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Algae bioreactor  (Source: Autoblog Green)
Canada looks to algae as a biofuel source

The National Research Council (NRC) Canada  has dedicated 30 researchers and $5 million to a major research project in Halifax, Nova Scotia in an effort to promote the production of biofuel from algae

Since fuel sources like petroleum can cause air pollution, and harvesting such fuels can lead to disasterous oil spills, several areas around the world are searching for alternative energy fuels including Canada. The algal biofuel project will look for new ways to use the by-products of fuel production such as high-protein animal feed and nutriceuticals, and it will reduce aviation's "carbon footprint in anticipation of future carbon taxes." 

"Algae have huge market potential," said Dr. Danial Wayner, NRC Vice President of Physical Sciences. "Twenty-two billion gallons of biofuel were sold in 2009. Some commentators estimate that the biofuel industry represents a one-hundred billion dollar business opportunity."

Since algae feeds on carbon dioxide, the NRC along with Carbon2Algae, an algae-based CO2 solutions company, are working together to collect carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and several other facilities to help algae grow. The fuel produced from algae will result in clean energy and clean air. 

There are several other positives associated with the algal biofuel project such as the fact that algae does not compete with food production and does not require agricultural land. Also, it requires "little more than sunlight to grow" and NRC is only using local species of algae for now to reduce any risks to the environment. So far, the project has collected 64 species of algae where 24 of these have been brought into cultivation and a half dozen with exceptional oil yields are "under intensive scrutiny." The collection is expected to expand to hundreds of species through international collaboration with the U.S., and researchers will study strains that are acceptable for biofuel production.  

NRC was able to fund the money for this project through the National Bioproducts Program, which commercializes technologies that will have a positive impact on the environment, and the NRC Institute for Marine Biosciences, which is dedicated to finding alternative fuel sources. In addition to the NRC's $5 million, another $1.2 million was given by "both monetary and in-kind contributions through industrial and organizational partners." 

"NRC is collaborating with a number of industrial partners, including Ocean Nutrition Canada in Halifax, Menova Energy Inc. of Markham, Ontario, POS Pilot Plant from Saskatoon and the international consortium Carbon2Algae Solutions," said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). 

"These firms are working closely with NRC to commercialize technologies in areas of algae cultivation, biomass handling, oil extraction and ultimately, fuel production."

In addition, NRC is working on the project with the U.S. Department of Energy. According to Goodyear, this collaboration represents "concrete action on Canada's commitments in the Canada-U.S. Clean Energy Dialogue by expanding clean energy research and development - one of the three objectives outlined in the agreement."

The project has generated one dozen jobs and is expected to create even more once the project increases to a larger scale. 

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Unlimited supply
By MarcLeFou on 6/8/2010 3:22:18 PM , Rating: 4
I'm all for finding altenate fuel sources to fulfill our ever increasing energy needs. Especially when they're made from projects such as these or bio-waste which have a minimal impact on the environment.

Tech like these can solve many issues : air polution, geopolitical instabilities due to ressources located in unstable countries, local production, create ever increasing supply of fuel as technology matures and evolve which should in turn lower fuel prices as the offer has the possibility of far outweighing the demand.

Go Canada! :-D

RE: Unlimited supply
By Reclaimer77 on 6/8/10, Rating: 0
RE: Unlimited supply
By Howard on 6/8/2010 10:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
Why is this comment being voted up? How do you fools expect to advance in high-density energy storage technology without fronting the bills for R&D?

RE: Unlimited supply
By Alexvrb on 6/8/2010 10:38:34 PM , Rating: 1
Maybe the private companies (both established ones and startups) that are already doing this, maybe they can "foot the bill"?

RE: Unlimited supply
By Talcite on 6/8/2010 11:22:45 PM , Rating: 4
I'm just glad to see another country besides the US wasting money to keep green-lobbyists pockets padded.

I personally know someone who works in Canadian research funding policy and have had a long discussion with her about research funding. The NRC (and associated NRCAN, Environment Canada, etc.) don't get free rein with research funding.

Your comment shows incredible ignorance about the realities of governments and business decision making. As the article subtly hinted, the NRC's mandate is to reduce the risk for business to adopt new technology. They will do research to develop technology 80% of the way to commercialization, and the businesses will do the other 20%.

Topics selected for research are often along the lines of alternative energy generation because the environment is one of the big market externalities that free markets don't compensate for. These technologies also require a large amount of research to get started and many companies are unwilling to invest money on something that may not bear fruit. Therefore, the NRC has stepped in to reduce the risk and promote adoption of these technologies.

The decision for funding this research was not done on some political whim or crackpot decision. It was made strictly within the economically sound research mandate of the NRC.

