The government of Canada is awarding approximately C$5 million (US$4.7 million) to a project to produce fuels on a large scale from algae grown in Nova Scotia. Speaking in Halifax, the Honorable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), made the announcement at the launch of the algal biofuel project at the National Research Council Institute for Marine Biosciences (NRC-IMB).
The project received its funding through the National Bioproducts Program and NRC-IMB. Additional resources of approximately C$1.2M are being provided by both monetary and in-kind contributions through industrial and organizational partners. Preliminary work and engineering plans have been drawn up to build a 50,000 liter (13,209 gallon US) cultivation pilot plant at the Ketch Harbour facility. A main component to help the algae grow will be carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
|C2A has been licensed to use an ultra-efficient gas infusion technology for the transfer of CO2 into liquids for algae feedstock and to remove oxygen that can become toxic to algae.
|inVentures Technologies developed and patented the system and is one of the owners of C2A. The Aquasea Group has developed and provisionally patented proven high yield algae growth/harvest technologies which have been licensed to C2A.
|C2A also has the rights to an organic removal technology from Mitton Valve Technology
(which harnesses cavitation) to assist in lipid extraction and has a provisional patent on another mechanical process.
|For dewatering the company has agreements in place with two technology providers and, through inVentures, has access to an organic sieve technology for removing water from the algae oil.
|Combined, the technologies create a unique process system for capturing CO2, growing algae and producing bio-fuels and secondary high value products.
In the project, 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 (C2A).
Carbon2Algae eventually plans to operate algae photobioreactors that will capture carbon dioxide from facilities such as the Alberta oil sands or coal-fired power plants, and use these emissions to allow local strains of algae to thrive.
Although in time it is possible a biofuel production facility could operate in conjunction with a fossil fuel power generating station, the immediate challenge for project researchers is to find the best biofuel producing species and to develop small pilot plants that can move studies beyond the laboratory. In parallel, scientists are also working to develop technology to effectively extract the oil.
Researchers at the Marine Research Station in Ketch Harbour, Nova Scotia, have been growing algae for more than 50 years. In assessing how best to grow algae for biofuel, NRC has joined forces with the United States Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.
Sixty-four species of algae have been collected and studied so far by the algal biofuels project. Twenty-four of these species have been brought into cultivation and a half dozen with exceptional oil yields are under intensive scrutiny.
Dr. Stephen O’Leary, an NRC researcher working on the project, forecasts that commercial production of algal biofuels is likely in another five to 10 years. The project will ultimately join forces with NRC aerospace expertise to work toward commercializing algal biofuel, among other projects.
We’re asking plants to do what they do best. With little more than water and carbon dioxide, algae can harvest sunlight and turn it into energy that could eventually be used to create jet fuel.
— Dr. O’Leary
A key component distinguishing the National Research Council algal biofuel project from other international efforts is the focus on identifying local strains of algae that are suitable for biofuel production from specific sites in North America. The local species are already acclimatized to the environment, making them easier to grow, and avoiding the risks of importing foreign species that might accidentally be released into the environment.
The National Bioproducts Program is a joint initiative of NRC, Natural Resources Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. It is intended to have an impact on Canada’s priority areas—environment, sustainable energy and rural revitalization—and plans to achieve this by developing and commercializing targeted technologies.