define that.
Also, product marketing. If you say something is an algae-based fuel, how much algae oil has to be in there? Is it 1%? 100%? 50? Or, if it's green and sustainable, what does that mean? Starting the industry off by defining these really well means that the industry gets organized and consistent across (the board), and it helps the whole industry grow.
CH Cultivation and Harvesting
Likewise, cultivation and harvesting, we have standards there.
(Slide 29) How are we going to deal with genetic modification? Some companies are looking at that. So, how are we going to deal with genetic modification, especially all the different types of GMO there are, and decide which ones are of more concern than others, and how should we allow them?
IG Input Group
Standards for actually hooking up to power plants. We want everyone in the power plant to know that the power plant has a set of standards, and so we need to create standards for these connections.
SI Support Industry
Training and education standards along with safety etc. The engineering standards for building these things.
So if you're interested in this field, this is a hugely important and educational way to get into this field. One way to get into this field is to be an expert in one of these 5 industries and learn how to interface it to one of the other industries, and participate with the Algal Biomass Organization in writing these standards. This is a huge amount of work, we need about 100 people to come together and write all these standards.
So go to algalbiomass.org and we'll have some of this stuff up that will help you sign up and assist us.
(Slide 31) This is about how much CO2 is saved. I'm going to jump through this because it's self-explanatory. But if you're talking about how much CO2 is saved or used, these are hugely complex calculations. CO2 is so complex we need government help to actually audit this so that we can relate one company's calculations to another company's calculations and have them actually relate to peer-reviewed research. Because people are going to get funded based on what their carbon footprint is in the future. So we need to make sure that we audit these well.
One thing to remember about algae farming, it is farming, after all. It turns light into profits, it turns light into food, fuel and things. So it takes a lot of land to do this.
We have a little thing down here (bottom of slide), we talk about the relationship between megawatts of generating capacity to the amount of land. Here's a good sober thing to think about when you're thinking about putting an algae farm next to your power plant. It'll take 30-80 acres of land for each MW if you use 100% of the CO2. But it's important to realize that the laws don't say you have to get rid of 100% of your CO2. They're going to come in, over decades, just a little percentage at a time, so you can use an algae farm to keep in regulatory compliance with just a small amount of offset.
(Slide 32) It depends on which technology you use, how much water you use, but certainly, water is the new oil, and we need to look at ways to unfold this industry that don't pollute water, doesn't use more water than is available sustainably in the location.
Algae is not just carbon. It requires, in each hundred tons of carbon, there's 15 tons of nitrogen in that algae and 1 ton of phosphorus, and a lot of other trace elements. So these things have to be moved through the system. If you ship them out, or you burn them, or dispose of them, you'll have to buy them again. So, recycling nutrients is the way we'll have to do this.
Certainly, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but we do collect it in industry all the time, we collect it as coal, or we collect it as sunlight. So the trick here is to collect and sell more energy than you consume in the process. And we believe that it makes sense with algae.
Siting and Regulatory
(Slide 34) If you can't build it, then, what are we doing? So, it's very important to be thinking about this. Right now, currently, it's plausible, but we think it's probably not yet permit-able on a large scale. No one's tried to make it large scale. So, we haven't come up against this yet, and we're starting to talk about this, and some of the permitting issues are happening right now. There's a case in Texas where they said "we're going to build this huge farm" but they didn't get their permits before they made the press release, so now, because they've so upset the regulatory agencies, it's going to take extra time for them to get permission!
Similar to CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)
It's much more extensive because there's so many different industries and aspects to this.
Back to regulatory, the best resource on this slide is this one article, from Biodiesel Magazine. We can't move forward without a clear regulatory landscape.
So what we're doing, and part of what the Technical Standards committee with the Algal Biomass Organization is doing is creating the rational groundwork for these technical standards. So I encourage any people in the power industry who want to participate in this, we need your input, want your input.
(Slide 36) Moving on, so, it's an industry in discovery, which means we're just starting to understand the whole facts about the industry right now. And just because you see it on the internet doesn't mean it's true. If you see it in Time magazine, none of it means it's necessarily true, because there aren't enough experts in many parts of this process until it actually starts happening. So we're all learning how to do this.
