Saturday, June 28, 2008

Can you grow your own biodiesel from algae?

If you noticed my prior blog entry below, I had asked if everyone was growing algae to convert into biodiesel? It caused me to do a little research and sure enough, there's a how-to ebook on the market that walks you through the process. What else are you going to do with your time?

Check this do it yourself algae to biodiesel how-to ebook.

Is everyone growing algae for biodiesel?

Seems like alot of academic research these days is focusing on algae as a potental fuel source for biodiesel. But instead of cranking out a 50 pager no one will ever read, Michelle Sabaoun and Doug Holland at Brunswick Community College are growing their own algae to convert into biodiesel which they hope will allow them to power tractos and other equipment at the college. By the way, where is MIT or Caltech when an energy crisis rears it's ugly head? Can we get some relief here from the brilliant among us? In any case, what I found interesting in the article here was this excerpt:

The technology to convert algae into a biofuel is becoming more and more sophisticated as research spreads through private industry and academia. But Sabaoun notes that the research is not shared, which is not surprising considering the potential economic windfall that could come to whomever figures out the most economical conversion process.

Hey valcent, is anyone in academia furthering your studies? Contact me and let's discuss.

Algae to Biodiesel News Roundup

There's been alot of activity and news surrounding the idea of growing algae and turning it into biodiesel. First, an Israeli firm Seambiotic Ltd is partnering with Seattle-based Inventure Chemical to build a pilot plant in Israel. Hhhhmm, I'll spare you the analysis of the idea of Israeli algae-based biodiesel biofuel vs Arab oil. Seambiotic developed it's own strains of algae and they grow it on an open pond. I wonder if it could grow in the Valcent vertigro system?

In related news, Science Daily explains to us that a couple Kansas State University scientists think the algae that grows in the oceans could possibly be harvested. The National Science Foundation gave these guys ~$100k to do their study. Excerpt: "Certain algal species are high in oil content that could be converted into such fuels as biodiesel, according to Pei and Yuan. " Also of note was Pei on the goal of the research, "to develop a cost-effective process for growing algae on solid carriers in the ocean for biofuel manufacturing."

Advantages of Vertical Growing

I've embarked on a little self education effort to learn more about vertical growing as a function of my interest in utilizing algae to make biodiesel and vertigro. The idea of vertical farming was something that I had actually been thinking about prior to learning about Valcent and its Vertigro approach. Recently, I came across this list of advantages of Vertical Growing. I'll post the first 15 of 25 and refer you to the originating document for the rest. But here's the list:

1) Space savings: 3-8 times more plants per acre with vertical growing.
2) Less energy and less water (up to 85% savings on water)
3) Less diseases, especially from soil (no soil splattering)
4) Less contamination, especially from soils or irrigation water.
5) Little or no herbicides
6) Longer seasons: soil temperature and rainfall not a factor
7) Higher market prices in the “Off” season
8) Direct sales: cleaner, harvest standing up, no washing, etc.
9) Soil type is not a factor.
10) Excessive rainfall is less damaging.
11) Less fertilizer waste: Organic possibilities
12) Less water waste (Water Management approval)
13) Less Pesticides (no soil sterilants such as Methyl Bromide or Vapam)
14) Less water used for misting or “watering in” in field crops.
15) Crops: Strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, herbs, etc.

Going Off Grid???

I maintain 3 related blogs: one on HHO Gas and hydrogen fuel injection systems, one on Eestor Ultracapacitors and the one you are reading. My interests in this area are not unlike the millions of others who are paying outrageous prices for fuel now. I'm happy to be doing a small part related to getting information out to people about alternative energy solutions.

My interests have grown to where I'm considering the degree to which I could go off grid in my Washington DC area townhouse. My research on this is just starting and I might start a new blog on the topic if there's enough material. For now, I'm probably going to go ahead and purchase these Ebooks on the topic. Drop me a note if you've got any ideas around this topic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Alternative Fuels are the new Software

Back in the 80s and 90s leading up to the Internet boom that preceded 9/11, software companies were oftentimes great investment bets. Typically, the software solved a business or widespread consumer problem and could grow rapidly via evolving distribution channels. Today, with our energy crunch in full swing, alternative energy companies are poised to become the next software companies of our day. Growing fuels from algae, harnessing solar or wind power and storing it with next generation ultracaps, many companies today have the ability to upset the tradition oil markets with breakthrough technologies. You may find good investment opportunities if an alternative energy company mirrors a software company in these 3 ways:

1) Revenue Model
The company's revenue model is based on licensing not manufacturing or producing (eg. Algenol). Alternative energy companies that try to take their technology from concept to factory to showroom floor are climbing an uphill battle that they may not survive. Focus on companies that focus on their tiny niche capability and allow others to distribute it.

2) Install Base Prestige
The company must have a marquee customer utilizing the technology successfully today with proven prospects tommorrow. The oil companies these days are flush with cash. They are ready to experiment and spend. A small company that lands an initial licensing deal is more likely to land similar deals.

3) Alternative Energy 2.0
By staying lean and focusing on enhancing existing capabilities or going beyond existing patents, alternative energy companies can create ongoing revenue streams through licensing upgrades to existing products.

The main thing you want to look at with today's alternative energy companies is it's ability to allow it's technology to proliferate rapidly. A company that tries to go head to head with a deep pocket entity like Exxon Mobile is not likely to last and your investment dollars should go elsewhere. But if a company has a technology that it can sell in small quantities to a large number of people to seed a new market, that's one where you probably want to see your dollars grow.

The jury is still out on whether Valcent and it's Vertigro strategy fits the model but the seeds are certainly there. Picture farmers, small oil producers, ranchers and regular traditional american entrepreneurs attempting to produce their own algae farms. If their initial experiments succeed, the second round of investment can increase rapidly through several cycles.

Algenol lands $100Mil licensing fee

Biofields has licensed Algenol's algae production technology and is building an $850Mil algae farm in the Sonoran desert according to this CNET Article. Algenol's approach is a little different from Valcent's vertigro approach in that it intends to derive ethanol directly from algae enhanced to produce it.

Valcent Competitor News

CNET documents a changing of the guard at Greenfuel Technologies. It's one of a few other companies trying to do what Valcent is attempting to do in turning algae into biofuel on a mass scale. The article covers some of the challenges Greenfuel faced in it's initial proof of concept work with an Arizona utility company.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bloomberg Interview

Here's a Glen Kertz interview on bloomberg. Kertz says it takes 1700 gallons of water to get 1 gallon of ethanol from corn. He says it takes 3 gallons of water to grow a gallon of ethanol via algae.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Green Crude Production

Sapphire Energy announced that they had successfully produced 91 octane gasoline with ATSM certification following a process that began with algae as it's underlying source material. This is an amazing development for those who are tracking the development of algae as a biofuel since it essentially means a proof of concept exists that takes us all the way from the lab to the gas pump where we need it to be.

The infrastructure to support mass production of this process is "modular, transportable and fueled by sunlight--not constrained by land, crops or other natural resources," according to Sapphire.

The article goes on to reference a phrase growing in usage, "Green Crude Production."