ARRA Research

ICCS (Research) -

Recovery Act: Beneficial CO2 Capture In An Integrated Algal Biorefinery For Renewable Generation And Transportation Fuels

Performer: Phycal Inc.

Project No: FE0001888

Program Background and 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.

Project Details