Also, it takes more than a high-yielding species of algae to create an industry. You have to have all the parts that I showed on the diagram of the 5 industries. And it's going to be more than one company that does this, it'll be many dozens or hundreds of companies that actually put together the essential parts to make it all work as a functioning industry. It's quite exciting to look at this industry happen cause we're, for once we're creating an industry where we have the power of the internet. And kind of a, "martian's invaded", single minded focus on the fact that we have a "Global Warming" problem. We have an energy problem. We're about to have a food and water problem.
So all of these things are coming together at this unique point in history, to be able to create and unfold an industry in what I believe needs to be and will be record time.
(Slide 37) There's a number of government initiatives we can't even cover them all here and they are accelerating. With the stimulus bill some huge things are happening. For example, we're part of suggesting that a test center and demonstration program come together, funded by the stimulus bill. We're thinking that this is going to happen. Just having algae get the same type of incentives given to ethanol is a huge step in the right direction. We believe that this is going to happen.
(Slide 38) So, when is it going to happen? I think that it's important to, everyone has a bit of an idea of when this is going to happen, and I'm here to tell you, here's an idea, this is aggressive too, but it's longer out than most people would say. From our own perspective, this year we'll be starting to demonstrate some of our small versions of this. Just small, independent individual bioreactors about 150 feet long. What we're aiming for is the large ones which are 450 feet long which is the ones in the diagram behind the text. We will have the first parts of those working in 2010. It will take several years, though, before this technology is ready to be duplicated many times and turned into these farms, so we don't expect that the large farms like you see in the diagram behind, or even ones smaller than that, will start to be constructed until 2012. Small pilot plants, yes they will. The large stuff, no.
When can you go buy algae fuel for your Jetta? I think that just like biodiesel came on over a certain amount of time, it will be about 2020 before you can drive someplace and get algae fuel. It'll have enough prevalence, you can find it. Our global economy is so large, we have so many products in the mill, that it's going to take a while to finance and build these farms to where they really start showing up in common experience.
And here's a big one: a trillion-dollar industry in 2050. We really thought about, this is a huge thing to say, that you would have a trillion dollar industry in 2050. So let me say a few words of qualification on that. We think that all the aspects associated with this industry would be a trillion dollar industry. We certainly think that the installed base of infrastructure will be a trillion dollars by 2050. How can we say such a huge number with so many zeroes? The reason is, we need it to be true. We have a population on the planet that's growing, and has a growing desire for modern energy products, consumer products, plastics and so forth. We need to provide those with a level of oil that's running out. In an environment where the CO2 is getting out of hand. Droughts are happening, the amounts of crops are going down. In order to improve this, we need to create an industry that moves through all these difficulties and can provide for the population.
Meeting the challenge will be a trillion dollar industry. Will it all be like this (production) plant looks? No. Will it all be our technology? Certainly not. But the Carbon Capture and Recycle industry we believe will be a 1 trillion dollar industry by 2050.
(Slide 39) So, how can you track what's happening here? What would you do to get ready for it? Certainly, if you're in charge of building a power plant, build carbon capture capability into it. It will be good all the way along to just make that provision.
Boy, if you can make a power-plant capable of Oxygen combustion, right now, you have to create oxygen with a lot of fuel costs to do that. But this is a way to future efficiency in most combustion situations.
Locate plants - if you're thinking about algae, there needs to be land nearby, or a planned CO2 pipeline, or accommodation for that kind of thing, like there's already piping right-of-ways that go in between where you're plant is and enough open space. So if there's piping right-of-ways, then there might be room for another CO2 and oxygen pipeline in that same right-of-way.
Know the regulations are coming. Our new industry will be looked at more closely than the last industrial developments on the planet. So everything's going to have to work with this one.
Ten essentials. That's the way, you'll look at people's technology out there, grade them on how well they work with the 10 essentials. Some of the experts in the field have said the 10 essentials are essential reading. That's what we believe.
Join organizations like the Algal Biomass Organization. Stay right at the forefront of what's happening. And be part of how the new way of capturing, using, and delivering energy. We're all going to have to upgrade.
