Green Star reports Phase III algae results

By Jerry W. Kram | May 14, 2008
Web exclusive posted May 16, 2008 at 9:28 a.m. CST

Green Star Products Inc. has released a technical report on its 40,000 liter (10,566 gallon) demonstration facility in Montana, which was operational through the summer and winter of 2007-'08. The final stage of the project gave the California-based company experience operating the facility in both summer and winter conditions.

The company also announced its research operations will be moved from Ensenada, Mexico, to Utah in preparation for the development of a commercial scale algae production facility in that state.

Green Star calls its pilot facility a Hybrid Algae Production System, or HAPS, which is basically a covered pond system that combines the controlled environment of a photobioreactor with the lower costs of an open pond system. The company's report states the HAPS model can be easily scaled up for commercial production and is designed to be built quickly from inexpensive local materials anywhere in the world. A four man crew built the test facility in about 12 hours, once the necessary construction materials were on site.

The final stage of the demonstration facility showed the process was robust enough to continue producing algae even when outdoor temperatures were as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit and after snowfalls of 14 inches. The production of algae was reduced because of shorter daylight hours and cooler water temperatures. However, the report stated the experience will allow significantly improved cold weather production from its next generation system scheduled to start production this spring. Several improvements have been made, including the use of the exhaust from an electrical generator to both warm the water in the system and provide carbon dioxide as a nutrient to enhance the growth of the algae.

Phase I of the trial focused on controlling the environmental conditions in the HAPS facility. The most important parameters were found to be light control, temperature and salinity. The algae species tested were found to grow best under 25 percent to 50 percent of direct sunlight. The HAPS includes a light barrier to provide the optimal level of sunlight. Inexpensive controls maintained a constant temperature even though the outdoor temperature varied from 30 degrees to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The enclosed design of the HAPS limits evaporation, minimizing problems in controlling salinity. "In summary, (Green Star) has already addressed the main causes of failures of other systems," the report concluded.

Phase II of the project demonstrated that the HAPS could sustain an acceptable level of algae production. Using a strain of algae called ZX-13, the study allowed the system to go to environmental extremes to test the limits of the strain's productivity. The ZX-13 strain survived temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours and salinity levels outside the normal operating conditions. The alga doubled itself between 1.5 and four times per day. It grew so fast that it needed to be harvested before Green Star had received all its harvesting equipment. The harvested algae had an oil content of 21 percent, which the report described as "acceptable." The report did not mention the level of production or operating costs of the facility.

Green Star and its consortium partner Biotech Research Inc. announced that their existing microalgae laboratory facility now located at the UABC University in Ensenada, Mexico, will be moved to Utah. Green Star licensed the HAPS technology from Biotech Research. The Ensenada lab facility, which has been responsible for developing commercial algae strains for biodiesel production and high-protein algae biomass for food use, also developed algae harvesting and production techniques.

The Ensenada algae biotechnology team will be moving to the new expanded facilities in Utah to support the planned commercial algae production facility scheduled to go into operation in the 2008-2009 timeframe. The new lab facility will also be supported by other universities, consortium partners, and industrial technology companies.
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