Sunday, November 15, 2015
Monday, November 2, 2015
Help “reset” the algae industry
November 1, 2015 — by Robert Henrikson
es, push that red reset button to get the algae industry back on track, by nominating players who are making a real and positive contribution in the world of algae. Over this past decade, the Algae Industry has been dominated by big money chasing the mirage of commercial algae biofuels. My March 2011 post “Shakeout in Algae Biofuels” described shakeout scenarios about to unfold.
This great biofuel boom and bust raked in billions of dollars in government, corporate and private investment over the past decade, attracting charlatans and collaborators (some who knew better) who sucked up the public bandwidth about algae, burned investors, and discouraged many from funding algae ventures for food, feed and high-value products.
Failed biofuel companies may try to excuse themselves because the price of oil fell. A decade ago, experts with real algae experience could not identify a pathway to make algae biofuel cost competitive with conventional fuel even at higher fuel prices. Where is the path forward today?
Just a few years ago corporate suits were dismissing non-fuel products from algae as “co-products” for “niche” markets. Now they are gone. Their replacements at algae biofuel ventures have desperately tried to pivot to those niche markets and algae co-products like food, feed, nutraceuticals, high value oils and fine chemicals, to show a real income stream for their sponsors.
During this time, we have also learned about the barriers to the massive scale required for biofuel commercialization. This undermines the claim that bigger is better, and renews appreciation of small is beautiful.
Algae industry conferences use to open with a plenary panel of algae CEO “all-stars,” touting their big successes developing biofuels. One-by-one they have dropped away.
If 10% of the funding for algae biofuels had been directed into R&D for animal nutrition studies and cost reduction for algae aquaculture and animal feeds and human food, we would already be well along on this path. Growing algae for feed and food will have a far greater impact on reducing negative effects of climate change than biofuels ever would, and in doing so, we will support all sentient beings on this Earth.
Let’s reset our algae narrative. There is plenty of good news to share. Opportunities abound. Refocus on the real algae industry that offers real products and services from algae. Let’s nominate individuals and organizations that understand how to change the world. “Eat Algae, Don’t Burn It.”
I agree with this, algae as food is more important than fuel. We have been saying this for past many years.
Friday, September 25, 2015
This blog post is somewhat more technical than some of the other posts I have done to date. The reason for this is that I am presenting actual data! Yes! The numbers are in and I have graphs, relationships and hypotheses to offer. So if you are interested in the more analytical side of things then I hope you enjoy this post. As we are moving towards summer here in Australia things are warming up so the cyanobacteria are getting more active and the use of Nualgi in these tests is going to get properly tested to see how good it is. I hope you enjoy the report and as always, feel free to contact me if you want to know more.
Nualgi is a nano-silica nutrient mixture that has all the micronutrients required for growth of diatom microalgae adsorbed into the amorphous nano-silica structure. As only diatoms have a requirement to take up silica, they are the only algae that benefit from the micro-nutrient boost. This means that the diatoms successfully out-compete the other algae for nutrients, and reduce blue-green algae growth in a natural way. The process is non-toxic and offers an added benefit in that bacterial activity is enhanced due to the increased dissolved oxygen content from the diatom bloom. This increase in dissolved oxygen and bacterial activity will assist in bringing down the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) in the wastewater.
The three trials presented here are each slightly different in regard to the conditions of the STP or the water being treated. Trials 1 and 2 have both shown a strong change in the percentage of the BGA that make up the Total Cell count. A similar pattern may slowly be emerging in Trial 3 which has a lower N concentration.
The Total Cell Counts in all trials have been seen to reduce markedly from the starting values. Trial 2 has shown some recovery of non BGA algae, although this stage may be transitory as the lagoon continues to settle toward having a higher DO and lower BGA population.
Because of the increased activity of diatoms, especially benthic diatoms, induced by the addition of Nualgi there have been several positive changes to the water quality. In Trial 3, a reduction in the pH and a qualitative assessment that the invertebrate populations in the water have increased suggest that the water is progressively returning to a more stable environment in which algae other than BGAs may proliferate and the nutrients will shift from being retained in algal cycles and may now move up the food chain through the invertebrates and into higher animals such as fish, eels and birds.
Longer trials are needed to assess the long term use of Nualgi in managing nutrients and controlling Blue Green Algae growth, but these three trials are strongly indicative that the use of Nualgi is a simple and effective pathway to achieve this outcome.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Both proposals about Nualgi to the Climate CoLab contests have won the Popular Choice Awards
1. Nualgi - Diatom Algae - Oxygen
Proposal for Energy-Water Nexus Contest
Proposal for Energy-Water Nexus Contest
2. Nualgi - Diatom Algae for Sewage Treatment
Proposal for Waste Management Contest
Proposal for Waste Management Contest
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
How the world’s oceans could be running out of fishhttp://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/05/0515_030515_fishdecline.html
Big-Fish Stocks Fall 90 Percent Since 1950, Study Says
A century of fish biomass decline in the ocean
Long-term decline in krill stock and increase in salps within the Southern Ocean
Phytoplankton Population Drops 40 Percent Since 1950
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Algae-based Wastewater System in Development in Yarmouth
March 17, 2015
YARMOUTH – A Yarmouth man long involved in trying to solve the region’s water quality woes is moving forward on a pilot program in South Yarmouth that uses algae both to remove nutrients from wastewater and also to power the process.