(Slide 40) The Algal Biomass Organization - Their site is shown right here, algalbiomass.org, There's a huge amount of information there, and that's where you would join the organization, start participating in the Technical Standards. Our own website down here, algaeatwork.com.
We are pretty much in the ABO to help build the industry. We're building our company and the industry with an equal amount of fervor right now.
(Slide 41) Another excellent place to find information is this workshop that just happened, Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop. Right here is the website: http://www.orau.gov/algae2008/. You can also google Algal Biofuels Workshop and get to this site too. On the website are dozens of presentations, it's a great source for good information.
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Gawd, if these people put as much work into actually producing algae and extracting oil form it, someone somewhere may actually have an ounce or two of algae oil. So far the whole thing reminds me of cold fusion.
So obviously you didn't read it yet you chose to comment anyway? Typical. Thanks for the bump though.
Yeah right, anything regarding producing oil from algae is not worth five seconds of my time, just show me a algae oil plant that is turning out six car loads of oil a day then I'll take notice.
And you did read it?
Um, I wrote it?
That is I transcribed it. No I am not the author/speaker Jim Sears.
Big words hard but me manage.
(Presentation Part 3)
So with that, some more questions:
Ken Johnson: So E Montana would be a marginal location?
JS: Yes, that's a little bit too far north, but we don't actually know how far north this technology will go until we actually start doing it. And the issue of whether we can be seasonal or not. We don't think that we can be seasonal, we have to operate 365 days a year. But that's a stretch, eastern Montana.
Mariah Rossel: Has plastic from algae been made?
JS: Yes. There are researchers that have used these types of oils to make plastics and they're studying that right now.
Ned Leonard: Please define IGCC ''process oxygen''? Doesn't it come from ''overcooking'' the coal or is it from switch reactor?
JS: So, process oxygen is used in, to actually create the, release the energy for the cooking part of the process, so it's an input to these gasification things.
Ned Leonard: Excuse me, not ''process oxygen'' but ''process CO2''
-Yes, my diagram was not exact. The gasification itself does not create CO2. The catalytic reformation of the syngas into products creates the CO2, and so my arrow is coming off the wrong part, it oversimplifies. Excuse me for that.
Ned Leonard: Underground storage of CO2 necessitates it be defined, legally (EPA) as a ''commodity'' not a ''waste.''
JS: Yes, Ned, having underground storage as a commodity or a waste, these are conversations were going to be having.
Jacinta Dos Santos: where will the money come from to do this?
JS: Great question. I'll have to defer that, but I think that where we want the money to come from is, the industries see this as a way to turn a problem into a profit. And the large sources of funding within our country and internationally would be moving towards this because it makes sense from an economic standpoint.
Beth Brockette: Power plants have to come down for maintenance, etc. How does that impact the algae production when waste water isn't available?
JS: I think waste CO2 is what you're talking about. If you have a pipeline then it'll always be available.
Jayanti Sinha: What is your land cost assumption? What is the nutrient medium to feed the algae?
JS: It's much like feeding other plants. So mostly they need nitrogen and phosphorus, other than carbon.
Mariah Rossel: what would be the environmental effects if one of your reactors ''exploded'' and let algae out into the environment? Will it get into water and cause the algae blooms that have negative associations?
JS: The first part of your question is, yes. Reactors, they may not explode, but they will leak. Leaks happen, right? And so, you have to make it so that if it gets into the water, that it does not create a problem. However, there is a consideration, you do have nutrients. If you had a whole farm, say, drain into a waterway, you would have a lot of algae in that waterway to start with because the farm had algae. But, there's also nutrients, we need to keep these out of the water, we need to keep nitrates out of the water table. These are environmental considerations that need to be payed attention to. As far as negative associations, it's very important I think to start this industry and operate this industry so that it doesn't have accidents. So that's part of what we're doing with the Algal Biomass Organization is trying to get, right at the beginning of the industry, make sure that we start in a way that makes sustainable sense, that makes ecological sense, and environmental sense.
Amaya Arteche: what is the temperature range for algae not to die?
JS: That depends on the algae. You have to think, algae generally live in water, the types we're looking at, so it's got to be the temperature of the water. Most water is generally around room temperature, although many algae live all the way down to freezing, many of them live in snow and operate at that freezing temperature, and some will go all the way up to say, the hot waters of Yellowstone Park. In fact, many people are going to Yellowstone Park and working out agreements where they can research the algae there, so they have algae that operate at high temperature.
