From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
Spanish Firm Claims It Can Make Oil From Plankton / Thurs Jul 20
MADRID (Reuters) – A Spanish company claimed on Thursday to have
developed a method of breeding plankton and turning the marine plants
into oil, providing a potentially inexhaustible source of clean fuel.
Vehicle tests are some time away because the company, Bio Fuel Systems,
has not yet tried refining the dark green coloured crude oil
phytoplankton turn into, a spokesman said.
Bio Fuel Systems is a wholly Spanish firm, formed this year in eastern
Spain after three years of research by scientists and engineers
connected with the University of Alicante.
“Bio Fuel Systems has developed a process that converts energy, based
on three elements: solar energy, photosynthesis and an electromagnetic
field,” it said in a press dossier.
“That process allows us to obtain biopetroleum, equivalent to that of
Phytoplankton, like other plants, absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.
Scientists have examined the possibility of stimulating growth of the
single cell plants as a means of reducing the amount of CO2 in the
CO2, liberated by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, is
widely held responsible for global warming.
Bio Fuel Systems said its new fuel would reduce CO2, was free of other
contaminants like sulphur dioxide and would be cheaper than fossil oil
“Our system of bioconversion is about 400 times more productive than
any other plant-based system producing oil or ethanol,” it said,
referring to currently available biofuels made from plants like maize
Bio Fuel Systems is working with scientists at the University of
Alicante on the project. It has drawn up industrial plans to make the
fuel and says it will be able to start continuous production in 14 to
Algae – Like A Breath Mint For Smokestacks
By Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor
BOSTON – Isaac Berzin is a big fan of algae. The tiny, single-celled
plant, he says, could transform the world’s energy needs and cut global
Overshadowed by a multibillion-dollar push into other “clean-coal”
technologies, a handful of tiny companies are racing to create an even
cleaner, greener process using the same slimy stuff that thrives in the
Enter Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. About three years ago, while working on an experiment for
growing algae on the International Space Station, he came up with the
idea for using it to clean up power-plant exhaust.
If he could find the right strain of algae, he figured he could turn
the nation’s greenhouse-gas-belching power plants into clean-green
generators with an attached algae farm next door.
“This is a big idea,” Berzin says, “a really powerful idea.”
And one that’s taken him to the top – a rooftop. Bolted onto the
exhaust stacks of a brick-and-glass 20-megawatt power plant behind
MIT’s campus are rows of fat, clear tubes, each with green algae soup
Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power
plant’s exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a
New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40%
less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another
bonus: 86% less nitrous oxide.
After the CO2 is soaked up like a sponge, the algae is harvested daily.
From that harvest, a combustible vegetable oil is squeezed out:
biodiesel for automobiles. Berzin hands a visitor two vials – one
with algal biodiesel, a clear, slightly yellowish liquid, the other
with the dried green flakes that remained. Even that dried remnant can
be further reprocessed to create ethanol, also used for transportation.
Being a good Samaritan on air quality usually costs a bundle. But
Berzin’s pitch is one hard-nosed utility executives and climate-change
skeptics might like: It can make a tidy profit.
“You want to do good for the environment, of course, but we’re not
forcing people to do it for that reason – and that’s the key,” says
the founder of GreenFuel Technologies, in Cambridge, Mass. “We’re
showing them how they can help the environment and make money at the
GreenFuel has already garnered $11 million in venture capital funding
and is conducting a field trial at a 1,000 megawatt power plant owned
by a major southwestern power company. Next year, GreenFuel expects two
to seven more such demo projects scaling up to a full pro- duction
system by 2009.
Even though it’s early yet, and may be a long shot, “the technology is
quite fascinating,” says Barry Worthington, executive director of US
Energy Association in Washington, which represents electric utilities,
government agencies, and the oil and gas industry.
One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density – about 50% of
its weight. Because this kind of algae also grows so fast, it can
produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Just 60 gallons are
produced from soybeans, which along with corn are the major biodiesel
Greenfuel isn’t alone in the algae-to-oil race. Last month, Greenshift
Corporation, a Mount Arlington, N.J., technology incubator company,
licensed CO2-gobbling algae technology that uses a screen-like algal
filter. It was developed by David Bayless, a researcher at Ohio
A prototype is capable of handling 140 cubic meters of flue gas per
minute, an amount equal to the exhaust from 50 cars or a 3-megawatt
power plant, Greenshift said in a statement.
For his part, Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power
plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of
biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require
a 2,000-acre “farm” of algae-filled tubes near the power plant. There
are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough space nearby for a
few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae and make a good
profit, he says.
Energy security advocates like the idea because algae can reduce US
dependence on foreign oil. “There’s a lot of interest in algae right
now,” says John Sheehan, who helped lead the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL) research project into using algae on smokestack
emissions until budget cuts ended the program in 1996.
In 1990, Sheehan’s NREL program calculated that just 15,000 square
miles of desert (the Sonoran desert in California and Arizona is more
than eight times that size) could grow enough algae to replace nearly
all of the nation’s current diesel requirements.
“I’ve had quite a few phone calls recently about it,” says Mr. Sheehan.
“This is not an outlandish idea at all.”