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Published on September 29th, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

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New Facility Uses Algae to Turn Coal Pollution Into Fuel


A coal fired power-plant in Oregon has started a pilot project to curb pollution by using algae to harvest greenhouse gases and make fuel and other useful products.

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The power plant in Boardman, Oregon, is the state’s only coal-fired facility — and also the the state’s largest single emitter of carbon dioxide. To deal with this problem, Portland General Electric and Columbia Energy Partners have started a pilot project to turn the otherwise nasty emissions into biodiesel, ethanol, and even livestock feed.

How does it work? Just like you and I breathe in oxygen to make energy, algae breathe in carbon dioxide to make energy. So, if you capture all that carbon dioxide and feed it to the algae, they grow. Algae are particularly oily little buggers so after they’ve matured they can be squeezed to make oil. The leftover algae carcasses can then be converted to ethanol and used as feed for livestock.

Right now, the project’s scale is so tiny that it’ll hardly scratch the surface of the 600-megawatt facility’s 5 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions. But project proponents are quick to point out that when the project goes full scale in 2½ years, it should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 60% during daylight hours and produce 20 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

Posts Related to Algae, Biodiesel, and Ethanol:

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Source: The Oregonian




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About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.



  • Jeramiah Jones

    But the question is, will it help me at the stupid pump everytime I have to fill up my stupid tank? thats all that matters.

    Jiff

    http://www.privacy-center.ru.tc

  • Jeramiah Jones

    But the question is, will it help me at the stupid pump everytime I have to fill up my stupid tank? thats all that matters.

    Jiff

    http://www.privacy-center.ru.tc

  • Alpha

    Two obvious points to Jeff:

    How about the environment? That is not important? You obviously have no kids, no nephews/nieces and no family.

    Secondly, do you own a bio-diesel car? If you do then yes. If not, you shouldn’t even be asking that question.

  • Alpha

    Two obvious points to Jeff:

    How about the environment? That is not important? You obviously have no kids, no nephews/nieces and no family.

    Secondly, do you own a bio-diesel car? If you do then yes. If not, you shouldn’t even be asking that question.

  • buzz

    Two obvious points to Jeff.

    The environment will be fine. Only a idiot would assume that having kids/ family is somehow related to your feelings about the environment. Anyone who assumes such should probably explain how they plan on quilting China, India, any other emerging nation how they plan on reducing emissions as they grow to the point that they produce far more CO than we do.

    Secondly, another name for a bio-diesel car is a diesel car. And if this scales up to provide a significant amount of diesel, then I expect a lot of people will have them. If you don’t understand this, you probably shouldn’t be commenting.

  • buzz

    Two obvious points to Jeff.

    The environment will be fine. Only a idiot would assume that having kids/ family is somehow related to your feelings about the environment. Anyone who assumes such should probably explain how they plan on quilting China, India, any other emerging nation how they plan on reducing emissions as they grow to the point that they produce far more CO than we do.

    Secondly, another name for a bio-diesel car is a diesel car. And if this scales up to provide a significant amount of diesel, then I expect a lot of people will have them. If you don’t understand this, you probably shouldn’t be commenting.

  • Moptop

    If this works, it should go down under the column of things we should be doing anyway, whether you believe in AGW or not. I personally think that AGW is overblown in the press, but don’t like sending money to terrorist or wannabe terrorist states with every tankful.

  • Moptop

    If this works, it should go down under the column of things we should be doing anyway, whether you believe in AGW or not. I personally think that AGW is overblown in the press, but don’t like sending money to terrorist or wannabe terrorist states with every tankful.

  • embutler

    this brand new co2 will continue to pile up in the air aftr passing thru algae ,cows, farms…etc..

  • embutler

    this brand new co2 will continue to pile up in the air aftr passing thru algae ,cows, farms…etc..

  • Jim C.

    There’s more than CO2 in emissions, isn’t there? Trace metals and other contaminants perhaps? Is that going to cause problems down the line using the algae or ethanol?

  • Jim C.

    There’s more than CO2 in emissions, isn’t there? Trace metals and other contaminants perhaps? Is that going to cause problems down the line using the algae or ethanol?

  • wgc

    No, No. Algae do NOT breath in carbon dioxide to make energy. Carbon dioxide is in a low energy state.

    Algae use light energy captured through photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and other compounds, which can then be used as an energy source and the raw materials for growth.

  • wgc

    No, No. Algae do NOT breath in carbon dioxide to make energy. Carbon dioxide is in a low energy state.

    Algae use light energy captured through photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and other compounds, which can then be used as an energy source and the raw materials for growth.

  • Nick Chambers

    wgc,

    I know I skipped a bunch of steps there, but basically CO2 (and water) is used in photosynthesis (using the energy of the sun) to make things that can then be used as energy for the plant. So, if you take out the middle steps, CO2 is “breathed” in to make energy.

    So I’m a lumper, shoot me.

  • Jason

    “But the question is, will it help me at the stupid pump everytime I have to fill up my stupid tank? thats all that matters.”