Amaya Arteche: what is the kind of alga you work with?
JS: I love it, you used the word properly! We're working with a number of different types. We're ourselves trying not to focus on the type of algas, but, rather, the system that will grow many different types. So, our focus is having a universal system.
Dan Nelson: Excellent presentation. However, land area for CO2 capture from a power plant is simply unreasonable. What do you think the outlook would be to increase CO2 consumption/acre by an order of magnitude?
JS: Unfortunately sometimes life is unreasonable, and photosynthesis, what we're talking about here, is just about the limit of what photosynthesis can do. It is farming, so, even though some people on the internet have claimed huge amounts of consumption, there are physical limits to what photosynthesis can do. And the range of 30 to 80 acres per MW with 100% of the CO2 consumed, that is the range, that's what it's going to take. This is farming.
Dave Moll: How do you deal with the acidity of the SOx (Sulfur Oxides)?
JS: OK, so, the sulfur compounds, it's going to depend on the type of algae, the types of crops, how much sulfur you can allow in this system. I would say in most cases you would have to take the sulfur out. It's just not one of those things you would have to take out like mercury.
Dave Moll: How much O2 is produced per unit algae per unit time?
JS: If you look at the CO2 production in tons, most of the weight of the CO2 is oxygen, so about 75 tons per acre per year of oxygen is going to be created.
Mariah Rossel: How much energy does your system use to run?
JS: Less than it produces. Certainly there's energy needed to move this water around, do some of the processing. We don't have those numbers yet until we actually get these farms built and see how it really ends up. But it looks like we'll have a good energy balance.
Yvonne Groiss: How much money is going to be needed for doing this?
JS: A lot. If you think about $100,000 per acre and multiply that by what we're going to want to build out in this country, we know we're going to have to make on the order of 10,000 square miles, at 640 acres per square mile. So that's a lot of acres. So we're talking about a lot of money.
Kelly Murphy: I was surprised by the amount of fertilizer versus the (livestock) feed. Is that to maximize the use of nitrogen?
JS: The reason that there was a lot of fertilizer in terms of weight, part of that is we were bringing in some carbon waste into that one particular situation, in the diagram. But also the value of the fertilizer we're producing, we're pricing it at a much lower value than factory fertilizer that's made from nitrogen.
Beth Brockette: I've read about vertical production. It seems that would solve the problem of space. What's your opinion?
JS: Vertical Bioreactors. It's an interesting thing. What they're trying to do is spread out the sunlight over more area, create a lower intensity of sunlight, because algae actually can be photo-inhibited by having too much light. But when you really do the math, system engineering, the whole thing, all the amount of structure that you need to hold those things vertical, and the amount of material that you need for them to support themselves, means that there is a much larger amount of infrastructure necessary for the energy production. So vertical in my opinion is not the way.
That was one of the stronger claims on the internet, that they could get 100,000 gallons of oil per acre. It's simply not possible. Not on this planet. A lot of things have changed with that claim. What we believe is possible is somewhere on the order of 2-6000 gallons of fuel per acre, but you won't make the money on the fuel, you'll probably make the money on the co-products, because fuel is a very low-cost chemical in our economy, and for some time to come.
Kelly Murphy: Is slide #7 ''Valorization'' an industry slide or A2BE? Has DOE or another Gov't agency done a similar study?
JS: That is an A2BE slide. That slide could work for the industry. This is how we're looking at the industry. We're thinking that this is the best way to valorize CO2 through algae. We're thinking the energy will catch up with us on these ideas.
Gerardo Galvan: In your opinion, what's the best/most efficient separation method to obtain oil from algae?
JS: Boy, a lot of people are working on that. I would say that, some people look at hexane, and solvents for removing algae oil. While that's effective, our concern would be adding things and trace amounts of things into the biomass that would disqualify its later use as food or livestock feed, and that's where the money is. So we are looking at ways that do not use solvents for that part. People talk about using liquefied CO2 to do that, and whether they could do it at a low enough energy cost. This is where a lot of companies are looking. I don't think I even have an opinion on what is the best is. I think that's going to occur with one of our partners.
