Algae to be Used for Cheap Ethanol Production
By June 29th, 2009Monday, June 29, 2009 11:40 on
The companies Algenol Biofuels and Dow Chemical have partnered to build algae farms that can turn carbon dioxide into ethanol as a vehicle fuel or an ingredient in plastics. The team has announced that they will build a demonstration plant that would effectively convert CO2 into fuel.
The plant is worth applause not just because of the end result, but also because algae cultivation doesn’t require much space and the output can be produced in an efficient manner. The companies plan to grow algae in “bioreactors,” which are actually troughs covered with flexible plastic and filled with saltwater. The water is saturated with carbon dioxide, which helps algae grow. The algae that grows inside these bioreactors uses photosynthesis to convert CO2 and water into ethanol, oxygen and fresh water.
The oxygen generated can be used to burn coal in a power plant in a much cleaner way, and the carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of coal can in turn be fed into the algae bioreactor for the process to continue in a carbon neutral way. Currently the company has about 40 bioreactors in Florida and they plan to install 3,100 units on a 24-acre site at Dow’s Freeport, Tex., site.
Algenol Biofuels believes that their demonstration plant can produce over 100,000 gallons of ethanol each year with the cost being as low as $1 a gallon. “We give them the oxygen, we get very pure carbon dioxide, and the output is very cheap ethanol,” said Mr. Woods, who said the target price was $1 a gallon.
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