Algae from Wastewater could produce $800/gallon Chemical
If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you have probably guessed that I’m pretty big on the whole algae biofuel bit. Now, however, it seems that algae is being looked at to produce much more than just biofuels.
The Seattle-based company has come up with a system for generating algal blooms in wastewater facilities and then feeding the algae to other microbes. These other microorganisms in turn metabolically convert the algae into high-value industrial chemicals like propyl butyrate, said CEO Kelly Ogilvie, speaking at the Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations conference taking place in Redwood City, Calif.
Why? That chemical sells for $801 a gallon, a heck of a lot more than $4 a gallon algae-based biodiesel, he noted. An algae biofuel company might get $500 worth of oils out of directly harvesting and processing algae. The indirect method proposed by Blue Marble can yield $4,000 worth of chemicals from a ton of algae. Harvesting a ton of the green goo costs about $190, he said.
And there are environmental benefits as well. Wastewater treatment isn’t cheap or easy. Municipalities spend huge amounts of money dumping chlorine into wastewater to clean it out. Wild algae can take out nitrogen and other compounds from the water as well as the chemical-based processes without the environmental degradation and fossil fuel consumption involved in producing and spreading industrial chemicals in the first place. Plus, unlike chemically treated wastewater, the process yields a feedstock (algae) that can be converted into a valuable product. Other plant matter can be fed into it.
You can read about some other algae wastewater ideas here and here.