Algae for Fuel & Fertiliser: The CO2 Hungry Microbes


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Michael Longhurst of CWCMA explains the opportunities offered by algae at theCarbon Farming Conference & Expo at Orange NSW Australia in November 2009.

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Algae for Fuel & Fertiliser: The CO2 Hungry Microbes

  1. 1. Farming Algae & Woody Weeds: 2 nd Generation Fuel, Food and CO 2 Capture NOT COMPETING WITH Existing Agriculture How could Peak Oil make Coal Cool? Michael Longhurst Central West CMA
  2. 2. 6-12hours from 85% Aust population = Energy Security & Reg. Development $$$
  3. 3. Algae can: <ul><li>Grow oil, (cake, high protein fodder, aquaculture, edible algae ) in high sunlight ( Dubbo Solar Irradiance ~ 9 hours/day) </li></ul><ul><li>in saline water, salinised land, excess nutrients, </li></ul><ul><li>reduce road & house salt damage, </li></ul><ul><li>without competing with food, and </li></ul><ul><li>Capture CO 2 – ALGAE Fundamental Solution, millions of years ago algae captured CO2 & cooled the climate – without human help!!! </li></ul><ul><li>85% capture of power station CO2 Post combustion capture (PCC) but storage via Geosequestration: unproven 20 yrs away!!! </li></ul>
  4. 4. Algae research <ul><li>First: USA since 1970s, National Renewable Energy Laboratory - (US Dept Energy) 1976-98 found ~ 300 algae species/strains that grow ~ 40% oil </li></ul><ul><li>40,000km2 (200x200km) algae could grow all US liquid fuel (biodiesel) (UNH Pr Michael Briggs) [Aust=50x50km] </li></ul><ul><li>Existing Australian large algae farms WA, SA, </li></ul><ul><li>CSIRO has several oil algae pure strains for sale($195 250mL) </li></ul><ul><li>2009 $15M Fed 2 nd Gen Biofuel Grants WA Murdoch, SARDI, Melb </li></ul><ul><li>Farming Algae biological process : best tested near production sites for response to local conditions sunlight, temperature, using local species & strains </li></ul><ul><li>START INLAND – sunlight, salinity, drought, larger areas </li></ul>
  5. 5. Growing Algae <ul><li>Algae need nitrogen, phosphorus and light to grow </li></ul><ul><li>Optimising these things, and CO2 levels, is required to maximise yields </li></ul><ul><li>If several species are growing together you need to find a way to keep the algae of interest (highest oil producer) dominant. </li></ul><ul><li>Need to keep bacteria in check also - as they can compete against algae for nutrients, especially an issue if you are using waste as fertiliser. </li></ul><ul><li>(Simon Mitrovic, NSW Department Environment, Climate Change & Water) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Botryococcus braunii, an oily algae (DWE Simon Mitrovich) .
  7. 7. Oil producing Algae Limitations <ul><li>Non-oily algae grows faster </li></ul><ul><li>Longer chain, complex oils form slower than smaller carbohydrates </li></ul><ul><li>Exclusion of non-oily algae requires innovation to lower infrastructure costs </li></ul><ul><li>Oily Algae to Biodiesel </li></ul><ul><li>Grow pure strain oily algae </li></ul><ul><li>extract vegetable oil (press, chemical, …) </li></ul><ul><li>Trans-esterification: oil + methanol (5:1) + catalyst NaOH + heat = Biodiesel + glycerine </li></ul>
  8. 8. CSIRO Biofuels Research - Algae
  9. 9. Algae becoming feasible: <ul><li>1970s: Oil Crisis - algae oil research starts </li></ul><ul><li>2000-05: Books Frying Pan to the Fuel Tank Tickle; Biodiesel Pahl - both discuss algae oil potential </li></ul><ul><li>2007: Ethanol raises corn price 30%, Palm oil replaces rainforest & 50 Orang Utang/week evicted </li></ul><ul><li>Feb 2008: New Scientist; QANTAS magazine - algae used to make jet fuel </li></ul><ul><li>2006 Crude Oil ~ US$60/b; Apr 08 US$130; [GFC], </li></ul><ul><li>Nov 09 US$80 & rising </li></ul><ul><li>2009 Algae Oil ~ US$350/barrel and falling </li></ul>
  10. 10. Salinity Risk Assessment for the NSW Central West Catchment (Elita Humphries 2000)
  11. 11. Troy Gully Salt (A. Smithson, DWE)
  12. 12. Urban Salinity Damage (A. Smithson, DWE)
  13. 13. Need to find rural land like this ( Troy Gully Salinity, A. Smithson, DWE)
  14. 14. criteria for assessing saline sites for growing algae: <ul><li>Volume, Depth, Concentration, and Chemistry of saline water </li></ul><ul><li>Available saline affected or low productivity flat land </li></ul><ul><li>Nutrient source available </li></ul><ul><li>Productive algal species and products suited to the site </li></ul><ul><li>Partners and interest in algal farm </li></ul><ul><li>Local, regional, global benefits from algal farm </li></ul><ul><li>Cost of excluding non-desirable algae </li></ul><ul><li>Exclude arable land and freshwater </li></ul>
