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Growing and Converting Aquatic Biomass for Fuel Precursors Robert S. Weber Sunrise Ridge Algae. AAAS Annual Meeting 19 February 2010. SRA’s is pursuing a heterodox approach to renewable fuels from aquatic biomass.

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growing and converting aquatic biomass for fuel precursors robert s weber sunrise ridge algae

Growing and Converting Aquatic Biomass for Fuel PrecursorsRobert S. WeberSunrise Ridge Algae

AAAS Annual Meeting19 February 2010

sra s is pursuing a heterodox approach to renewable fuels from aquatic biomass
SRA’s is pursuing a heterodox approach to renewable fuels from aquatic biomass.
  • We have rapidly recapitulated the ontogeny of each of the past 4 waves of industrial algae production
    • We project that water availability will be a weak link in the value chain and are engineering accordingly.
    • We have resolved to manage an ecosystem not a monoculture.
    • We recognize that co-products must exhibit a scalability commensurate with the fuels market.
    • We seek an integration with other industries to reuse existing facilities and to gain access to cheap (free?) feed streams.
    • We have devised a new approach that accommodates our understanding of these issues.
  • Given the large markets and large growing areas required, we recognize that solutions will span a spectrum of technologies
  • Given the justifiable conservatism of the oil industry, we would be glad to be “first to be second”
who w e are

Introduction to SRA

Whowe are
  • Private Texas corporation engaged in R&D and commercialization of algae biomass technology
    • reduction of water & greenhouse gas pollutants
    • production of renewable fuel, feedstocks and animal feeds.
  • Own and operate pilot production facility in Katy, Texas.
  • Collaboration with UT
    • UTEX (Prof. Jerry Brand)
    • CAE (Prof. Jerry Kinney)
    • SRP (Prof. Frank Siebert)
  • Collaboration with UH
    • Prof. Mike Harold
  • Funded by
  • Private investment
  • Current grant from Texas Emerging Technology Fund (extension pending)
  • Sales of services
  • DOE contract to design scaled system
the problem we are addressing need for 3 rd generation biofuels

Introduction to SRA

The problem we are addressing: Need for 3rd Generation Biofuels
  • Flat petroleum supply while world demand is increasing
    • Multiple shocks expected over next 15-20 years
  • Major concerns about greenhouse gases and climate change
    • Restrictions and taxes on CO2 emission
  • 1st Generation biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel) fail
    • compete with food and are not scalable
    • not 100% compatible with infrastructure
  • Cellulosic feedstocks are very water intensive.
our approach integrate aquatic biomass with industry

Introduction to SRA

Our Approach– Integrate Aquatic Biomass with Industry
  • Identify and secure attractive site
    • CO2, land, waste water, waste heat
    • Target: Cement, refinery, chemical, power plants
    • Negotiate co-venture with site owner, investors; long-term
  • Grow and harvest aquatic biomass
    • Using 6th generation SRA technology for algae inter alia
    • Consume waste CO2 and waste water
    • Low cost, while managing temperature, nutrients and flow for yield
  • Convert aquatic biomass to oil and char
    • Using patent pending SRA technology
    • Low-cost, uses waste heat
    • Oil is sold to petroleum refiners
    • Char is used in cement production or as soil conditioner
    • Avoids glut of likely unsaleable co-products
once upon a time we liked algae derived fuels and we still have a fondness for them
Promise biodiesel – high energy content

Potentially compatible with existing fuel infrastructure

Potentially scalable

Don’t compete with food

Do not require arable land

Introduction to SRA

Once-upon-a-time, we liked algae-derived fuels and we still have a fondness for them…
where we devised production scale helioreactors and protocols for harvesting algae

Introduction to SRA

… where we devised production-scale helioreactors and protocols for harvesting algae.
  • Each contains, 25,000 L and has 90 m2 of solar area
  • Each produces about 1-3 kg algae per week
  • Low productivity (5 g/m2/day; 0.1 g/L) ascribed to intermittent supply of CO2.
  • Technology applicable to other sites, including CAFOs and industrial facilities.

25,000 L Boomer™ production scale algae greenhouse (left)

w e are working through a staged scale up

Introduction to SRA

Weareworkingthroughastagedscaleup

2009

2010

2011

2013

Lab

Pilot

Project

Semi-

Works

Project

First

Commercial

Site

Expansion Site

0.00001

acre

~0.1 acre

~30 acre

~600 acre

~6000 acre

500 K$

5-10M$

50 - 100 M$

200-500 M$?

