Recovery Act: Beneficial CO2 Capture In An Integrated Algal Biorefinery For Renewable Generation And Transportation Fuels Email Page
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Performer: Phycal Inc.
Award Number: FE0001888
Project Duration: 01/15/2010 – 03/31/2014
Total Award Value: $12,730,439.00
DOE Share: $9,601,229.00
Performer Share: $3,129,210.00
Technology Area:
Key Technology:

Project Description

NETL is funding Phycal for an approximate five-year effort to further develop its microalgal IBR concept at pilot scale. Phycal is leasing a 34-acre parcel in Wahiawa, Hawaii to carry out the project; state officials and the local community have indicated widespread support. In Phase 2, Phycal will continue to work with its partners to validate the use of industrial emissions-derived CO2 and integrate their technologies into the facility design. Phycal and its partners will purchase necessary lab equipment, small scale production equipment, and perform experiments to show that technologies being recommended for the project can be scaled up for on-site demonstration purposes. Researchers will develop, test, and demonstrate all systems for the successful growth of algae, extraction of oil, and production of commercial energy products.

Phycal will stagger the design, construction and testing tasks of the pilot plant into two different size modules to ensure that lessons learned from unit operation performance at smaller scale are incorporated into the design and scale-up engineering for the larger scale. The first module will allow Phycal to fabricate and integrate an essential portion of the IBR facility for the first time in the state of Hawaii. Although the systems have been run under simulated conditions at the Ohio R&D site, new information will be gained during operation. These insights will be used to modify the design, if necessary, in the second module, and consequently allow changes to construction and testing. Module 1 will be approximately 20 percent of the total proposed pond production and 37.8 percent of the budgeted costs. Module 2 will be comprised of the remaining balances of production and costs. Module 1 will be
composed of the initial site construction for the entire project site, processing equipment, smaller ponds, inoculation ponds and the work trailers for the personnel assigned to the site. Module 2 will consist of additional and substantially larger raceway ponds and additional processing equipment to add to the levels of Module 1.

Some of the key project elements are (1) open ponds using processed wastewater enriched with nutrients; (2) the Heteroboost™ process to boost lipids prior to extraction; and (3) anaerobic digestion of delipidated biomass to produce methane gas. Algal oil and methane gas produced on-site will be tested and qualified for use as both transportation and power generation fuels in the form of renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and hydrotreated renewable jet fuel.

Project Benefits

Worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activity have increased from an insignificant level two centuries ago to annual emissions of more than 33 million tons. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is leading an effort to find novel approaches to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources. The Industrial Carbon Capture and Sequestration (ICCS) program is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to encourage development of processes that will convert CO2 to useable products and fuels while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

During photosynthesis, algae capture CO2 and sunlight to convert them into oxygen and biomass. Up to 99 percent of the CO2 in solution can be converted to biomass in large-scale open-pond systems. This natural process is being harnessed by Phycal, Inc. using its microalgal integrated biorefinery (IBR) concept. The biorefinery will produce algal feedstock and integrate a number of unique technologies to produce beneficial energy products based on the algal capture of CO2 from industrial emissions and the atmosphere. These bioderived energy products have the potential to be converted to fuels for power generation or transportation.

The development of this project will benefit the biofuel industry by providing the technological and economic data demonstrating the feasibility of commercial-scale production of biofuels and CO2 utilization using algae. As a biofuel feedstock, algae provide significant benefits over other crops. Independent studies show algae are capable of producing at least ten times more oil than other potential crops. Algae can be grown on currently non-productive land, can use non-potable water as a growth medium, and will utilize large quantities of CO2. This project will also show that industrial process equipment and engines can perform using bio-derived fuels. The commercial production of biofuels will allow the U.S. to reduce its dependence on foreign-supplied fuels, to increase the percentage of renewable fuel sources, and to improve the environmental performance of the energy and transportation sectors.

Goals and Objectives

The main goals of the project are to accelerate the commercial introduction of algal biofuels and to demonstrate the flexibility of algal oil to create drop-in renewable diesel fuel, renewable naphtha, and hydrotreated renewable jet fuel. Major objectives include (1) implementing new technologies into a pilot-scale biorefinery and rapidly transitioning them to the market place; (2) validating that the development of algal oil can be produced at an economically feasible cost of around $4 per gallon without subsidies; (3) using data from pilot scale operations to link commercial system design with process economics for the purpose of delivering commercial quantities of biofuels at an acceptable cost; (4) testing and completing the integration of all unit processes in preparation for construction of a commercial-scale facility for production beginning as early as 2015; and (5) documenting the impact of fuels produced by CO2 recycle/reuse methods on the environment.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager Jason Hissam:
Technology Manager Michael Knaggs:
Principal Investigator :


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