RE: Unlimited supply
By Reclaimer77 on 6/9/2010 3:40:00 PM , Rating: 2
"Reducing the risk for private sector investment into new technology"

Aka, Socialism and government subsidies. Risk is one of the key components of a thriving private sector in a free economy. Removing that isn't a good thing. When you remove risk, you also cushion incentive. Removing risk also removes reward.

Your comment shows incredible ignorance about the realities of governments and business decision making.

Government and businesses making decisions are two things that shouldn't be put together. Obviously Canada believes differently.

RE: Unlimited supply
By fic2 on 6/9/2010 3:40:45 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot the "businesses will profit 100%" part.

BTW, gov'ts do do "business decision making". They do asset reallocation.

By JediJeb on 6/9/2010 2:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
And here I was expecting something about nuclear energy (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). Too many acronyms with the same letters.

But it is still good research. We won't know for sure what is the best alternative until we research more of each. The final answer will the the one that is the most useful and also most economically viable.

By fic2 on 6/9/2010 3:41:54 PM , Rating: 2
Me too. I was thinking maybe they were going to look at thorium as a reactor fuel or something.

Clean My Pool?
By makius on 6/10/2010 4:03:21 AM , Rating: 2
I got some tons of sweet sweet algae growing in my pool right now and its all theirs if they come clean it for me!! :D

Eco Freaks
By Ammohunt on 6/8/10, Rating: -1
RE: Eco Freaks
By GotDiesel on 6/8/2010 1:53:26 PM , Rating: 5
These fuels are mostly carbon neutral.. the algae consume vast amounts of carbon dioxide to produce oils..

RE: Eco Freaks
By corduroygt on 6/8/2010 1:57:20 PM , Rating: 2
Carbon Dioxide is not air pollution.
This project is still well however, since it's a renewable method of producing petroleum products. The "Carbon Neutral" talking point is just there to shut the ecoweenies up.

RE: Eco Freaks
By wiz220 on 6/8/2010 2:22:13 PM , Rating: 2
How did we get to the point where anyone that simply cares about clean air and water is an "eco freak" or "ecoweeny". Sheesh, talk about skewing the debate. Go work for BP if you really don't think anything we do has consequences.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Ammohunt on 6/8/2010 2:53:30 PM , Rating: 1
It was way it was stated reducing emissions != oil ruins the environment which was obvious to most prior to the current oil spill which it not an issue with oil itself as much as it has to do with the location of the spill coupled with lack of contigency/negligence. You have any idea how much oil poured out onto the ground and into the Persian Gulf when Iraq blew up the wells in Kuwait? makes this spill look like a oily stain on a napkin.

RE: Eco Freaks
By lelias2k on 6/8/2010 3:38:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but the spill on the Gulf affects, directly or indirectly, much more people. On top of that, it's the most recent event, and you know how everyone nowadays has a short memory. :)

RE: Eco Freaks
By JediJeb on 6/8/2010 6:01:38 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with the short memory part, but honestly the amount of people affected is not so different between the Gulf of Mexico and the Persian Gulf. Unless you count all the people who like cheap shrimp to eat, then there are probably a lot more affected. In time this spill may rank up there in the top 10, but so far I doubt it has come close to #10 yet, the Exxon Valdez I think was ranked #32 biggest all time spill yet it was the one it has been compared to.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Amedean on 6/8/2010 10:03:19 PM , Rating: 2
Why do I read blogs........I swear, sometimes you people make good points but S**t man, STFU sometime and stick to the debate and not drift too much. 10 percent of all these conversations are good points. Sorry guys, but this website attracts to many annoying bloggers who HAVE to be right all the time - don't misspell anything or God forbid an English teacher will pop up and lecture away!

RE: Eco Freaks
By callmeroy on 6/8/2010 3:23:28 PM , Rating: 3
heh..the same thing I say is how are people who merely admit to believing in God or saying their prayers are instantly termed "Zealots" "Jesus Freaks" "Bible Thumpers", etc.

I've thought about that stuff before and I resign myself to thought people that are truly ignorant or incredibly hateful have to use the "dramatic" labels because after all what sentences grabs more attention..."Roy says his prayers each night before bed" or "Roy is a Jesus Freak who foolishly wastes his time speaking to the cloud wizard each night"......and an eco example "Sara is concerned about the quality of the air she breathes and the water she drinks." OR "Sara, a tree hugger, vehemently demands alternative fuels be found before the world is doomed!".

You gotta pick the one with more flare or you don't sound cool when you are knocking someone....

