Triple Word Score: Recycle Carbon From Ethanol Plant, Grow Algae

gprelogoAnother technology venture looking to capture carbon dioxide and use it to grow algae has thrown itself into the ring. BioProcessAlgae, a joint venture among filtration giant Clarcor (s CLC), wastewater treatment startup BioProcessH2O, ethanol producer Green Plains Renewable Energy (s GPRE), and renewable energy developer NTR, has been awarded a $2.1 million grant from the state of Iowa to build what the venture claims would be one of the first photobioreactor systems attached to an industrial plant in the United States. The pilot project, which is supposed to be installed by the fall of this year, would capture CO2 from a Green Plains corn ethanol plant in Shenadoah, Iowa, and use it to grow algae.

Kevin Lynch, chief executive of BioProcessAlgae, said in a statement that the venture’s technology had “made significant progress in the engineering, design and development of photobioreactor systems for algae production.” A BioProcessAlgae employee involved in engineering, whom we reached by phone and asked not to be named, said that the venture had found a way to produce a higher yield of algae with an economical harvesting technique, but wouldn’t describe that process further. The venture did not say how much oil the pilot plant would produce, but Lynch said in the statement that if successful it would expand to full commercial scale.

BioProcessAlgae is not the first company interested in this technological double whammy: capture carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from a plant and use it to fuel the production of algae. Oil can then be extracted from the organisms to produce a range of products, from transportation fuels to beauty products to pharmaceuticals. Ternion Bio Industries and GreenFuel Technologies are among BioProcessAlgae’s competitors.

The nascent algae-based carbon recycling sector could be in for a boost in coming months, thanks to a short, vague clause added to the stimulus bill shortly before it passed Congress. As part of the $1.52 billion allocated for carbon capture and energy efficiency improvement projects, a “small allocation” was designated for “innovative concepts for beneficial reuse of carbon dioxide.” As Ternion Bio lobbyist and Pillsbury Winthrop public policy lead Elizabeth Moeller told us at the time, even a small percentage of just $100 million could be significant for the startups in this space.