1 L/day

6 bbl/day

600 bbl/day

6000 bbl/day

what is different about this the 4 th 30 year cycle of biofuels since 1920

Topics to be addressed today

What is different about this, the 4th, 30-year cycle of biofuels since 1920?
  • The goal is still renewable fuels at economic par with petrofuels, without additional externalities.
    • The “Standard” Model has challenges at full scale, particularly if it relies on protein co-products to sustain its economics.
    • We are doubtful that genetic engineering will have the needed impact.
  • We believe that our recently developed catalyzed thermolysis will obviate the need to overproduce lipids.
  • We expect that integration with the existing industrial ecology will be part of the solution.
the standard model has challenges at full scale

The beat of a different drummer

The “Standard Model” has challenges at full scale

Components of the Standard Model

Issues

  • Select or engineer algae to produce high lipids
  • Monocultures of GM algae are not robust.
  • Grow and harvest the algae
  • Costs are high: sterilization, delivery of CO2, other nutrients and controls
  • Sell non-lipid fraction into animal feed markets.
  • Feed market is not commensurate with full scale fuel production.
  • Extract the lipids and make biodiesel.
  • Triglyceride intermediate is a bottleneck; biodiesel is not a fungible fuel
the standard model has challenges at full scale1

The beat of a different drummer

The “Standard Model” has challenges at full scale

Components of the Standard Model

Issues

  • Select or engineer algae to produce high lipids
  • Monocultures of GM algae are not robust.
  • Grow and harvest the algae
  • Costs are high: sterilization, delivery of CO2, other nutrients and controls
  • Sell non-lipid fraction into animal feed markets.
  • Feed market is not commensurate with full scale fuel production.
  • Extract the lipids and make biodiesel.
  • Triglyceride intermediate is a bottleneck; biodiesel is not a fungible fuel
the feed market is not commensurate with the fuel market

Our Conclusion: if you are going to grow fuel, then grow fuel.

The feed market is not commensurate with the fuel market.

So the market price for feed will likely collapse when algae-to-fuel/feed supplies as little as 1% of the US market for fuel.

the standard model has challenges at full scale2

The beat of a different drummer

The “Standard Model” has challenges at full scale

Components of the Standard Model

Issues

  • Selector engineer algae to produce high lipids
  • Monocultures of GM algae are not robust.
  • Grow and harvest the algae
  • Costs are high: sterilization, delivery of CO2, other nutrients and controls
  • Sell non-lipid fraction into animal feed markets.
  • Feed market is not commensurate with full scale fuel production.
  • Extract the lipids and make biodiesel.
  • Triglyceride intermediate is a bottleneck; biodiesel is not a fungible fuel
it is unclear that genetic modification will assist materially

Is GM is the answer?

It is unclear that genetic modification will assist materially.
  • The immense scale of fuel-growing precludes sterilization and exclusion of competing species
  • Modifications that enhance production of exported energy molecules divert metabolic energy and therefore:
    • Diminish the fitness of the organism
    • Creates a locus for natural selection
    • May attract dysbionts.
can gm organisms compete against wild algae

Is GM the answer? 2

Can GM organisms compete against wild algae?
  • A 1000 L algal inoculation at a concentration of 0.5 g/L contains approximately 2.4×1013 cells.
  • Wild algae, e.g., Chlorella sp. double about twice per day.
  • As a surrogate for a high fat GM alga, consider, B. braunii, which contains roughly 50wt% oil, and doubles about once every 3 days
  • If a helioreactor were charged with such a high concentration inoculum of that GM alga plus a single, viable cell of a wild alga then tovertake ≈ 1 month:
can gm organisms maintain their engineered characteristics for economically useful periods

Is GM the answer? 3

Can GM organisms maintain their engineered characteristics for economically useful periods?

Mutation rates per genome per replication in microbes with DNA chromosomes

Drake, et al., Genetics, 1998, 148, 1667-1686

an ecology is likely to better withstand viruses and other dysbionts than is a monoculture

No, GM is likely not the answer

An ecology is likely to better withstand viruses and other dysbionts than is a monoculture.
  • Algae are susceptible to viruses, bacterial infection and predators
    • The boundary layer at tank walls and recirculation zones in the fluid flow can act as incubators
    • Diverting metabolic pathways towards exported energy products likely diminishes infection defenses
  • Leakage of high energy products may attract or nourish malevolent bacteria or predators
an ecology can provide services that are suppressed in attempts to raise a monoculture