Stephanie Shaw: Are you able to integrate municipal waste as a nutrient source?
JS: Yes, we are. And when you use municipal waste water as a nutrient source, we are going to have to make sure we control the transmission of bacteria through different membranes that separate out the nutrients.
Jacinta Dos Santos: does the current Obama Stimulus package include any money for this technology?
JS: We believe so. But we don't know the details.
Amaya Arteche: how do you do the harvesting? which is the system? can the harvesting method damage the algae?
JS: Yes. That's a short answer. There's a number of different ways we do the harvesting. On the one chart showed a number of different ways including bioharvesting, which is actually using things like brine shrimp or other macro-organisms to actually harvest it for you. Can the harvesting method damage the algae? If it's the algae you're actually going to use for product it's OK, but what you want to make sure is, when you're harvesting algae out of the system, you don't harm the algae that are still in the system. And so there's a lot of art to doing that. Some of this gets into particular business approaches to doing this but it's a very important topic.
Dan Nelson: Can you augment natural sunlight with artificial cost effectively?
JS: No. Not to a very large degree. It may make sense to affect the diurnal bio-rhythm of algae with a little bit of artificial lighting, but for the most part it's a losing game. You've got to use sunlight. You can't use artificial light, you could never pay for the electricity.
Steve Lundt: Has CC&R been considered for an open system like a very productive, eutrophic reservoir?
JS: Yes. There will be open systems that use this as well.
Mariah Rossel: What is your alga biomass yield per acre?
JS: That's on slide 7... it's 60 tons per year per acre.
Kelly Murphy: Can this system be designed to utilize Municipal Sewage waste too?
JS: Yes. Again, it's separating out the nutrients from the organic carbon. One of the things you have to be careful about in these systems is not to put too much organic carbon into the system because it would serve as a source for bacteriological infections to spread. Mostly you want to support only what's called autotrophic biological reactions, ones that convert molecules of CO2 to biomass. That way you can control the population by making sure you keep cellular debris minimized in your photobioreactor, and not put too many things like organic carbon in there.
Q. Understand you may not be able to go into it, but do you have plans for a fuel-only plant?
JS: No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build a plant for fuel only. A lot of companies seem to be basing their business plan on that, but we don't think that's the best use of the infrastructure.
Zia Abdullah: How long have you been able to operate a single PBR before it crashes and you have to re-seed/re-start it?
JS: We've not had as much experience with long-term operation. I've heard people talk about operating theirs for a year and more, and that's what we're going to have to achieve in this industry.
Mariah Rossel: What other companies are doing similar projects?
JS: A good place to look is the website of the Algal Biomass Organization. Look at some of the members, and you'll see some of the people that are involved in this industry. We've heard of up to 200 companies doing this type of thing. How many companies are doing what we're doing, the closed photo-bioreactor? A smaller number.
Stephanie Shaw: How often do your PBRs need to be cleaned or otherwise shutdown for maintenance?
JS: What we believe is, we're still working on this ourselves, but, we believe we can have a PBR operate for between 1 and 3 years before the tubes are actually replaced. There's only small parts of it that would be cleaned, most of it would actually be replaced. The tubes come out, we recycle them, turn them back into energy by burning them, and put new, essentially sterile growing tubes in the system. It's made so that those are a consumable that's consumed on a 1-3 year basis.
Kelly Murphy: Could the system use seawater...exclusively in some locations?
JS: Yes, it could certainly use saltwater. One of the things about using any water is your going to want to choose organisms that are in it. So when you're first charging a system with water, you're making sure that it's clear, optically clear, and then you sterilize it, and then you make sure it doesn't have too many organics. And then it's ready to use. So we could certainly charge our system with seawater, or brine water from some of the salt deserts we have, or freshwater, whatever water is available, it all works, as long as we condition it.
MGN NETL: What kind of temperature controls exist for the bio reactors?
