Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Algae Production Pilot Plant operational

I am posting this news release by a company that is doing a fine job of tackling the algae oil problem. As you know from earlier posts, we concluded that the only viable replacement for transportation fuel would be biological oil produced from algae. Other sources had no hope of producing enough oil and besides, required the diversion of high quality agricultural land. somehow, we would all use bicycles long before anyone starved to death.

Open pond production of algae can be expected to be ten times more productive of oils than the best oil seed. The question remaining to be answered is: was it possible to develop an economic protocol for industrial style production? This news release goes a long way to answering that question.

They have tackled the first problem of maximizing controlled algae production with the use of racked transparent plastic flow channels that obviously can absorb the ambient light rather well. They have achieved a through put rate in a three month pilot operation that is three times as productive as the open field model.

This at least supplies a threshold and a robust working model that can now be progressively improved upon. And let us not underestimate the difficulties. The best algae blend will likely be uncooperative in working with such a system and will provide plenty of headaches. But I do not see anything that may not be overcome.

We are looking at the building of greenhouses to operate these production facilities and we are also looking to build them in proximity to CO2 producers like power plants. At least at the beginning.

What we have here is a really good start at producing huge amounts of algae with a very low labor and energy input. It would really be wonderful to use the waste heat(hot water) and the CO2 of a coal fired power plant to operate a facility such as this. They are at least the first and best customers.


December 12, 2007 OTC BB: VCTPF; CUSIP: 918881103


El Paso Texas: The Vertigro Joint Venture has released initial test results from its high density bio mass (algae) field test bed plant located at its research and development facility in El Paso, Texas.

During a 90 day continual production test, algae was being harvested at an average of one gram (dry weight) per liter. This equates to algae bio mass production of 276 tons of algae per acre per year. Achieving the same biomass production rate with an algal species having 50% lipids (oil) content would therefore deliver approximately 33,000 gallons of algae oil per acre per year.

The primary focus of the 90-day continuous production test was determining the robustness of the field test bed. Other secondary tests were also conducted including using different ph levels, C02 levels, fluid temperatures, nutrients, types of algae, and planned system failures. It is important to note that the system has not been optimized for production yields or the best selection of algae species at this time. The next phase of development will include increasing the number of bio reactor units from 30 to 100 and then continuing a number of production tests that may further increase production as well as initiating various extraction tests. The results released today are in keeping with data previously announced from the Joint Venture’s laboratory proof of concept test bed. Subsequently, the joint venture intends to build out a one acre pilot plant with engineer design work underway at this time.

As a comparative, food crops such as soy bean will typically produce some 48 gallons oil per acre per year and palm will produce approximately 630 gallons oil per acre per year. In addition, the Vertigro Bio Reactor System is a closed loop continuous production system that uses little water and may be built on non arable lands. Glen Kertz and Dr. Aga Pinowska, who head the research and development program, commented “This is a major milestone for us as we have demonstrated the robustness of the Bio Mass System with satisfactory production results from a system that has not yet been optimized for algae production, which will become part of the next phase of testing” They also noted “We have learned how to produce a very large algal bio-mass under varying environmental and operating conditions in our continuous process photo bioreactors. We believe these initial results are amongst the best achieved to date, and we are confident we can now increase the productivity.”

“We are extremely pleased with the robustness and performance of the Vertigro technology in sustainably producing commercial quantities of algae biomass,” states Doug Frater, Global Green Solutions CEO. “Over the coming months we will further optimize the technology and demonstrate economic algae production for biofuel feedstock purposes.”

The Vertigo system may be a solution to the renewable energy sector’s quest to create a clean, green process which uses mainly light, water and air to create fuel. The Vertigro technology employs a proprietary highdensity vertical bio-reactor that produces fast growing algae which may yield large volumes of high-grade algae oil. This oil can be refined into a cost-effective, non-polluting diesel biofuel, jet fuel and other applications. The algae derived fuel may be an energy efficient replacement for fossil fuels and can be used in any diesel powered vehicle or machinery. In addition, 90% by weight of the algae is captured carbon dioxide, which is “sequestered” by this process and so contributes significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gasses.

Valcent: OTC BB VCPTF (www.vacent.net), together with Global Green Solutions Inc: OTC BB GGRN (www.globalgreensolutions.com are each 50% partners in the Vertigro Joint Venture that has developed a pilot plant in El Paso which became operational in March 2007 and is the primary research and development site for the Vertigro technology. Valcent’s primary responsibility is research and initial development with Global Green’s responsibilities including final engineering and commercialization of Vertigro. For more information, visit: www.valcent.net


dug said...

Growing algae - even very large amounts has never been the technical problem with "algae oil." Note the press releases never say how much the finished product costs. Cheap non-petroleum based fertilizer, and technologies for cost efficient algae/water separation, cost efficient algae cell disruption, cost efficient lipid separation/extraction and lipid stabilization are where the economic feasibility challenges are in algae fuel lipid production - not in the innovative algae production techniques you hear so much about from startup companies. Besides - the market for nutritional quality algae lipids (omega-3s)is a far more lucrative market than fuels. If you had an innovative algae lipid production technology - why would you produce fuels worth a fraction of the price? Show me a company that can produce diesel fuel ready to burn for under $2.50/ gallon and then I'll get excited. Remember bio-fuels are still at the mercy of petroleum market prices. At least Twice in the past 40 years a bio-fuel industry has started - only to be destroyed when petroleum prices were dropped dramatically by producers. Makes you think they did it on purpose - doesn't it? Certainly an obvious and apparently very successful competition strategy.

Durwood M. Dugger
BioCepts International, Inc.

arclein said...

Without question algae feedstock processing is the real problem. However the first step is to create an isolated system that allows a lot of variable manipulation and is highly cost effective. I think that they could have it with this system for at least a subset of algae species.

They clearly could operate a hundred acre greenhouse with almost automatic systems with this production protocol. The greenhouse operators would even buy into the business.

That still leaves the problem of economics. And yes, gasoline still looks cheaper. In fact,so do the tar sands. This all abruptly ends on the day that we decide to attach proper costs to our gas.

Which is quietly becoming the new paradigm.

In the meantime mass production algae production protocols are very welcome.

I recall my skepticism when presented with the first business plan on growing greenhouse cucumbers in the lower mainland around Vancouver. It is now a billion dollar business.

In an earlier post, I also pointed out that the remaining biomass should be excellent feedstock for the cattle fatting industry creating another natural vertical partner.

The cattle fodder should be high quality if we are lucky and be worth at as much as the oil