Algae Carbon Capture at the University of Kentucky

Uploaded by universityofkentucky on 20.10.2011

bjbj Algae Carbon Capture Script Narrator VO: Kentucky s consumers and industries like
aluminum and steel depend on low-cost reliable power from coal. More than 90 percent of Kentucky
s electricity comes from coal. Rodney Andrews, Ph.D., Director, Center for Applied Energy
Research: If you look at projections for the future; we re going to be 50 percent coal-fired
for electric power nationally for the next several decades. Michael Wilson, Research
Engineer, Center for Applied Energy Research: We can mine it, transport it, combust it generate
power very cheaply and reliably. If CO2 tax comes in, the rates will go up. The prices
to do business will go up, and the utility will have no choice but to pass that cost
on to its customer, having a solution in-hand would be very important to the Commonwealth
s future. Kentucky s coal-fired power plants need cleaner, greener, more efficient technology
to deal with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The University of Kentucky is studying
the photosynthetic prowess of algae as a way transform CO2 into useful products. Samuel
Morton III, Ph.D., P.E., Center for Applied Energy Research: Algae are the fastest-growing
photosynthetic organism on the planet. They have very few limitations on what they need
to grow. So they need sunlight, they need carbon dioxide, they need water, they need
an array of mineral nutrients just like plants do. So if we can kind of take advantage of
that ability to explosively grow in a controlled environment, and cause that on purpose, we
can really increase the amount of algae we can cultivate in a small footprint. Michael
Wilson: At the end of the process, there could be a potential revenue stream back to the
utility companies in the form of animal feed or fertilizer or potentially even biodiesel.
Narrator VO: Three years ago, the Center for Applied Energy Research and UK s Biosystems
& Agricultural Engineering Department set out to prove that an algae-based system could
recycle the CO2 in flu gas. They started by asking some important questions. Rodney Andrews:
How do you tie to the power plant? What s in the flu gas and how do we do that in working
with Ag? How do we pick the right culture of algae? Czarena Crofcheck, Ph. D., P.E.,
Associate Professor, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, UK College of Agriculture: We
wanted something robust. Chlorella vulgaris is one of those algaes that s just used in
a whole bunch of different applications. We ve had a lot of luck growing it at elevated
CO2. We ve also been using scenedesmus. It s actually been growing a little better than
our chlorella. The scenedesmus appears to be adapted a little bit more for Kentucky,
just in terms of temperature, which is going to be a positive thing. It may end up being
cold enough in the winter where we really want a cold algae. We may want to mix them.
We don t want to pick just one and move forward. We want to make sure that we re doing all
the research necessary to get enough information to make the system as robust and effective
as possible. Narrator VO: How do you go from growing algae in a small flask in the lab
to a system that can handle the huge amount of CO2 emitted by power plant? Use a series
of vertical tubes called photobioreactors. These PBRs save space and maximize sunlight
reaching the algae. Michael Wilson: What we ve been focusing on here at CAER is developing
a low-cost photobioreactor. In the background, you can see that this bioreactor is made up
of 5-inch tubes, which is essentially the same material that Coke bottles are made out
of and then PVC parts that you can find off-the-shelf at Lowe Evan Schroader, UK Senior in Mechanical
Engineering: re trying to keep track of the health of our algae, trying to figure out
what s going on inside the reactors, balancing the nutrients. Czarena Crofcheck: The fact
that they re not stuck in the ground means that we can control them more. We can build
the PBR that holds them, we can pump them around, we can move them. And hopefully as
far as the work that we re doing we can find a way to make them happy enough that they
continue to grow and continue to consume that CO2. Narrator VO: Inside these tubes, the
algae convert sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and biomass. Biomass can be used to make fertilizer,
bio-oil and biodiesel, but to get it you have to separate the algae from the water. A cheap
way to do this is by utilizing a natural process called flocculation that makes algae clump
together. Samuel Morton III: One of the tricks is s rather a nice trick is you can find an
organism that will do that for you, or you can add a chemical. Michael Wilson: What s
cool about this organism is that it actually naturally flocculates itself. Once it reaches
a certain culture density, the cells will kind of join together. Czarena Crofcheck:
They start to settle out, which actually is what we want. We want algae that wants to
settle out. Michael Wilson: So with a little bit of patience, we ve overcome a significant
technological problem, and in our primary de-watering step, we can get about 90 percent
of our water out, and therefore, 90 percent of the biomass harvested. Narrator VO: The
next step is testing this algae system on a larger scale. CAER is building a pilot system
at Dale Power Station, operated by East Kentucky Power Cooperative. $1.8 million from the Kentucky
Department of Energy Development & Independence and UK will fund this two-year project. Andrews:
s one of their smaller plants, but it s almost a perfect site because it has an old rail
line that runs right next to the plant where you can get up next to the flue stack. That
will allow us to use their real flu gas. One of the big questions we re looking at with
this process is, What happens during the winter? We have plenty of heat, so we re not worried
about that, but as the day gets shorter we ll be looking at things like: Can we artificially
light? For how long do we have to do that during the day cycle? When we get into the
spring of next year, we ll expand the system to full size, which is about 50,000 gallons,
to carry on from there. Narrator VO: Algae offers a green way to recycle CO2 into products
we need like bio-oil and biodiesel. By making valuable products, this system improves the
overall economics of CO2 capture. And that s vital for the future of our Commonwealth.
Media inquiries contact Marybeth McAlister HYPERLINK "" 859-257-0224 Video inquiries contact Chad Rumford HYPERLINK "" 859-257-4024 h_#C h_#C gd!2 hf+3 hf+3 hf+3 hf+3 hf+3 hf+3 hf+3 hf+3
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