    It is exactly this kind of stupid self-centred and irresponsible attitude that is perpetuating the development of ongoing environmental degradation, producing global warming, and in the end raising your stupid gas prices from a free-market economy based on limitless growth and greed.

  • Jason

    “But the question is, will it help me at the stupid pump everytime I have to fill up my stupid tank? thats all that matters.”

    It is exactly this kind of stupid self-centred and irresponsible attitude that is perpetuating the development of ongoing environmental degradation, producing global warming, and in the end raising your stupid gas prices from a free-market economy based on limitless growth and greed.

  • Laurence

    Besides being a requirement for life, carbon dioxide is fungible. We can set up algae generators in a sunnier clime and the little buggers will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without regards to country of national origin. Of course, when we burn the bio-diesel, perhaps in some Warm-mongerer’s private jet if not our cars, we will re-release the carbon dioxide. Our real saving will be in not shipping our children’s wealth overseas.

  • Laurence

    Besides being a requirement for life, carbon dioxide is fungible. We can set up algae generators in a sunnier clime and the little buggers will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without regards to country of national origin. Of course, when we burn the bio-diesel, perhaps in some Warm-mongerer’s private jet if not our cars, we will re-release the carbon dioxide. Our real saving will be in not shipping our children’s wealth overseas.

  • http://www.clarifyexpert.com DWMF

    “We can set up algae generators in a sunnier clime and the little buggers will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without regards to country of national origin.”

    Re-inventing the wheel, aren’t we? There is something that does this already. It’s called the Sea.

  • http://www.clarifyexpert.com DWMF

    “We can set up algae generators in a sunnier clime and the little buggers will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without regards to country of national origin.”

    Re-inventing the wheel, aren’t we? There is something that does this already. It’s called the Sea.

  • rick

    This is a great use for algae. I’ve been experimenting with it too, it’s fun and maybe someday profitable. In the meantime, running my vehicle on fuel I make myself is a wonderful thing. Saves a lot of money, takes but a little time!

    And chicks dig the whole “saving the world” thing, too.

  • rick

    This is a great use for algae. I’ve been experimenting with it too, it’s fun and maybe someday profitable. In the meantime, running my vehicle on fuel I make myself is a wonderful thing. Saves a lot of money, takes but a little time!

    And chicks dig the whole “saving the world” thing, too.

  • dan williamson kelloggg id

    yo

    algae is the way! forget corn. what a joke..algae is 2nd best except for tesla’s free energy and running on water which keeps on getting repressed. i wonder by whom?

    SCREW BIG OIL! please.

    get a clue

    dan

  • dan williamson kelloggg id

    yo

    algae is the way! forget corn. what a joke..algae is 2nd best except for tesla’s free energy and running on water which keeps on getting repressed. i wonder by whom?

    SCREW BIG OIL! please.

    get a clue

    dan

  • http://www.kau.se Mattias Aldaron

    Ok,

    CO2 itself is not the issue. Adding CO2 to the atmospere is the issue. And this scheme will add CO2 to the atmosphere period.

    Using (CH2)n as an approximation for hydrocarbons.

    Burning Coal:

    (CH2)n + O2 -> CO2 + H20

    Algae:

    CO2 + H20 + sunshine -> (CH2)n

    Burning Algae product:

    (CH2)n + O2 -> CO2 + H20

    Under this scheme, CO2 will increase just as much as without it.

    Want to grow algae? Feed them CO2 from the atmosphere! This is just a publicity ploy to make coal look better.

  • http://www.kau.se Mattias Aldaron

    Ok,

    CO2 itself is not the issue. Adding CO2 to the atmospere is the issue. And this scheme will add CO2 to the atmosphere period.

    Using (CH2)n as an approximation for hydrocarbons.

    Burning Coal:

    (CH2)n + O2 -> CO2 + H20

    Algae:

    CO2 + H20 + sunshine -> (CH2)n

    Burning Algae product:

    (CH2)n + O2 -> CO2 + H20

    Under this scheme, CO2 will increase just as much as without it.

    Want to grow algae? Feed them CO2 from the atmosphere! This is just a publicity ploy to make coal look better.

  • Jay

    What kind of new Mad cow like bug will they give to our livestock this time that will bass on to us? What elese is in the emissions they aren’t telling us? What new cancers could come of this? Our livestocks do not eat Algae. I guess putting meat scraps back into the livestocks of cows food didn’t have a backlash. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

  • Jay

    What kind of new Mad cow like bug will they give to our livestock this time that will bass on to us? What elese is in the emissions they aren’t telling us? What new cancers could come of this? Our livestocks do not eat Algae. I guess putting meat scraps back into the livestocks of cows food didn’t have a backlash. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

  • Mar

    Here is something that amazes me about all this. This very thing should have been done YEARSSSSSSSSSSS ago and other ways of handling this growing problem should have been implemented years ago as well. It is funny how now that the earths oxygen level has decreased dramatically. Now these a wipes are now going to do something about it. Amazing. How many more people have to die because of there stupidity. Yes at the current rate more will die. Gesh people wake the hell up and start educating yourself. Shakes my head at humanity. It truly has became stupid race, because sadly we refused to use our brains and learn about all things and process it all and do things differently. Amazing!!