Brian Braginton-Smith, president and CEO of AquaGen Infrastructure Systems, is working on a facility next to the Parker’s River that is meant to treat wastewater in an environmentally friendly way that also does not burn fossil fuel for the energy supply.
“It’s actually the first fully integrated algae-based wastewater treatment facility that I know of and it’s part of what we’re envisioning as a watershed based solution for the Parker’s River watershed,” Braginton-Smith said.
The Cape Cod Commission has been working on updating the region’s wastewater plan, called the 208 plan, with a watershed-based solution to the region’s wastewater issues.
“It’s got the capability to get way down on the nitrogen that comes out of the pipe,” he said referring to the need to remove as much nitrogen as possible from the wastewater so it does not pollute the region’s groundwater and estuaries.
Braginton-Smith said his process–called a photo-bioreactor–uses microscopic algae that is part of plankton in the ocean and takes advantage of its ability to consume nutrients and carbon dioxide while breathing off oxygen.
Braginton-Smith said he has been running a lab next to the Parker’s River in a greenhouse to the west of the former Zooquarium while developing the process for the last several years.
At night, Braginton-Smith said, “It’s got sort of this purple pinkish glow that’s from the LED lighting. The photo-bioreactor is in a 24-hour photosynthesis cycle, so it’s always sort of breathing CO2 in and exhaling carbon dioxide and consuming nutrients.”
Braginton-Smith said he envisions his process as one part of the solution to the Cape’s wastewater problem.
“If we can remove the nutrients from the water and help to bring about the restoration of the coastal ecosystem, if we can also remove substantial volumes of CO2 from the atmosphere then we’re also having a positive impact on the atmospheric pollution,” he said.
His idea of powering the system by converting algae to energy is a key part of the process.
“If we’re going to be moving forward and making the decision to solve the problem of the wastewater, while we’re engaging in that solution, we should be trying to accomplish as much as we can to help to bring about more sustainable communities on Cape Cod and around the world. It just makes sense and that’s the model that we’re following,” he said.
Braginton-Smith said the initial cost for the South Yarmouth site will be $2.2 million to $4.3 million. The project has already received a $900,000 grant from the Bi-National Industrial Reserach and Development Foundation (BIRD).
Braginton-Smith said he expects a couple of stakeholders who would use the wastewater treatment for their properties would also contribute. “We’re the majority of the way there,” he said of funding. “We fully expect that this will be fully capitalized and moving forward.”
The permitting process is just beginning, he said. He estimated 18 months for the regulatory process to complete and the system to begin treating wastewater with the algae process he has developed.
“I’m not saying our wastewater treatment plants are going to be the salvation of the global warming, but every step that we take that consumes CO2 and sequesters it is beneficial,” he said.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Gold in faeces 'is worth millions and could save the environment'
Geologist suggests extracting precious metals from human waste would keep harmful substances out of the ground – and recover valuable objects
Fortunes could be saved from going down the drain by extracting gold and precious metals from human excrement, scientists suggest.
Sewage sludge contains traces of gold, silver and platinum at levels that would be seen as commercially viable by traditional prospectors. “The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit,” said Kathleen Smith, of the US Geological Survey.
Smith and her colleagues argue that extracting metals from waste could also help limit the release of harmful metals, such as lead, into the environment in fertilisers and reduce the amount of toxic sewage that has to be buried or burnt.
“If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win,” she said.
A previous study, by Arizona State University, estimated that a city of 1 million inhabitants flushed about $13m (£8.7m) worth of precious metals down toilets and sewer drains each year.
The task of sifting sewage for microscopic quantities of gold may sound grim, but it could have a variety of unexpected benefits over traditional gold mining. The use of powerful chemicals, called leachates, used by the industry to pull metals out of rock is controversial, because these chemicals can be devastating to ecosystems when they leak into the environment. In the controlled setting of a sewage plant, the chemicals could be used liberally without the ecological risks.
Precious metals are increasingly used in everyday products, such as shampoos, detergents and even clothes, where nanoparticles are sometimes used to limit body odour. Waste containing these metals all ends up being funnelled through sewage treatment plants, where many metals end up in the leftover solid waste. “There are metals everywhere,” Smith noted.
More than 7m tonnes of “biosolids” come out of US sewage treatment plants each year, about half of which is burned or sent to landfill and half used as fertiliser on fields and in forests. In the UK, about 500,000 tonnes of dry sewage solids are used as fertiliser each year. The amount of waste that can be converted into fertiliser is limited, in part, by the high levels of some metals.
“We’re interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper that are in cell phones, computers and alloys,” Smith said.
To assess the viability of mining sewage, the team collected samples from small towns in the Rocky Mountains, rural communities and big cities, and used a scanning electron microscope to observe microscopic quantities of gold, silver and platinum.
In findings presented on Monday at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver, the scientists showed that the levels of the precious levels were comparable with those found in some commercial mines.
The eight-year study, which involved monthly testing of treated sewage samples, found that 1kg of sludge contained about 0.4mg gold, 28mg of silver, 638mg copper and 49mg vanadium.
A sewage treatment facility in Tokyo that has already started extracting gold from sludge has reported a yield rivalling those found in ore at some leading gold mines.
Elsewhere, sewage plants are removing phosphorus and nitrogen, which can be sold as fertiliser. A Swedish treatment plant is testing the feasibility of making bioplastics from wastewater. Earlier this year, Bill Gates demonstrated his confidence in a radical sewage purification system by drinking a glass of clean water extracted from human waste."
Diatom Algae can perhaps be used to remove Gold and Silver from sewage.
Diatoms have been used to remove heavy metals, so they may consume Gold and Silver too.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Recycling of nutrients may be the key to saving Earth
Leakages of nutrients necessary for food production -- especially nitrogen and phosphorus -- cause severe eutrophication to the Earth's aquatic ecosystems and promote climate change. However, this threat also hides an opportunity. An enhancement of the nutrient economy creates new business models and enables developing recycling technology into an export.
More sustainable use of nutrients and new technological innovations connected to the recycling of nutrients have been studied in the NUTS -- Transition towards Sustainable Nutrient Economy in Finland project. A globally unique nutrient footprint, which can be used to measure the use of the main nutrients, i.e. nitrogen and phosphorus, has also been developed in the project. This is a shared project of the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE), and it belongs to the Green Growth -- Towards a Sustainable Future programme of Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation).
"There are already some nutrient separation and recycling techniques available, but not all of them are presently commercially viable. For example, there is plenty of nitrogen in the atmosphere, but binding it to fertilisers is currently a highly energy-intensive process. When nitrogen is released to the atmosphere, a new input of energy is required to reutilise the released nutrient. This is wastage, and nutrients should be recycled," explains Mirja Mikkilä, the project manager of the NUTS project.
Waste water treatment is the weakest link
The treatment of the waste water of communities is the weakest link of the nutrient cycle. Nutrients can be recovered from waste water, but until now, different processes have primarily been used for the recovery. However, research findings indicate that it is possible to simultaneously remove phosphorus and nitrogen from waste water. The reuse of nutrients is also lacking, the utilisation rate of phosphorus is less than 50 per cent and of nitrogen less than 10 per cent.
It is possible to slow down the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea through fishing and removal of plant biomass. "For example, nutrients can be removed by fishing cyprinid fish, which also improves the populations of other fish consumed as food. Of course, required actions are always dependent on the situation, and sanitation procedures must always be cost-effective before they become commonplace," Mikkilä notes.
According to Mikkilä, thermal processing of waste water sludge can also be used to separate nutrients and heavy metals from each other. Moreover, cultivation of algae in connection with district heating power plants and water treatment plants would be resource effective. Algae are powerful photosynthesizers.
"Combining the production of biogas and fortified recycled nutrients is one of the key technologies for a sustainable nutrient economy. It is officially a matter of waste processing, but one in which organogenic raw material is processed into recycled nutrients used for fertilisation and into raw material for humus and biogas," Mikkilä explains.
The food system must be changed
Historical development of the food system has resulted in the nutrient economy becoming established in its current, unsustainable state. It is possible to produce enough food for the 9 billion people on Earth in 2050, but this requires a radical change in both the food system and attitudes. There is a need for more vegetarian and seasonal food and for local recycling. Furthermore, food wastage must be contained and side streams of food must be utilised by recycling nutrients back into food production.
"We should be able to perform global division of labour and introduce in vitro meat, grasshoppers and worms into our diets. The global transportation of fresh produce is also ineffective. In the future, dried food will be transported instead of water. All in all, such combinations would make the food selection fairly versatile," Mikkilä considers.
According to Mikkilä, there are bottlenecks based on institutional structures, the market economy and people's set of values that slow down the transition towards the recycling and fair use of nutrients, and she evaluates that changing the system will take 20 to 30 years"
Unfortunately there is no mention of use of the nutrients in sewage to grow algae for use a fish feed.
This is the simplest way to recycle nutrients.