LiveFuels Inc, a developer of renewable algal-biofuels, is working on turning algae into biofuels in a way that is 1) scalable, 2) sustainable, and 3) faster than previously employed methods.
The Texas-based developer has just launched a new pilot program to research ways to boost algae productivity and the rates of biomass conversion into renewable oils – that is, turning the algae into biofuels. The project is taking place at LiveFuels’ new facility in Brownsville, Texas.
“By harnessing the power of natural systems, we hope to achieve what has eluded the biofuels community for decades – cost effectiveness, scalability and sustainability,” said LiveFuels CEO Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones.
The plan is to then implement the findings all along the coast of Louisiana. This will be a full-scale, commercial operation. Sounds great to me.
And you know how agricultural runoff teeming with phosphates and other nutrients gets into rivers and streams and causes the dreaded red tide (a.k.a. algal bloom)? LiveFuels will remove a lot of these harmful nutrients from the Mississippi River and use them as fertilizer to grow their algae.
This method will lower the amount of phosphates in the river that eventually flow out into the Gulf of Mexico and hopefully mitigate the red tide notorious for plaguing the southern coast of the U.S. every summer.
LifeFuels cheaply grows native algae in its open saltwater ponds. Conversely, other companies have grown monocultures of algae – sometimes genetically modified – within expensive quarters. This has precluded algae-based biofuels from entering the market as a salable alternative.
Researchers then get “filter-feeding” fish to eat the algae. Once digested, the algae turns into valuable oil that is hosted within some of the fish’s organs. The fish are then killed and squeezed for the oil (yikes!). The oil will then be fed to a refinery.
The oil’s by-products, like protein, will be sold to pet food manufacturers.
“Current approaches to generating algal-biofuels are resource intensive and face fundamental science and engineering hurdles,” noted David Kingsbury, former chief program officer for the Science Program of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and chairman of the LiveFuels scientific advisory board.
“LiveFuels’ approach is ingenious in its simplicity. By turning natural food chains into productive systems, LiveFuels eliminates many of the costs and risks plaguing other approaches to using algae for biofuels,” he added.