Cement and aggregate supplier, Holcim Group, with 80,000 employees and operations in 70 countries has ordered 5 initial algae based reactors that are expected to convert waste CO2 to liquid bio fuel at below petroleum fuel market prices. The fuel has immediate use in Holcim’s product delivery operations. If the 5 reactors are successful, they will provide the evidence that many industries can simultaneously cut CO2 emissions with net financial gains thanks to bio means.
Initial reactors for the Holcim project will be made by reactor developer, Algae.Tec, at its facility in Atlanta, Georgia. Algae.Tec’s announcement of the deal explains that initial reactors are to demonstrate capability and economics which, if successful, will result in use of many more units at the Sri Lanka plant. Potential use at other Holcim operations in 70 countries has not been forecast although Algae.Tec has indicated that the enclosed nature of its reactors will permit their use in climates not suited for open pond cultivation of algae.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRIES reported on the Algae.Tec system in its March, 2011
issue(www.ai-online.com) which consists of multiple, individually sealed, thin layers of algae solution in salt, waste or fresh water. Solar energy from the sun is captured by separate parabolic solar collectors for distribution by fiber optics to each of the algae solution layers. Aside from the solar collectors, the solution layers and related systems are packaged for use in standard size intermodal shipping containers. Combined systems with hundreds of units are envisioned for best cost/effectiveness.
Algae.Tec reactors have demonstrated algae oil output of 32,000 gal/acre/yr (250 tons/yr/ dry algae matter) which was reported earlier this year to be ten times the gal/acre/yr output of single level pond systems. Reactor equipment cost was reported to be about $2/gal of installed capacity and operating cost of about $40/bbl bio oil. Considering that ingredients are salt water, waste CO2, fast growing algae, minimal nutrients and minimal land usage, economics of the system including financing of the reactors and solar collectors appear to be favorable.
Aside from Holcim’s potential use of the Algae.Tec system, one of the Algae.Tec reactors will be up and running for evaluation early in 2012 at a facility of Manildra, Australia’a largest producer of ethanol (300,000 metric tons/yr) now made largely from grain. Manildra’s objective is to switch out of food product raw material (grain) to algae
based ethanol instead, while simultaneously making productive use of its otherwise waste, soon to be regulated, CO2 . Manildra is a very large food commodities firm.
Both Holcim and Manildra as large organizations, have expressed determined interest in achieving environmental goals related to CO2 emissions from their respective plant operations. Indications that these objectives may now be achieved coincidental with economic gains rather than higher costs, puts bio fuels in a new light internationally.
Recent major media stories that cast bio based products as relegated to non fuel uses due to cost problems, may soon be seen differently.