Algenol Biofuels

We haven’t talked about advances in algae-derived biofuels in a while, so I thought that I’d pass along this story about a cooperative venture between Dow Chemical and Florida’s Algenol Biofuels from today’s New York Times. I haven’t done any due diligence yet, but, on the face of it, it sounds incredibly cool. Here’s a clip:

Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuels, a start-up company, are set to announce Monday that they will build a demonstration plant that, if successful, would use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol as a vehicle fuel or an ingredient in plastics.

Because algae does not require any farmland or much space, many energy companies are trying to use it to make commercial quantities of hydrocarbons for fuel and chemicals. But harvesting the hydrocarbons has proved difficult so far.

The ethanol would be sold as fuel, the companies said, but Dow’s long-term interest is in using it as an ingredient for plastics, replacing natural gas. The process also produces oxygen, which could be used to burn coal in a power plant cleanly, said Paul Woods, chief executive of Algenol, which is based in Bonita Springs, Fla. The exhaust from such a plant would be mostly carbon dioxide, which could be reused to make more algae…

The company has 40 bioreactors in Florida, and as part of the demonstration project plans 3,100 of them on a 24-acre site at Dow’s Freeport, Tex., site. Among the steps still being improved is the separation of the oxygen and water from the ethanol. The Georgia Institute of Technology will work on that process, as will Membrane Technology and Research, a company in Menlo Park, Calif. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an Energy Department lab, will study carbon dioxide sources and their impact on the algae samples.

Algenol and its partners are planning a demonstration plant that could produce 100,000 gallons a year. The company and its partners were spending more than $50 million, said Mr. Woods, but not all of that was going into the pilot plant. The company had applied to the Energy Department for financing under the stimulus bill, but would build a pilot plant with or without a grant, he said…

It sounds like they’ve still got significant issues to work out, but I’m encouraged by the fact that Dow is involved… not necessarily because I love the company… but because it demonstrates that large corporations are finally acknowledging the fact that we’re running out of oil, and seriously investing in alternative solutions. That gives me hope.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted June 30, 2009 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    I was going to tie this into the local Burger King story, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was going to point out that somewhere a 24 acre biofuels plant was going to be built, employing 300 people, while here in Ypsi we were getting a new Burger King, but the thought of it really started to depress me. I really can’t believe that fast food represents the best that we can do as a community. I can’t accept that flame-broiled Whoppers are the outcome of this entire painful process that we’ve been through.

  2. KJT
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    We have greasy scum in Ypsi too. Can’t we somehow monetize it?

  3. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Ford lake is full of alge, and we have a dam we need some one to opperate now the Ford Motor Co. has closed the plant the dam powered. I’m just say’n…

  4. Haunted Chicken Coop
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    The good thing about flame-broiled whoppers is that people enjoy eating them on a bun. I cannot say the same for flame-broiled algae.

    On another note…….I read a colorful book with illustrations when I was a child of ten or so about growing algae in vats on roofs of buildings and using it to power all sorts of contraptions. Maybe “Algae Power” was the title. Just not sure now. This was long ago and I’d almost forgotten…but hearing about this Dow Venture….I feel a similar childlike delight.

  5. Mark H.
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Andy Y. — I am not positive, but i think the Ford Lake dam’s machinery for generating electricity was dismantled and removed decades ago. The lake was created for hydroelectric purposes, but those were given up 3, 4, maybe 5 decades ago, unless I am very much mistaken.

    And Mark — I quite agree, BK isn’t nearly as appealing as something new and important being developed in Ypsi. Power from algae, right here in Ypsi: that’d be great. Who’s got the capital? Maybe Rob Reiner would care to go into it…..

  6. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    The Ford Lake Dam still produces power. It is owned by the Township and operated by Waste Management’s BioEnergy Partners of Houston, Texas.
    Buisness Profile from http://www.manta.com/coms2/dnbcompany_jr391f
    Township Of Ypsilanti
    (Ford Lake Dam)
    2727 Bridge Rd, Ypsilanti, MI 48198-8243
    Contact Phone: (734) 483-3055
    URL (web address):
    Business Category: Electric Services in Ypsilanti, MI
    Industry (SIC): Electric Services
    Business Information
    This company profile is for the private company Township Of Ypsilanti , located in Ypsilanti, MI. Ford Lake Dam’s line of business is electric services.
    Company Name: Township Of Ypsilanti Is This Your Company?
    Address: 2727 Bridge Rd, Ypsilanti, MI 48198-8243 (Map)
    Alt Business Name: Ford Lake Dam
    Location Type: Single Location
    Est. Annual Sales: $25,844,036
    Est. # of Employees:
    Est. Empl. at Loc.:
    Year Started: 2002
    State of Incorp:
    SIC #Code: 4911
    Contact’s Name: Duane Bolan
    Contact’s Title: Vice President
    NAICS: Other Electric Power Generation
    Data above provided by D&B.
    Click on the reports tab at the top of the page to research company background, detailed company profile, credit and financial reports for Township Of Ypsilanti.

    But to be honest, when I first posted, I was kind of joking…

  7. mike
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    guys

    The Ford Lake Dam still generates power.

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