Biodiesel from microalgae a solution for a sustainable san luis obospo county
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Biodiesel From Microalgae A Solution for a Sustainable San Luis Obospo County. Mike Sass Eric Amendt Ryan Gleim Tim McLenegan Tim Whitacre. April 29, 2005. Outline. Biodiesel from algae Feasibility of algae Oil collection and refining Application to our county. Algae Overview.

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Biodiesel From Microalgae A Solution for a Sustainable San Luis Obospo County

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Biodiesel from microalgae a solution for a sustainable san luis obospo county

Biodiesel From MicroalgaeA Solution for a Sustainable San Luis Obospo County

Mike Sass

Eric Amendt

Ryan Gleim

Tim McLenegan

Tim Whitacre

April 29, 2005



  • Biodiesel from algae

  • Feasibility of algae

  • Oil collection and refining

  • Application to our county

Algae overview

Algae Overview

Tim McLenegan

Eric Amendt

Algae and biodiesel

Algae and Biodiesel

  • Algae Biodiesel is a good replacement for standard crop Biodiesels like soy and canola

  • Up to 70% of algae biomass is usable oils

  • Algae does not compete for land and space with other agricultural crops

  • Algae can survive in water of high salt content and use water that was previously deemed unusable

Storing the sun s energy photosynthesis

What is needed




Storage of Energy

Lipids and oils


Storing the Sun’s Energy (Photosynthesis)

What affects oil production

What affects oil production?

  • Climate

    • Cold weather reduces algae oil production

    • Overcast days reduce sunlight and lower oil production

  • Nutrients

    • Depletion of Nitrogen and Silicate

Controlling nutrients

Controlling Nutrients

  • Nitrogen

    • Aids in cell division

  • Silicate

    • Aids in cell wall production

  • Depleting Nutrients

    • Starving the algae of these two nutrients reduce the rate of cell division

    • Oil production remains constant

    • Results in an increase in the oil to mass ratio

The algae pond

The Algae Pond

Mass production of algae

Mass Production of Algae

Choosing an algae

Important characteristics of Algae

High % of total biomass is oil

Maintains a high % of oil even under stress

Compatible with the San Luis Obispo climate

Choosing an Algae documents/Verslag2biodieselBaarnschLyceum.pdf -

What type of algae

Botryococcus braunii

Converts 61% of its biomass into oil

Drops to only 31% oil under stress

Grows best between 22-25oC (71-77oF)

What Type of Algae documents/Verslag2biodieselBaarnschLyceum.pdf -

Where to grow it

Where To Grow It

  • Extensions onto our water treatment plants

    • Clean up our waste and generate fuel

  • Agriculture runoff

    • Exploit the county’s many farms and vineyards

  • Soda Lake

    • Salt lake east of Santa Margarita

    • Vast open space of Carrizo Plain

    • Only has water in winter/spring months

    • National Monument status may prevent development



Tim Whitacre



  • Is it too good to be true?

    • DOE concluded a 16-year study of algal biomass in 1996 (and wrote a 328-page report)


    • Conducted large-scale tests in California, New Mexico and Hawaii

      • With good temperatures, could harvest 50 grams of algae per sq. meter per day

      • Used a 1,000 m2 pond for 1 year

    • Research stopped due to budget cuts

    • UNH paper may hopefully rekindle research

  • With more research/funding, it can be done

Comments from nrel

Comments from NREL

“Projections for future costs of petroleum are a moving target. DOE expects petroleum costs to remain relatively flat over the next 20 years. Expecting algal biodiesel to compete with such cheap petroleum prices is unrealistic. Without some mechanism for monetizing its environmental benefits (such as carbon taxes), algal biodiesel is not going to get off the ground.”

Comments from nrel1

Comments from NREL

“Engineering design and cost studies have been done throughout the course of the ASP, with ever increasing realism in the design assumptions and cost estimates. The last set of cost estimates for the program was developed in 1995. These estimates showed that algal biodiesel cost would range from $1.40 to $4.40 per gallon based on current and long-term projections for the performance of the technology. Even with assumptions of $50 per ton of CO2 as a carbon credit, the cost of biodiesel never competes with the projected cost of petroleum diesel.”

