What To Do With Algae
by Terry Mazanec (Lee Enterprises Consulting/Biofuels Digest) … So the process removes and processes about 25 tonnes of earth to obtain each gram of Pt, valued at about $35. It is a very lucrative business.
Biomass is much like the platinum mine. It can contain a variety of high value materials at low concentration trapped in a matrix of much lower value stuff. Biomass upgrading can be similar if we identify the right material that is valuable, like platinum. The trick is to process the large amount of material, isolating and modifying the structures to obtain precious components.
… to provide fuel of the same value as in the platinum mine one needs to handle 10 times as much (algae in solution) material!
Harvesting, dewatering, extraction, and concentration of that huge volume of solution can be energy-intensive and entail siting issues.
DOE’s 2016 Billion Ton Report estimates that about 23-84 million tons of algae could be grown at prices below $800/dry ton on US sites co-located with ethanol, coal, or natural gas plants that deliver the required CO2. When other biomass sources can be had for as little as $60/ton, using algae to produce fuels is a non-starter.
The other way to justify handling oceans of dilute algae for minute amounts of material is to produce more precious products. Algae have several traits that make them amenable to accelerated production of higher value products than fuels.
The nutritional supplemental omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are produced by some algae. These materials play essential roles in human and animal nutrition, including during neonatal development and in adult cardiovascular health. With a wholesale value of up to $500/kg their value more closely resembles the value of the platinum at the bottom of that mile deep mine. READ MORE