June 30, 2009

Companies Seek To Turn CO2, Algae Into Fuel

Dow Chemicals announced on Monday plans to join Algenol Biofuels in a project to use algae and carbon dioxide to produce ethanol fuel.

The location of the facility will Dow's Freeport, Texas site.

The collaborative project will use Algenol's technology that uses carbon dioxide and saltwater, supplied to algae in photobioreactors, to produce the biofuel. 

If the process works, Algenol thinks that it might profitably marry a different type of plant, such as a coal burning plant that has oxygen going into the combustion chamber.

"Look at how much better coal-fired efficiency could be if you introduced pure oxygen into it," said Paul Woods, the chief executive of Algenol. "It dramatically raises the burn temperature and the cleanliness of the coal."

The Georgia Institute of Technology, Membrane Technology & Research Inc. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are also contributing to the research.

Dow said that the project's goal is for a "breakthrough process for ethanol production" that does not use food sources like corn.

The U.S. is the world's top supplier of corn-based ethanol, but critics say that this fuel source diverts needed food supplies and land resources for fuel, which in-turn would raise food prices on world markets.

"This project and the innovative technology involved offers great promise in the battle to help slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions," said Andrew Liveris, Dow chairman and chief executive officer.

"We are very excited to be part of this ground-breaking alternative energy project, which is a good example of Dow's holistic approach to CO2 capture and storage by adding value through chemistry."


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