JS: That's an important question. What we use in this system, and you'd have to go to our patent application to understand it in more detail, but we have a diaphragm, a septum within these tubes, and that septum controls thermal conduction, and it controls radiation transfer (heat conduction). And our algae either, when you look at those tubes, algae are either on top of that septum, or underneath it. There's valves on either end of the 450-feet tubes that control whether the algae goes over it or under it. By controlling where the algae is, above or below the septum, we control whether it's thermally connected to the environment, or thermally isolated from the environment. We can lower the amount of thermal uptake during the day, and we can radiate or dispense heat during the night, through black body radiation at 300 Kelvin (about 80 degrees F) ...at 8-14 microns into the... water hole into the sky end(?). Likewise during the winter we can absorb additional solar radiation during the day, bump the temperature up, and then put it under an insulator during the night to keep that temperature all the time using the ground as the thermal isolator, and that's about as much explanation as I can give in this amount of time. It's an elegantly simple and hugely energy efficient way to control the temperature most of the way.
Julien Lafaille: How many full-time workers do you think you will need per acre?
JS: Great question, but it's the other way around. We think that we'll have 1 worker per 10 acres. A lot of this is going to be semi-automated. We'll have a lot of robotic-like equipment, but actually human-operated, that will go out and maintain these photobioreactors. So we'll have a lot of gantry-type equipment with people sitting on it, running around.
Jayanti Sinha: Do you have active agitation within the PBRs to allow sufficient exposure of algae cells to light?
JS: Yes. What we do very different is, we don't bubble it with bubbles inside the... it uses way too much energy, it's a poor use of gas if we do that in the endcaps. Within the tubes, as these rollers move along, push the fluid through the tubes, what happens is there's little propellers inside the tubes, that as the fluid moves by them, it turns it, and we create helical currents, counter-rotating helical currents in there. So as the fluid goes through, different parts of the fluid rotate in opposite directions as they move down the length of the tube. And a particular algal cell would move in a helical path down the tube. As it moves in that helix, it moves down from the deeps, the bottom of the PBR, 10 inches down where it's relatively dark, it is dark, up into the phototropic zone, in the first 2 inches of the top. So between this rotation and relatively lower cell densities, we're able to get light to all the different cells, keep all the cells in the PBR healthy all the time. That's the key to having stability, is to prevent cell death, and to keep them all in suspension and all healthy.
Yvonne Groiss: Is there a kind of public database where one can find the composition of different kinds of algae?
JS: Boy, not enough. We need to have that, Yvonne. We've found that that particular question, the composition of different kinds of algae, especially elemental composition, it's not out there right now. Certainly there is a lot of information out there, and we hope that through organizations like ABO we can start creating these resources.
Kelly Murphy: Is there a latitude limit that would prohibit a facility? What winter region temperature is a barrier?
JS: 2 aspects. One is we have to find the latitude limit. We think the northern border of Colorado or a little bit more north is going to work for this. And what we've found is it's not so much the cold temperatures that can hurt, it's the hot temperatures in the desert that can be, from an engineering standpoint, the toughest thing. So our system is able to exist for weeks at sub-freezing temperatures without a problem.
Dan Nelson: Is it important to evenly feed the CO2 throughout the system 24 hours per day?
JS: It's important to not do that. Actually, the algae, when the sun's out and photosynthesis is occurring, they're converting CO2 to biomass. When the sun's not out, they still have metabolic functions that need to be supported. So what they do is, just like humans, they take some of their own energy chemicals, their own carbohydrates and oils that they've stored up, they oxidize it with oxygen from the water to create energy. So, during the night, the algae are actually creating CO2 and consuming oxygen. They're doing the opposite of what you want them to do. So the key to this is to make sure that their photosynthesis time is as long, as productive as possible, and hope that they just go into a lower rest state at night so they don't produce so much CO2. Hope is the wrong word. Through engineering and science we've shown that they use more CO2 than they give off, that this is a net positive operation. But there are two phases that depend on whether it's light or dark.
Mariah Rossel: Is there somewhere to find market data? I know you said trillion dollars by 2050.
JS: There's a lot of places, there's not a lot of places, there's very few people who are making claims, for example claims like we're making here, where we talk about productivity, talk about size. I think that we're one of the companies that are more out there at least in making, rational, supportable claims. We're going to have to have this industry unfold and see what more people say about this.
( end of presentation by Jim Sears - Chair of the Technical Standards committee of the Algal Biomass Organization)
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