A Microalgae-Based Platform for the Beneficial Reuse of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants Email Page
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Performer: University of Kentucky Research Foundation
First generation serpentine photobioreactor<br/>installed at Duke Energy’s East Bend Station
First generation serpentine photobioreactor
installed at Duke Energy’s East Bend Station
Website: University of Kentucky
Award Number: FE0026396
Project Duration: 10/01/2015 – 09/30/2017
Total Award Value: $1,251,444
DOE Share: $990,344
Performer Share: $261,100
Technology Area: Carbon Use and Reuse
Key Technology: Biological Conversion
Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Project Description

The University of Kentucky (UK) has teamed with the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (UD-CEOE) and ALGIX LLC to develop a cost-effective, biological carbon dioxide (CO2) conversion process that can convert CO2 from coal-fired flue gas to value-added products. The research team will focus on microalgae-based CO2 capture with conversion of the resulting algal biomass to fuels and bioplastics. Scenedesmus acutus algae will be autotrophically cultured in an innovative cyclic flow photobioreactor. The algae will be harvested and dewatered using previously developed UK technology based on flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration. Engineering and biology-based approaches will be employed to decrease costs, while a sustainable utilization strategy will be developed for the algal biomass produced. The project will specifically address three main areas: (1) critical commercial-scale development barriers such as flue gas introduction, dewatering, and culture maintenance; (2) development of large-scale applications for the produced biomass while maximizing the potential revenue stream; and (3) assessment of the economics of this approach to CO2 capture and recycle. The project objectives are to optimize UK’s current technology, particularly with regard to harvesting and dewatering operations; develop strategies to monitor and maintain algae culture health; and develop a biomass utilization strategy which simultaneously produces lipid feedstock for direct upgrading to fuels and a proteinaceous feedstock for the production of algal-based bioplastics, thereby maximizing the value of the algal biomass. Techno-economic analyses to calculate the cost of CO2 capture and recycle using this approach, and life cycle analyses to evaluate the emission reduction potential will be completed.

Project Benefits

Development of the microalgae-based CO2 capture process, with conversion of the resulting algal biomass to fuels and bioplastics, holds potential as a method to utilize CO2 from coal-fired flue gas to produce value-added products. The outcome from this project will be a conceptual design for an algae-based CO2 capture system suitable for integration with a coal-fired power plant, including the results of techno-economic and life cycle analyses detailing the cost of CO2 removal (on a $/metric ton basis), the associated land requirements, emission reduction benefits, and the effect of other pollutant emissions (SOx, NOx, and heavy metals) on byproduct quality.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager Isaac Aurelio: isaac.aurelio@netl.doe.gov
Technology Manager Lynn Brickett: lynn.brickett@netl.doe.gov
Principal Investigator Mark Crocker: mark.crocker@uky.edu


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