Monday, September 3, 2012

"Green crude"

I've been watching the development of algal biofuel techniques for quite a few years now, looking to see when a commercial scheme might finally be worked out. With a lot of federal money being plowed in via DoD and DoE, this is an interesting field for research.

Here's a new news item from the field (below).

One aspect of algal and other biofuels is that production naturally sequesters carbon, so a commercially viable process might also provide a useful pathway to get CO2 out of the atmosphere. The product would have to be itself sequestered or stored somehow. Some processes are designed for use alongside existing power plants that produce CO2. The flue gasses from the plants are used as CO2 feedstock for the biofuel plant, and waste heat can also be used to maintain reaction time.

Whether or not we can achieve the necessary scale of operations to meet either goal (commercial fuel and/or sequestration) is an interesting question and will make good grist for the mill of our Economic and Quantitative Analysis class this fall. We're currently working on energy- and climate-related "word" problems. I can have the students report out on scale based on the data in the press release.

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