  • Mar

    Here is something that amazes me about all this. This very thing should have been done YEARSSSSSSSSSSS ago and other ways of handling this growing problem should have been implemented years ago as well. It is funny how now that the earths oxygen level has decreased dramatically. Now these a wipes are now going to do something about it. Amazing. How many more people have to die because of there stupidity. Yes at the current rate more will die. Gesh people wake the hell up and start educating yourself. Shakes my head at humanity. It truly has became stupid race, because sadly we refused to use our brains and learn about all things and process it all and do things differently. Amazing!!

  • http://algaeproject.yahoo.com Ben

    Thanks for posting this article and reinforcing the legitimacy of my plans. One of many parts of the project is to put any exhaust from on-site diesel generators back into the water to recycle the CO2 generated.

    Algae also pull metals like gold and platinum and uranium out of the water. Would be interesting to see what’s floating around in all that coal exhaust.

  • http://algaeproject.yahoo.com Ben

    Thanks for posting this article and reinforcing the legitimacy of my plans. One of many parts of the project is to put any exhaust from on-site diesel generators back into the water to recycle the CO2 generated.

    Algae also pull metals like gold and platinum and uranium out of the water. Would be interesting to see what’s floating around in all that coal exhaust.

  • http://algaeproject.blogspot.com Ben

    Blah, you kept the first one and threw out the other two.. the third one had the correct web address listed. Oh well.

  • http://algaeproject.blogspot.com Ben

    Blah, you kept the first one and threw out the other two.. the third one had the correct web address listed. Oh well.

  • Helio

    Not only do algae enjoy the CO2, but regular trees and bushes and other chlorophyll bearing plants enjoy it.

    So even though the plant is spewing all that “green house” gas, CO2 into the air, it gets used by plants and transformed into O2.

    Using CO2 for algae production is a good idea, but the way it was before is not the nightmare that everyone thinks it is.

  • Helio

    Not only do algae enjoy the CO2, but regular trees and bushes and other chlorophyll bearing plants enjoy it.

    So even though the plant is spewing all that “green house” gas, CO2 into the air, it gets used by plants and transformed into O2.

    Using CO2 for algae production is a good idea, but the way it was before is not the nightmare that everyone thinks it is.

  • http://www.permaculture.co.za Permaculture Man

    I’ve seen this technology showcased in a South African project over a year ago. A local publication called Biophile ran an article on this process. More at http://biophile.co.za/the-biofiles/90-biodiesel-reactors-for-south-africa

  • http://www.permaculture.co.za Permaculture Man

    I’ve seen this technology showcased in a South African project over a year ago. A local publication called Biophile ran an article on this process. More at http://biophile.co.za/the-biofiles/90-biodiesel-reactors-for-south-africa

  • Simon Le Chene

    I sincerely think that this is one of the best ideas to curb our dependence on oil and that this new project of producing bio-diesel with algea and coal is the way of the future. Congratulations on this genius idea.

    Simon Le Chene,

    PS, How can we help and invest in this new project?

  • Simon Le Chene

    I sincerely think that this is one of the best ideas to curb our dependence on oil and that this new project of producing bio-diesel with algea and coal is the way of the future. Congratulations on this genius idea.

    Simon Le Chene,

    PS, How can we help and invest in this new project?

  • http://gas2.org don steinke

    I hope this idea works, but if algae require an enriched CO2 environment to be cost effective, then we will continue to add CO2 to the air as we burn algaefuel in our cars.

    Better yet . . .

    Instead of burning algaefuel in mobile engines and releasing the CO2 to the air, the algae fuel should be be burned in the same power plant that produced the CO2 in the first place. The cellulosic waste should also be burned in the same facility. This might reduce processing costs.

    Cars can be run on the electricity produced, without releasing carbon.

  • http://gas2.org don steinke

    I hope this idea works, but if algae require an enriched CO2 environment to be cost effective, then we will continue to add CO2 to the air as we burn algaefuel in our cars.

    Better yet . . .

    Instead of burning algaefuel in mobile engines and releasing the CO2 to the air, the algae fuel should be be burned in the same power plant that produced the CO2 in the first place. The cellulosic waste should also be burned in the same facility. This might reduce processing costs.

    Cars can be run on the electricity produced, without releasing carbon.

  • sandra

    There’s still the question of the MERCURY which is carried along with the co2 in coal-burn emissions. How do we prevent the algae from taking THAT in and passing it to the biodiesel and animal feed (and then on to US)?

  • sandra

    There’s still the question of the MERCURY which is carried along with the co2 in coal-burn emissions. How do we prevent the algae from taking THAT in and passing it to the biodiesel and animal feed (and then on to US)?

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