With the world’s finite supply of resources, many which are producing adverse effects on the environment, the need for alternative and sustainable sources of fuel is growing. One company that’s done extensive research into this area is Advanced Algal Technologies, which is producing biodiesel and animal feed from algae in commercially viable quantities.
The company has achieved this aim in two main ways, each which suits particular environmental and economic conditions:
The modular system controls the growing of algae, which is done on a moving conveyor belt in an internal environment. Here environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, nutrients and harvesting are controlled to achieve perfect algal growth. The belt, which is laminated with sponge foam on either side, is immersed in a nutrient rich bath during its travels.
This system causes the algae to double in mass every 24 hours. Oil is then extracted from the algae to produce biofuel. However, CEO of Advanced Algal Technologies, Kevin Murphy, says “the big market is not currently biodiesel but high protein animal feeds”…“the process of producing large volumes of feed from algae are low-tech and cost effective and provide the biggest market opportunity in the foreseeable future”.
2. High production pond system:
Advanced Algal Technologies also use an open pond system which produces up to ten tonnes of algae per day. This system relies on natural environmental conditions to produce the right water temperature for the algae to thrive. Water dosed with nutrients enters the pool every hour, which circulates the system while maintaining nutrient levels. The algae then continue to grow in size until they reach a harvestable density.
Upon completion of pond system growth, the algae are treated with a natural coagulant to cause precipitation. Wet algae is then transported to a processing plant where it is developed into pellets for animal feed. This pond system involves lower running costs than the modular system (using natural conditions) and is primarily used for producing high-protein animal feed.
An integral part of growing and developing the algae for commercial production in both systems is the nutrients, with the NPK ratio (N-nitrogen, P-phosphorous, K-potassium) being the key. The levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium fed to the algae are manipulated to produce the algal output required commercially.
The modular system produced by Advanced Algal Technologies, which opened in August 2012, has already attracted interest from a Chinese company, who have invested around $100 million to use it for carbon dioxide producing industries such as coal fired power stations, steel, and cement works. With the continued development of such technology, it is expected algae production will prove to be an extremely viable form of energy in the near future.
Here’s some footage of Advanced Algal Technologies’ research facility: