Use of LEA (Lipid Extracted Algae) as Animal Food – BiofuelsRevolution

By: Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab of Moura Tecnologies)

As we have promoted before, algae are a valuable producer of oil and therefore an emerging resource for alternative fuel production. However a major opportunity lies in the use of algae as a protein source for food production.

Of particular interest is the use of algae as feed for farm animals, where the algae are referred to as ‘algae meal’.

An estimated 30% of current algal production is sold for animal feed application, with poultry and fish as the main targets.

Dried algae cake is a source of nutrients for both humans and animals because it has a high protein content, sometimes up to 60% of the dry matter.

In essence, algae are composed of three main components: lipids (oil), carbohydrates (sugars) and proteins. In addition, algae meal is also a rich source of carotene, vitamin C and K, and B-vitamins.

Current technologies that are under development are focusing on extracting the lipids from the algal biomass while leaving the carbohydrates and proteins available for other uses. When extracting the lipids for fuel production, one is left with so called LEA (lipid extracted algae).

The exact composition of LEA depends on the algae species as well as the growth conditions and the lipid extraction methods used.

A number of nutritional and toxicological evaluations have demonstrated the suitability of algae biomass as a valuable feed supplement or substitute for conventional protein sources (e.g. soybean meal, fish meal, rice bran, etc.). A few factors need to be taken into consideration when proposing algae as animal feed:

–          PER (protein efficiency ratio) = weight gain per unit of protein consumed by the test animal

–          Digestibility = the cellulosic cell wall of the algae causes digestion problems in non-ruminants like humans, but shouldn’t be an issue for cattle. Pretreatment of the algae (e.g. during lipid extraction) is also expected to increase the utilization of the proteins in the algal meal.

–          Palatability = often the algal biomass has a slight fish odor, which might turn off human consumers, but prelimary studies with fish, rabbits and cattle seems to indicate that this is not an issue with those animals.

Overall it appears that there is a huge market potential arising for the use of lipid extracted algae (LEA) in the cattle feed industry. In the US, the regulatory pathway is still being paved for using algae meal on a commercial scale for cattle that is intended for human consumption; however as the algae production for other products like fuel is growing these pathways will undoubtedly be more rapidly developed.

Production costs of microalgae just as a protein source is still too high to compete with conventional protein sources. Algae for human consumption are currently only sold as a specialty product in health food stores.

However, if the protein and lipids can be produced and extracted as co-products it drives down the economics for both products. In addition, if animal feed is a target product, the wastewater from the cattle farm can in theory be used to grow the algae, which can then be used as food supplement for the cattle.

Therefore co-location of algae production farms with cattle farms and biorefineries seems like a valuable option to generate an integrated food-fuel system.


Flue Gas for Algae Cultivation: Main CO2 Source for Large Scale Algae Cultivation?

Flue Gas from Power Plant

Just a few years back, when algae started to revive as the potential solution for the emerging energy crisis, it was believed that the use of flue gas from power plants or other industries would be the main CO2 source for large scale algae cultivation.

Not a bad concept, since this is a cheap and plentiful source of carbon for the algae and helps to bring down the cost of algae-derived fuels.

Several proposals have been submitted to co-locate algae farms with e.g. coal power plants so that the flue gas doesn’t have to be transported over long distances. This sounds like a great idea, but is it really feasible on a large scale?

As more research has been performed on small scales, it has become clear that the use of flue gas does have some challenges that need to be overcome to use it for large scale algae production.  One of the concerns is that flue gas contains a certain percentage of pollutants such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx). The contaminants are dependent on the material that has been burned.

A critical issue is the tolerance of algae to SOx and NOx. These gases are toxic to the algae growth when present in elevated concentrations. Research has shown that algae are most sensitive to the SO2 with a significant effect on the growth above 50-60 ppm (parts per million).

The toxicity levels are strain dependent and maintaining the pH with a buffer appears to help them grow under higher toxicity levels. NO can generally be tolerated up to 100 ppm, but depending on the strain, higher seems to work as well. The algae cell density matters as well, so if a continuous culture can be kept at high enough density one might get away with the higher limits.

Since the Clean Air Act Amendment in 1990, there are strict regulations in place in the US as to the levels of SO2 that can be present in industrial exhausts. This has forced industries to clean up their flue gas with a series of chemical processes and scrubbers, which remove pollutants.

In general, modern flue gas desulfurizing units (FGD’s) bring down the SOx to about 70 ppm. Some of the more tolerant strains might be ok in that, but it is still not low enough for general use in algae cultivation. Currently, the desulfurization is being further expanded to also remove toxic metals like mercury from the flue gas.

By employing state-of-the-art biotechnology and bioengineering we are currently working on adapting algal species to tolerate these higher concentrations of flue gas levels. This will shortcut the need for additional cleanup of the flue gas which is an expensive process and would make the use of flue gas for algae cultivation cost prohibitive.

Algae growth on flue gas is no longer solely being suggested for fuel production alone, but current research is now focusing on using it as a method for carbon sequestration (long term capture and storage or CO2).

In an attempt to mitigate and control “global warming”, there has been a great deal of interest and investment in efficient methods for carbon sequestration.  Algae (and other plants) take up CO2 as part of their normal metabolism and generate oxygen in the process.

If algae can be adapted to tolerate the higher concentrations of flue gas, and greenhouse gasses are captured while useful biomass is generated, we will have created one more viable solution for a greener future.


Solar Power on the Rise in the Southwest US

By: Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab)

We tend to focus our blogs on the conversion of solar energy into liquid transportation fuels, but the alternative of solar for electricity has recently been in the news with a couple of impressive large scale operations.

On December 21, DOE announced it has finalized a $1.45 billion loan guarantee for Abengoa Solar Inc.’s solar project near Gila Bend, Arizona. This impressive Arizona project is called Solana and will have a 250-megawatt (MW) capacity.

It is believed to be the world’s largest parabolic trough concentrating solar plant. In a solar trough, synthetic heat transfer oil is heated up as it passes the trough. Energy in the oil is used to generate superheated, high pressure steam that is delivered to a steam turbine. This turbine powers an electrical generator, creating electricity.

The Arizona solar project is the first large-scale U.S. solar plant capable of also storing the energy it generates. Solana will produce enough energy to serve 70,000 households and will avoid the emissions of 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year compared to a natural gas burning power plant.

Solana will be constructed like its smaller 50 MW sister plant Solnova1 (located in Sevilla, Spain) with the addition of storage capacity. More than 900,000 mirrors will be manufactured in a facility close to Phoenix. Electricity from the project will be sold through a long-term power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service Company.

In addition, news was also released in December that the solar plant developer SolarReserve is going ahead with the purchasing of materials and equipment for two large solar projects in California and Nevada. This involves a 110 MW Crescent Dunes Energy Project in Nye County, Nevada and a 150 MW Rice Solar Energy project located in Riverside County, California

Both projects have secured 25-year power purchase agreements, one with Nevada Utility NV Energy and the other with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). Currently SolarReserve is aiming to secure a loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy to support the two projects.

SolarReserve technology is somewhat different from the Arizona Solana project in that it uses a so called “power tower”. It involves use of fields of mirrors, known as heliostats, which collect sunlight and focus it on a receiver located in a central tower.

In the tower, it heats a molten salt to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, for use producing steam to drive a power-generating turbine. Both projects are projected to break ground in 2011 once permitting and anticipated DOE financing is completed.

Also in early December last year the switch was flipped on America’s largest photovoltaic solar power plant, which is also located in Nevada (Boulder City). This 48-MW Copper Mountain Solar facility is now generating enough renewable energy to power approximately 14,000 homes.

Sempra Generation (a subdivision of Sempra Energy) constructed the plant beginning January 2010 on 380 acres of desert 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas. On December 1, Sempra Generation officials announced that construction was complete and that emission-free electricity was being generated. The power has already been sold to PG&E under two separate 20-year contracts.

Sempra Generation already has plans to begin its next PV plant construction projects, including a major 600-MW plant in Arizona.

Arizona has positioned itself to become the “Mecca of Solar Energy”, which seems a smart investment and the idea goes around that the state puts itself in that position to become an exporter of its most abundant resource: solar energy.

Other emerging solar based technologies, such as algae for biofuel, are expected to contribute to this image. The recent announcement of the state funded Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) is a promising step in that direction.

Placing bets on multiple alternative energy solutions makes sense in times where none of them have provided an ultimate resolution. For example, solar makes sense in the Southwest US, but other places are better off using e.g. wind energy.

The true solution to energy independence will need to come from a combination of technologies and potential hybrid technologies, combined with continuous innovations that increase their efficiency and scalability.

Source: Solar Giants on the Rise in the Southwest US

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires 13.95 billion Gallons of Renewable Fuels for 2011

By: Dr. John Kyndt – Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab.

Cane Ethanol

As part of the Clean Air Act, Congress is requiring EPA to regulate the transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a certain minimum volume of renewable fuel. In its just released yearly mandate, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that 13.95 billion gallons of transportation fuel comes from renewable sources in 2011, which corresponds to about 8 percent of domestic fuel supplies.

Further regulations will raise the volume of renewable fuel each year with the aim of reaching 36 billion gallons in 2022.

The original Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS1) in 2005 required 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into gasoline by 2012. Further changes to these aims were made with the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007:

  • Diesel was included in the RFS program.
  • The target went from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
  • Categories of renewable fuel were generated (e.g. cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, and advanced biofuel) and separate volume requirements were set for each one.

In addition, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced this week that the future of transportation fuels is in new technologies that shouldn’t involve ethanol, but rather be focused on novel, commercially-viable transportation technologies, e.g. gasoline, diesel and jet fuel made from biomass and sugars.

The real breakthrough is expected to come from drop-in fuel technologies since those won’t require changing the transportation infrastructure, including refineries and pipelines.

This was also the message I received from major transportation fuel users at the recent Algal Biomass Summit in Phoenix. Major customers like Boeing, General Motors, FedEx and the US Air force all agreed that they are very open to using biofuels (especially algae-derived fuels) but it needs to be a drop-in fuel so they don’t have to change their setup.

This is understandable given the financial and time investment that has been made in engineering their technologies; however it certainly raises the bar for alternative energy technologies. Again, algae fuels are in an ideal position to supply such drop-in fuels if the research and development is pushed in the right direction.

Interestingly, EPA’s standard for the amount of cellulosic biofuel (which is derived from feedstock like wood and grasses) is lower than the statutory target. This is because EPA modifies its targets by the volume projected to be available during the following year.

Although cellulose-derived biofuels are recently being projected as the next advancement in alternative energy, based on EPA’s estimates there still wouldn’t be enough to go around at least in the coming year.

This clearly indicates that there is plenty of market space available for different biofuel sources. Technology development and investment should be accelerated and increased to move the entire renewable, sustainable energy field forward.

A recent market report shows that four forces will likely stand out to boost the growth of biofuel capacity: the role of technologically-innovative start-ups, government regulation, the role of large corporations, and oil prices.

It was concluded that the technology factor will be the primary driver for biofuel growth. It is our opinion that algae-based biofuels should not be competing with cellulosic or other biomass based fuels, but rather be seen as a synergistic solution to a growing fuel supply problem

Biosimilars: Potential and Challenges

By: Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab) and Dr. Aecio D’Silva.

Anyone interested in life sciences realizes that big pharma companies aren’t producing new drugs fast enough to replace the profits from their major blockbusters. With current economic downturns the innovation in that industry is slowing down even more, but more importantly, key patents for major drugs have (or will soon be) expired.

Unlike small molecule drugs that have generated profitable generic designs over the last couple of years, the larger molecule drugs are lagging behind in commercialization of what is called biogenerics.

These biogenerics are also known as biosimilars and follow-on biologics (because they follow patent expiration). They are protein based drugs and typically have a higher complexity in purification and in the way they act.

This makes it harder to produce exact copies of the original drug with the same efficacy, and small, nearly undetectable variations could have significant effects on efficiency and possibly toxicity.

This is an issue not only faced by the biogeneric producers, but also by the original bio-drug manufacturers. Nevertheless many people see these biosimilars as a huge growth area for innovation.

It has been predicted that the biosimilars market will grow to more than $2 billion across Europe by 2014 following key patent expires for biological drugs.

In addition it has been suggested that making a biosimilar costs 1/10 the investment it takes to develop a new biotech drug, and the rate of success in development is 10 times higher.

So what is holding back the full scale production of these biogenerics. In the US, the FDA is seriously behind in opening legal doors for the commercial production of these biosimilars, as compared to the European Medicine Agency (EMEA), which has already released a specific set of guidelines for registration of biosimilar drugs back in 2005.

Since the decision by the EMEA, there has been much lobbying in the US to have a similar process to the European model. Innovator companies are joined by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) in stressing the need for a biogeneric approval pathway to provide patients access to more affordable versions of lifesaving biologic medicines.

Although the FDA has shown initial signs of willingness to develop such pathways, still more work has to be done to define the routes to fast and efficient approval of these biosimilars. However, we believe that now is a good time to start the scientific development which is necessary to get ahead in large-scale commercialization of these biosimilars.

The impeding decision of the FDA is not the only thing holding the commercialization of biosimilars back. There is also the complicated production and increased costs associated with larger molecule drugs as compared to chemical, small moleculre generics. The novel production pathway and quality control for each potential biogeneric target needs to be optimized by a case-by-case scenario.

Nevertheless, there are a number of companies already preparing for these coming opportunities. These companies range in size from small startups to major generic manufacturers, and most of them are located in Europe and India.

However they all realize that the United States is the world’s largest biopharmaceutical market, and therefore, success there is critical to global success.

There is no doubt that lots of opportunities will arise when the regulatory gates are opened and it may be a while before this market becomes saturated.

AlgaeforBiofules is looking ways how inform our members on these opportunities. Algae is a serious candidate or platform to be used to produce these biosimilars.

However, innovator companies should be warned that multibillion dollar biopharmaceutical companies are aware of the disruptive potential of these biogenerics and will not let this jeopardize their profits without putting up a fight.

The Six Personality Types According to Physics

by Christopher Aaron Chapman

Finally!  A personality profile with the power of physics behind it! Feel free to re-post with attribution to

1) SOLID.  You are dependable and strong.  You remain yourself in any environment.  You’re the person everyone wants next to them in a foxhole, because you fearlessly fight on principle.  You are also the person nobody wants at their party. You’re immutable, so you figured everything out years ago and have had no use for other people’s ideas since school.  You are as stubborn as a rock, and by some unknown method even less exciting.  Also, you’re a dreamer, and you have big plans to do many great things in life. Everyone else suspects you’ll never get past the planning stage.  If you were introspective enough to recognize your need for therapy, which would require a chisel or ice-pick, then you’d be very familiar with the phrase “delusions of grandeur.”  You are the type of hard, rough stone sculptors use to fabricate legends.

2) LIQUID. You go with the flow. You find pleasure mostly in other people’s pleasure, and pain in their pain – empathy is your love language.  You have no personality of your own, per se, easily conforming to the shape needed to please those around you. Your horoscope is always dead on, even if you read the wrong one. Avoiding friction at all costs, you always flow downhill following the path of least resistance.  You try hard to be funny and interesting, so that people will enjoy your company, because it makes you happy to bring joy to others.  Despite that, everyone finds you annoying, and people tend to walk away from you in the middle of a sentence.  Also, the downhill flow always leads to the sewer, so your midlife crisis occurs about 15 years too soon.  You are a great counselor and therapist, though even you suspect that it would take geological ages for you to have any effect. Oh, and you are the only person who ever makes references to anyone’s love language, astrological symbol, or personality type.

3) GAS.  Your personality cannot be contained, so you automatically fill the room the moment you walk into it. You are larger than life.  You are outgoing, talkative, and usually entertaining.  You were either involved in acting or singing as a child or you commonly fantasize that you’ll be a star one day.  You can agree with both sides of an argument no matter how rigidly the dividing line is defined.  Eventually you dominate every conversation and people tire of you, like campfire smoke that was nice for awhile but won’t wash out of your hair for a week.  You leave a little taste of yourself in everyone’s mouth.  Ironically, you are probably also more flatulent than most people.  Also, you can’t sing and everybody knows it – except for you despite being told so, so many times.

4) PLASMA.  Everyone knows that you exist, but you’re always off in space somewhere and seldom part of anything.  You are probably an introverted genius thinking about the implications of supersymmetry on gravity theory or putting the finishing touches on your plan to cure world hunger.  On the other hand, you might have smoked or snorted one too many of whatever and been left with the IQ of a really smart fish while retaining the speech faculties of a Renaissance philosopher.  The trouble is, when you do speak, nobody has a clue what you’re talking about so they can’t tell which is true.  Also, you never made it to this sentence because something distracted you and you’re now staring in some random direction with glazed eyes.  You’re starting to drool.

5) COLLOIDAL SUSPENSIONS.  The most adaptive of personalities, you are like a high-tech synthetic lubricant, keeping things moving smoothly.  You are the deal maker, and often the peace maker.  In your family, with your friends, and in business you keep people from rubbing each other the wrong way.  You keep the wheels greased.  In fact, you are the grease.  You may be politically successful, rising to mistify and cloud the lives of LIQUIDS and SOLIDS, all the while propelling them. You’re a natural salesperson.  You understand human interactions with intuitive genius, and people are your playground.  Everyone knows you’re a bit slimy and gritty, but they tolerate you because they need you.  You are as sweet as whipped cream, as necessary and salty as blood, as maligned as smoke and styrofoam.  You read every self-help book published – so you can apply them to everyone but yourself.  You absolutely live for catch-phrases and slogans. You didn’t realize the word “synergy” was a joke until – well, right now I guess.  You are the KY Jelly of the world.

6) A BOSE–EINSTEIN CONDENSATE (BEC).  You are independant and repel interaction with others.  You are extremely fragile, and any interaction with the outside world is enough to shatter you.  Your particles that do not interact even with each other and therefore may or may not exist independantly of each other, so you definitely do not have a Facebook account.  Your existence makes this personality rubric boring.  Your bosons make us all feel like morons.  Scientists have proved that if a collection of particles were large enough to be alive in your state, then noone is attracted to you, anyway.


Algae Cultivation Systems – Open Ponds vs PBR

By: Dr. John Kyndt – Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advanced Energy Creations Lab.

Industrial cultivation of algae allows for the commercialization of numerous products including food, fertilizer, green chemicals, nutriceuticals and pharmaceuticals, or fuel. Whatever the target product is, if one is planning to cultivate algae for commercial production there will be a challenge of scaling the production system and inevitably the dilemma will emerge to either grow the algae in open ponds or closed systems.Continue reading

The Super Algae Race

by Prof. Aecio D’Silva

Inarguably, we need a “Super Algae”

Without a doubt, Algae are the perfect biofuels feedstock. However, despite this truth, in my opinion it really depends also on the progress of Algae genomics to make algae biofuels a commercial reality in the near future. Unless we have winning “super-algae”, the rest of the process, i.e., efficient farming, low-cost nutrient sources, cost-effective harvesting methods, economic oil extraction and profitable processing techniques is only of secondary importance.

In recent years, our research team has been focusing on developing cost-effective, fast-growing, high lipid and/or carbohydrate content algae. The lack of these selected traits is the major stumbling block keeping algae from being a major contender in the biofuels world.

 Just as geneticists did with corn, sugar-cane and soybean, we must develop algae strains with these desired traits and they need to be made available to the biofuels industry soon.

World-wide is estimated that there are more than 65,000 wild type algal species of which about 25,000 are freshwater. Currently, only part of these species is known. Barely about a dozen algae genomes have been sequenced.

Practically speaking, we find ourselves at the same point in the domestication-selection processes of algae today as we were with corn some hundreds years ago. And while there are huge opportunities for new discoveries within the naturally existing strains, it is unlikely that we will find one strain that has everything we want that will grow everywhere we need it to.

 This means that we need to genetically modify the best strains to produce high levels of desired molecules that will fit harvest and fuel recovery requirements. And as I mentioned before, this must happen rather quickly. In reality, we will need to pack hundreds of years of select breeding or intelligent design into a few short years or less.

While some may feel uncomfortable at the thought of genetic modification, it is important to remember that no commercial system uses wild type organisms. In the agricultural world, all large scale production depends on species that are genetically modified, whether naturally and artificially.

As a feedstock, the crude oil harvested from fast growing algae can be converted into biojet fuel, gasoline, biodiesel, heating oil and refined chemicals (i.e bio-plastic and solvents). The yields of refined fuels obtained by catalytic cracking of algal hydrocarbons are comparable to yields obtained from petroleum.

After extracting oil, Algae biomass by its turn can be converted into ethanol, methanol, biobutanol, hydrogen, other alcohol based fuel, pharmaceutical, nutriceuticals, and cosmetics products. The list goes on. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that in addition to biofuels, Algae also functions as a strong bio-remediation tool.

Inarguably, we need a “super algae”—Algae that grow quickly, contain high lipids and/or high carbohydrates, and are resistant to different environmental conditions, including light intensity, temperature, pH, salinity, etc.

In response to this need, our team has been growing enhanced algae strains (indoors and outdoors) using as media sewage-treated water effluent with very positive results and high productivity. We must provide asap a much-needed algae genomics solution to the Biofuels Industry.

(Comments Published at WSJ Blogs by Prof. Aecio D’Silva about the article: Airbus and Algae: Why Biofuels Won’t Cut It)


Member of American Aquabiotech, Biofuels Revolution, Algae for Biofuels, Moura Enterprises and MyBeloJardim (ver. Portuguese) Prof. Aecio D’Silva’s Group

Algae Oil-Based Biorefineries

By: Dr. John Kyndt – Head Scientist of the Renewable Energy Program at Advance Energy Creations Lab .

Algae have the potential to be a sustainable feedstock for the production of advanced biofuels and green chemicals. Production of advanced biofuels and bioproducts from algae, however, faces a number of challenges toward commercialization, in particular issues encountered upon scale up.

A large portion of the algal research around the world is focused on developing economically viable harvesting technologies and optimizing refining technologies for the final products.

Algae biomass composition is dependent on the algae species grown and on the environment in which the cells are cultivated. Some species have a high preference for lipids as storage material and others become rich in starch and sugars…Continue reading