Per barrel

$ Per Barrel

Show me the money

Show Me The Money!!!

  • The current price of diesel is growing

  • What does this mean for Biodiesel?

Michael briggs of university of new hampshire

Michael Briggs of University of New Hampshire

  • Production ability

    • 37,500 gallons per hectare of desert land per year

  • Pond construction

    • $80,000 per hectare

  • Operating Costs

    • $12,000 per hectare

Nrel results benemann and oswald 1996

NREL resultsBenemann and Oswald (1996)

  • Capital Investment

    • $69,000 to $104,400 per hectare

  • Operating Costs

    • $21,370 to $32,320 per hectare per year

  • Algal Oil Costs

    • $39 to $69 per barrel

    • $0.93 to $1.65 per gallon

  • 16,000 to 32,000 gallons per hectare per year

Cost per hectare

Cost per hectare

Processing costs

Processing Costs

  • $0.30 to $1.00 per gallon

  • Without taxes or profit

    • Michael Briggs

      • $0.32 per gallon of biodiesel

    • Real World

      • $1.23 - $2.65 per gallon of biodiesel

San luis costs

San Luis Costs

  • The startup costs per processing plant would be the same as noted in the fall presentation on Biodiesel.

    • $15,000,000 per 30,000,000 gallon plants.

  • Our research shows that the cost per algal pond would be greater.

Assuming 0 10 profit per gallon total costs

Assuming $0.10 profit per gallonTotal Costs

Oil collection and refining

Oil Collection and Refining

Mike Sass

Pressing oil from the algae

Pressing oil from the algae

  • Dry the algae and press the oil from it.

  • Can retrieve up to 70% of the oil.

  • While drying must prevent the algae from becoming contaminated.

  • Cheapest and simplest method

Chemical oil extraction

Chemical Oil Extraction

  • Use hexane solvents to remove the oil.

  • Hexane is a neurotoxin.

  • Must be careful when using.

  • Removes oil out of almost all things.

Super critical oil extraction

Super Critical Oil Extraction

  • Most efficient method.

  • Uses carbon dioxide at critical pressure and temperature (CO2 is almost a liquid).

  • Carbon dioxide.

  • Rapid diffusion of the oil.

  • Very expensive process.

Tag triacylglycerol

TAG (triacylglycerol)

  • Three chains of fatty acids attached to a glycerol

  • Natural oil from the algae



  • Start with triacylglycerol (TAG)

  • End up with ester alcohol (biodiesel)

Three ways to produce biodiesel

Three ways to produce biodiesel

  • Base catalyzed transesterification with alcohol.

  • Acid catalyzed esterification with methanol.

  • Convert the oil to fatty acids. Then acid catalyze to alkyl esters.

Base catalyzed with alcohol

Base Catalyzed with Alcohol

  • Most common process

  • Most economical

  • Low pressure (20psi)

  • Low temperature (150oF)

  • No intermediate steps

  • High conversion rate (98%)

General process

General Process

Application to our county

Application To Our County

Ryan Gleim

Current county bus system

Current County Bus System

  • CCAT and SCAT


Fuel requirements

Fuel Requirements

Biodiesel requirements

Biodiesel Requirements

  • Using Biodiesel in current diesel busses

Diesel hybrid

Diesel Hybrid

  • GM Hybrid Bus

Hybrid bus statistics

Hybrid Bus Statistics

  • GM Hybrid Bus

    • EP system

    • Clean Hybrid technology

    • Hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide reduction of about 90%

    • Nitrous oxide reduction of about 50%

    • Already in service in many cities

    • Up to 60% improved fuel economy

Calculations adjusted

Calculations Adjusted

  • Using Biodiesel in HYBRID diesel busses



  • Algae is a very efficient means of producing biodiesel

  • The oil production from algae farms is feasible and scalable

  • Further research necessary to unlock full potential of algae



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