Thursday, June 03, 2010

Fastest Growing Biomass? Six (!) Harvests a Year


Macro-algal seaweeds can be very prolific in terms of biomass production. Seaweed may be the most prolific form of biomass next to microbial biomass such as micro-algae. Most academic calculations of Earth's biomass production capacity fail to take into account the potential of marine organisms. How foolish is that, give that 70% of Earth's surface is covered by ocean?
Two years ago, the Korean Institute for Industrial Technology developed a process of extracting ethanol from seaweed, which proves to be more cost-efficient and advantageous than other sources of biofuel, writes Philippine Senator Edgardo Angara.

Seaweed grows faster than other biofuel sources and allows for as much as six harvests per year. And because seaweeds do not have lignin, pretreatment is not necessary. It is also not as politically sensitive, does not encroach on land used for food-crop production, and absorbs up to seven times more carbon in the atmosphere.

...In Manila, the Philippine government plans to develop a $5-million (P220-million) ethanol farm at a 100-hectare site in the province using the Korean technology of extracting ethanol from seaweed. The project will be implemented in two clusters, one in the provinces of Aurora, Isabela and Quirino in Northern Luzon and another in Bohol where a similar $5-million facility has been established to jump-start the cooperative venture.

First Seaweed-Based Biofuel Plant Goes Ahead In Chile

The Chilean economic Development Corporation (CORFO) has announced an investment of 7 million US dollars towards a seaweed-based bio-ethanol project spearheaded by the Seattle-based Bio Architecture Lab (BAL), in collaboration with the Universidad de Los Lagos and Chilean oil company ENAP. The project’s ambitious goal is to produce an annual 165 million litres of bio-fuel, equivalent to 5% of Chile’s petrol consumption. Plans to install a small test plant in Puerto Montt are set for this year.

In the US, ARPA-E funds BAL, DuPont macroalgae project

In March, the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a Technology Investment Agreement to DuPont for the development of a process to convert sugars produced by macroalgae into next-generation biofuels called isobutanol. Bio Architecture Lab will be a subrecipient on the program. Under this award, the DOE will fund $8.8 million and DuPont and BAL will cost share the balance of the total award, forming a joint cost share program between DOE and DuPont.

Butamax Advanced Biofuels, a joint venture between DuPont and BP, will be responsible for commercialization of the resulting technology package. The macroalgae-to-isobutanol project will establish technology and intellectual property leadership in the use of macroalgae as a low cost, scalable and environmentally sustainable biomass for biofuel production.

Efforts will focus on: improving domestic macroalgae aquaculture; converting macroalgae to bio-available sugars; converting those sugars to isobutanol; and economic and environmental optimization of the production process. More than 60 scientists in Wilmington, Del., and Berkeley, Calif., will work on this research and development program. The macroalgae aquafarming project will be conducted in Southern California. _BiofuelsDigest

The planet can produce macro-algae along the sea coast and around artificial islands such as seasteads. Micro-algae can be produced virtually anywhere on land and sea. Halophytes can be produced along arid seacoasts and in deserts -- areas generally believed unsuitable for biomass production.

In other words, biology will find a way -- given a bit of help.

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