Many in the Midwest biofuels industry are looking to algae as the next big feedstock for renewable energy. In fact, some have forecasted that algae could produce 5,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre, a much higher rate of return than other biofuels.
Green Plains Renewable Energy's (GPRE) 50 million gallon ethanol facility in Shenandoah, Iowa, recently unveiled a pilot project that will produce algae that could be used for biodiesel production, and clean up carbon emissions in the process.
GPRE has teamed up with BioProcess Algae LLC to determine the scalability and functionality for future commercial deployment of the technology. Researchers will use carbon dioxide (CO2) from the plant's ethanol production to feed an algae producing technology called Grower Harvester, developed by BioProcess Algae.
"We are excited by the opportunities this technology offers to sequester the CO2 emitted at our ethanol plants,” says Todd Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer of GPRE. "Our plants have warm water, waste heat and CO2 which provide a perfect environment for the Grower Harvester technology to be deployed.”
The algae produced have the potential to be used for advanced biofuel production, high quality animal feed or a biomass for energy production, Becker says. "But our focus is solely on efficiently growing algae and sequestering the CO2 at this point,” he adds.
According to Becker, a 50 million gallon ethanol plant utilizing this technology could remove 70,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Adopting this algae process could help the ethanol plant achieve carbon neutrality and it may even be possible to become carbon negative.