  15. 15. Collaboration Opportunities <ul><li>Inland Australia has lots of salt and sunshine, and room for innovation and people </li></ul><ul><li>Farmers and rural towns with saline groundwater have a opportunity for new food and fuel enterprises using algae </li></ul><ul><li>CSIRO have isolated several oil producing species and strains of high oil producing algae </li></ul><ul><li>Farmers, Universities and Councils could work together to develop regional algae enterprises </li></ul>
  16. 17. Algae Fuel Hybrid Car (SMH 25 Sep 09) 1.5L/100km plug in, 4.5L/100km on highway. Less liquid fuel may be needed if electric cars become popular. Algae Jet Fuel is being researched and trialled as planes rely on liquid fuel.
  17. 18. Algae solving Oil & Food Crisis? <ul><li>Petroleum price rising, Algae oil price falling </li></ul><ul><li>car fuel consumptions falling and electric cars likely </li></ul><ul><li>Fuel from Oilseeds,, corn for ethanol causing problems (Mexican corn up 30% - strikes & riots) and habitat destroyed (Palm Oil V Orangutans) </li></ul><ul><li>Saline Algae releases arable land from biofuel production </li></ul>
  18. 19. Saline/Algae Enterprises <ul><li>Jet Fuel </li></ul><ul><li>Stock Feed, </li></ul><ul><li>Organic soil conditioner </li></ul><ul><li>CO2 Sequestration to solid or liquid, (NOT Gas to be stored underground) </li></ul><ul><li>Human Food: Edible Algae, Fish </li></ul><ul><li>Cosmetics, pigments </li></ul><ul><li>great opportunity to start new food and fuel enterprises using algae …….??? </li></ul>
  19. 20. Carbon Capture & Storage <ul><li>Post combustion capture (PCC) now developed for 85% capture of power station CO2 (new & retrofitted) by CSIRO, Division of Energy Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Concentrated CO2 speeds algal growth for oil and many new algal enterprises - oil, aquaculture, edible algae, biomass, …... </li></ul><ul><li>Coal mines & power stations need farmers to take & consume Captured Carbon – not wait 20 years for Geo-sequestration!!! </li></ul>
  20. 21. Invasive Native Scrub Weeds or resources? Biofuels Electricity generation Agricultural Charcoal Carbon sequestration Boutique timbers Pharmaceuticals/essential oils Proper treatment improves biodiversity
  21. 22. Extent of Woody Weeds in Western NSW (very approximate)
  22. 23. Tim Flannery <ul><li>On ecosystems: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Should we aim to keep them as they are today, as they were 200 years ago, or as they were 60,000 years ago, when they functioned without the interference of humans” p380, The Future Eaters 1995 </li></ul>
  23. 24. Opportunity to close the Carbon cycle <ul><li>“… America’s pioneers cut and burned the great eastern forests…As a result…less than 60 years old and are growing vigorously, in the process absorbing around half a billion tonnes of CO2 annually…planted forests in China & Europe may be absorbing an equal amount. For a few crucial decades these young forests have helped cool our planet by absorbing excess CO2.” </li></ul><ul><li>(p33, The Weather Makers , Flannery 2005). </li></ul><ul><li>Sweden makes 20% energy from Wood waste with target 40% by 2025 (Andrew Lang 2008 Curchill Scholarship) </li></ul>
  24. 25. INS > boutique timbers <ul><li>West 2000 considered cutting valuable boutique timber before harvesting INS for biofuel for electricity production </li></ul><ul><li>Some INS species listed in “Useful Trees and Shrubs in Central West NSW” glove box Guide (DPI 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Plants of Western NSW lists several uses for INS species (Cunningham 1981-2006) </li></ul>
  25. 26. 40 Yrs Woody Weed Regrowth: 1965-2004
  26. 27. Millions ha’s Woody Weeds = many Millions tons pellets Large stems & 20% retained, groundcover restored, reduction of monoculture good for fauna and grazing Wood Pellets in demand $150-$250/ton In Europe and Japan
  27. 28. Vision Plan <ul><li>Provide a transition between now and Peak Oil developing Algae and other biofuels to prevent inflation, finance and fuel shortage </li></ul><ul><li>Find many new fuels, foods & stock fodder from algae and weeds to meet future demand </li></ul><ul><li>Develop mass consumption of CO2 to reduce global warming effects </li></ul>
  28. 30. 2020 CO2 Capture: Soil, Wood, Algae Target: Cause Global Cooling
  29. 31. Biorefinery & CO2 Capture Model
  30. 32. Acknowledgements: <ul><li>Central West Catchment Management Authority (Bioenergy Conference) </li></ul><ul><li>NSW Department of Environment Climate Change & Water </li></ul><ul><li>Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation </li></ul><ul><li>Dubbo City Council - potential land availability </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Sturt University - concept support </li></ul><ul><li>UNH: - biodiesel - Prof. Michael Briggs </li></ul><ul><li>CSIRO Marine Sciences (oily algae) & Energy Technology (PCC) </li></ul><ul><li>Bioenergy Australia </li></ul><ul><li>Andrew Lang – Churchill Fellowship Wood Biofuel study in Scandinavia </li></ul><ul><li>Committed Western Farmers 1million acres of woody weed fuel & growing!!! </li></ul>