In an effort to forestall climate change, the US government talks about sequestering CO2 deep in underground shafts and mines. Seems like a wasted effort to me. I've said before that society has to start thinking of CO2 as a useful feedstock input and a valuable resource and not as a waste byproduct.
The next issue of New Scientist (Vol. 191 No. 2572) (story embargoed till Oct 7, 2006) will feature a story on algae-based bioreactors that scrub CO2 from power plant smokestacks to eventually produce biofuels. It's titled FROM SMOKESTACK TO GAS TANK
A win-win on both sides it seems.
From the press release:
"Power plants and transport are responsible for emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gas emissions as both still rely heavily on fossil fuels. Now, a US firm is hoping to marry the two together with an emerging technology that uses a bi-product of one to supply fuel to the other. At the heart of the technology is a cylinder full of algae, which can suck carbon dioxide from a power plant’s exhaust and convert it into biofuel for the gas tank."
Two firms are cited in the story: Greenfuel Technologies from Cambridge Mass. in the US and Aquaflow Bionomic of Marlborough, New Zealand, which specializes in human waste streams.
How it works:
New Scientist reports on the Greenfuel method:
"To produce fuel from CO2, the flue gases are fed into a series of transparent “bioreactors”, which are 2 metres high and filled with green microalgae suspended in nutrient-rich water. The algae use the CO2, along with sunlight and water, to produce sugars by photosynthesis, which are then metabolised into fatty oils and protein. As the algae grow and multiply, portions of the soup are continually withdrawn from each reactor and dried into cakes of concentrated algae. These are repeatedly washed with solvents to extract the oil. The algal oil can then be converted into biodiesel through a routine process called transesterification, in which it is processed using ethanol and a catalyst. Enzymes are then used to convert starches from the remaining biomass into sugars, which are fermented by yeasts to produce ethanol."
Proof of Concept , now 2006
GreenFuel could ultimately produce more than 150 million litres of biodiesel and 190 million litres of ethanol a year on a farm between 8 and 16 square kilometres.
Other research is focused on developing genetically modified (GM) algae that produce hydrogen (H2) in a far more efficient manner then natural algae.
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