RE: Eco Freaks
By ClownPuncher on 6/8/2010 4:14:46 PM , Rating: 3
This cloud wizard sounds kinda neat. Does he have +5 to intelligence rolls?

RE: Eco Freaks
By Ammohunt on 6/8/10, Rating: 0
RE: Eco Freaks
By Ammohunt on 6/8/2010 2:48:34 PM , Rating: 2
Never understood the "Carbon Neutral" argument either Crude Oil and coal being a Natural resource its part of the "environment" already, burning just shifts it from one form of carbon to another. If they are correct about how coal was formed chances are it was fixed by plants millions of years ago.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Talcite on 6/8/2010 3:25:47 PM , Rating: 4
Carbon neutral refers to atmospheric CO2.

Combustion of hydrocarbons which were extracted through mining is introducing new CO2 into the atmosphere which was sequestered a _long_ time ago. Adding it to the existing CO2 is increasing the levels to a dangerous level causing ocean acidification and all other kinds of problems.

The point of the algae biofuel is that the photosynthetic/carbon fixation cycle will consume atmospheric CO2 _right now_, not long in the past as other sources of coal/oil are doing.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Ammohunt on 6/8/2010 5:10:52 PM , Rating: 2
So what baseline is used to determine the correct amount of amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Given the fact thats it is understood that the earths atmosphere in the past contained much more CO2 then even current levels.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Talcite on 6/8/2010 11:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
So what baseline is used to determine the correct amount of amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

It's not meaningful to discuss a baseline quantity to adjust our ecosystem to. There's undisputed evidence that ocean acidification is happening due to the formation of carbonic acid from the reaction of CO2 and water. We can see that it's having negative effects on the coral populations and on sea life. You can talk about GHG and AGW, but that's another can of worms I don't need to open for our purposes.

It's possible that CO2 levels in the past were higher, but ocean life would have been suited for those levels. They are no longer suited for those levels. Rapidly adjusting our atmospheric CO2 levels, as we have been doing, would cause changes to the current ecosystem on which we so heavily depend not to change.

The only meaningful discussion to have is what we can do to reduce our atmospheric CO2 delta. The algae is actually a great way to do it since it removes most of the CO2 it creates.

This is something I neglected to mention previously, but the coal remaining in North America doesn't just contain hydrocarbons. It also contains sulfur compounds which create SOx when combusted. It causes acid rain which has strong ramifications on forest ecosystems. SOx and NOx are also much more potent GHGs than CO2 or water vapour are. Canada and the US actually have great legislation on the removal of SOx and NOx from combustion sources. Anyways, algae biofuel shouldn't run into this problem which is another reason to be doing this research at the NRC.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Xavi3n on 6/9/2010 5:08:42 AM , Rating: 3
You didn't answer his question though, there was far more CO2 in the atmosphere in the distant past and it didn't end up killing all life in the oceans and it won't now.

You people think the earth's ecosystem and atmospheric processes are that fragile, then all life on earth should already have been extinct and earth should have turned into Venus long long ago.

There is already evidence that larger amounts of CO2 released into the atmosphere cause a drop in water vapour in the atmosphere to counter-act the warming effects of CO2. Finally "climate change" is on a repeating cycle, it gets warmer, then it gets cooler and visa versa, to think our burning CO2 could effect climate change to the same scale of the Sun is terribly presumptuous and harkens back to the days where we thought the earth was the centre of the universe.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Dr of crap on 6/9/2010 10:37:04 AM , Rating: 2
Great return Xavi3n.
I wonder the same thing.
But of course the GREEN people don't see both side of the issue.

RE: Eco Freaks
By Ammohunt on 6/9/2010 1:44:37 PM , Rating: 2
You do realize that their are natural Coal fires burning underground in the west and other areas of the world;some for thousands of years?

RE: Eco Freaks
By Murloc on 6/8/2010 2:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
with bioengineering we'll be able to avoid byproducts.
and it will be almost carbon neutral.

Petrol pollutes because it contains other unneeded substances, just like coal.

RE: Eco Freaks
By HotFoot on 6/8/2010 2:43:59 PM , Rating: 2
Certainly the air quality in cities has gone up a lot since gasoline/diesel fuels have become better-processed and a lot of work has gone into emissions. It would be very cool if diesel (or whatever) derived from algae could be even more pure by design of the process.

I think there's a lot more promise in storing energy in liquid chemicals, such as being studied here, than in things like hydrogen or battery powered cars. On many fronts it's hard to beat liquid hydrocarbons - energy density, compatibility with existing infrastructure and engine technology, ease of handling, and no special requirement for rare materials.

RE: Eco Freaks
By FaceMaster on 6/8/10, Rating: 0
"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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