Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Algae Oil Industry will end Foreign Oil

The one reason that I was so happy to see the recent production protocol for algae and its apparent utility is two fold. Firstly, this is the first clear attempt to creates a system not unlike what is prevalent in greenhouses today. It does not look like a chemist's wet dream. It looks like something that can be produced very cost effectively and that can stand up to some operator abuse even. This is mandatory for any planned industrial farm protocol.

The second reason is a little more subtle. Isolation is achieved and appears to something that can be fully maintained or at least quickly restored. That isolation opens the door to the rest of modern agricultural technique. We can safely breed tame species of algae that allow us to maximize favorable characteristics. This is very important.

Right now, using essentially wild algae, we are producing a believable 33,000 gallons of oil per acre from 276 tons of dry bio mass. The remaining fifty percent fraction that is not oil is not yet addressed as to usage. History has shown us that we will be able to hugely increase that production rate through the selection process. If we can do 33000 gallons now, then 100,000 gallons should be within reach. What is just as important, we can select for a usable profile for the remaining by product.

A high nutrient, high protein feed supplement for the cattle industry would be almost too good to be true. If it is possible, then we can end the use of animal protein for the livestock industry and avoid ever having a repeat of the mad cow disease.

The by product of algae production should be very usable. Recovering nutrients will be rather more difficult once we have mastered the production side.

We then must address the problem of cost. This protocol has a good analogy in the greenhouse industry with the added benefit of likely requiring a very low labor component. Certainly the capital outlay will be roughly similar.

And since everything can be automated, large facilities can be operated with a handful of employees not unlike most huge industrial chemical processes.

We know that normal farmland in a season can produce one ton or so of product and perhaps as much as ten tons of biomass per acre. A green house can do several times better than that by shrinking and duplicating the season.

Algae already can produce 276 tons of dry bio mass per acre per year. If the life cycle can be sped up only then the production of 1000 tons per acre does not seem out of reach. Right now the product is without tangible value and that has to be developed. Here even the niches can help out by underwriting the technology.

These potential yields are extremely compelling and merely need to be monetized. Of course it is too early to make a lot of sense on that as yet, but the volume is now sufficient to secure our transportation fuel future.

Even if the oil industry can crank up enough new oil production to tide us over, the need to transition to a fossil fuel free economy is very real and this solution can be put in place to make the developed world and India and China completely independent of any fuel source not under their control.

We really can tell the Middle East that we do not want their oil any more. And if that means paying $3.00 a gallon for bio diesel while a barrel of Middle Eastern oil fetches $8.00 a barrel, then so be it.

We will underwrite a huge global industry that will employ millions and help feed billions.

1 comment:

dug said...

Could you reference your statements with the final costs per storeable gallon of fuel. I notice you make no mention of fertilizer, extraction, separation, filtration and stablization costs and without addressing them - you haven't produced usable or a cost efficient fuel. As we all know, producing algae is the easy part. Also your production units need to referenced with a time unit. i.e. - X gallons/acre/year.

While we all appreciate enthusiasm and optimism, but you might also want to point out, that to date no one has produced one gallon of algae oil that is competitively priced to petroleum sourced diesel fuel. Competitively priced means that OPEC can't drive the would be producers out of business as they have at least twice over the past 40 years.