Win-Win: Algae Cleans CO2 and Produces Bio-Crude
Algae has long been the 'darling' of many environmentalists, but is faced with a perception that it is a 'niche' product that will never make it to scale -- utility scale.
A recent project in Australia is challenging that notion. The Tarong Power Plant, in Queensland, Australia, must reduce carbon emissions from their stacks to meet current and future utility standards. In an unusual partnership, the power plant hired MBD Energy to grow algae in order to sequester CO2. MBD Energy then turned to Origin Oil, a US company based in Los Angeles, California. Origin Oil has a process to harvest the algae, and then extract commercially valuable replacements for energy, and chemicals for pharmaceuticals.
Origin Oil doesn't make anything: they invent solutions, says their charismatic CEO, Riggs Eckelberry,
Origin Oil has two products that were especially valuable to MBD:
- Quantum Fracturing a technology that injects CO2 and nutrients into algae culture.
- Single Step Extraction for continuous, highly scalable, chemical-free dewatering and cell lysing (decomposition).
Riggs sees Origin Oil's technology as the "killer app" of carbon capture. "Algae loves to attach itself to things. This is what it does."
Algae can also be very valuable to mining companies, because it can grow in brackish or nutrient loaded water. Origin Oil's process produces clean water and "algae crude": a valuable petroleum replacement. Ideally, a mining company could reduce their energy costs while cleaning their water. On the potential for algae at utility scale in the United States, Riggs is not optimistic.
"I've been in Australia, Europe, China, where it's all the rage. But it's not happening in this country because we can't seem to make up our minds to get rid of carbon."
Process for Queensland Project