It takes an ecology…

An ecology can provide services that are suppressed in attempts to raise a monoculture.
  • Mixtures of algae can provide “immunity of the herd”
  • Mixtures of algae can span weather variations
  • Ecologies can contain predators of predators
  • Eubiotic bacteria can provide nutrients and recycle nutrients
  • Mixtures of algae can be easier to harvest
produce crude oil that is feedstock flexible water sparing and that integrates well with industry

Our Approach

Produce crude oil that is feedstock flexible, water sparing and that integrates well with industry.
  • Thermolysis of proteinaceous biomass is different from pyrolysis of cellulosic biomass
  • Thermolysis broadens the available feedstocks and harvesting technologies.
  • Combinations of feedstocks may address the issue of limited water availability
  • Catalyzed thermolysis can exploit available waste heat, affording opportunities for integration and CO₂ avoidance.
our catalyzed thermolysis converts low lipid biomass into bioleum a high energy density crude

So, if you are going to grow fuel, then grow fuel.

Our catalyzed thermolysis converts low lipid biomass into bioleum, a high energy density crude.

Characteristics of Bioleum

  • Produced in a flow reactor at moderate temperatures (<450°C) and atmospheric pressure
  • Yields of ~25wt% from algae that contain <5wt% lipids.
  • Captures ~50% of the heating value of the input algae
  • Product is high in N but low in P and S; Appear to us to be processable in a conventional refinery along with VGO
thermolysis permits us to use other types of aquatic plant e g the lemnaceae

Shifting the paradigm, permits shifting the crop too.

Thermolysis permits us to use other types of aquatic plant, e.g., the lemnaceae.

25 Sept 2009

26 Sept 2009

27 Sept 2009

Lemnaceae (duckweed) include many native species

They grow rapidly, doubling in about 1.5 day (algae can double twice per day)

Like algae, they denutrify the water.

They are macroscopic and thus easy to harvest.

Areal growth rates >150 dryT/hectare/year (=0.3 bbl/hectare/day)

other types of biomass may be part of an approach that addresses the limited availability of water

Water availability: The problem that is looming

Other types of biomass may be part of an approach that addresses the limited availability of water.

a) estimated from yield published in http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/ID/ID-337.pdf

b)Estimated from irrigation requirements and areal forestry yields in R. J. Zomer, et al., http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/Publications/IWMI_Research_Reports/PDF/PUB122/RR122.pdf, and published yields of pyrolysis oil yields of green” diesel

c) Irrigation water; W. Gerbens-Leenes, AY. Hoekstra and T. H. van der Meer, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 2009, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0812619106

d) Weyer, et al., Theoretical maximum algal oil production, Bioenergy Research, 2009, DOI 10.1007/s12155-009-9046-x

e) assumes treatment that permits total recycle of the growing water omits evaporative “green” water F. A. Agblevor and S. Besler-Guran, Fuel Chemistry Division Preprints 2002, 47(1), 374;

integrated production is needed to control costs and provide maximum environmental benefits

Shifting the paradigm facilitates process integration

Integrated Production is needed to control costs and provide maximum environmental benefits

Services from Industrial partner

Species +

Nutrients

WasteHeat

Focus of SRA

VentedCO2

AquaticBiomass

Farm

Separations

&

Processing

Product

Logistics

WasteWater

Waste

Treatment

integration with a cement plant

One form of integration

Integration with a Cement plant

Stack &

Baghouse

CO2 Emission

Fuel

Kiln

Grinding

Cement

Logistics

Limestone

Mining

Water Discharge

Cement manufacturing creates about 0.9 T CO2 per ton of cement along with copious quantities of waste heat.

Cement sells for ~$90/T; CO2 credits on the European market have ranged between €10-€35/T so inside-the-fence CO2 offsets should be cost effective

integration with a cement plant1

What integration might look like

Integration with a Cement plant

Stack &

Baghouse

Oil Sales

Flue gas at 200-400°C

Algae

Conversion

Char

Fuel

Grinding

Kiln

Cement

Logistics

Limestone

Mining

Heat

Exchange

CO2 Emission

Wet Algae

Algae

Farm

Algae

Harvest

Water Discharge

CO2

Waste Water

H2O

more information
More information
  • Sunrise Ridge Algae Inc.
    • www.sunrise-ridge.com
    • CTO Bob Weber
    • 211 Seaton Glen, Suite 109
    • Houston, TX 77094
    • 617-388-9290
    • bob.weber@sunrise-ridge.com