Ohio company produces algae oil for biojet fuel, plans scale-up

By Erin Voegele | May 16, 2011

Dublin, Ohio-based Independence Bio-Products recently announced that algae oil the company produced has been converted into jet fuel and tested by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, part of the federally funded Algae to Fuel project. According to IBP Spokesman Brad Lambert, his company supplied two liters of algae oil to the Air Force for processing. The resulting fuel was an approximate 99 percent match to fossil-based JP-8 jet fuel, Lambert said.

The ATF project, which has been ongoing since 2009, aims to explore strategies for creating, cultivating and expanding an algaculture industry in Ohio. The effort has been divided into three main areas. The first component of the project involves selecting algae suitable for optimizing oil production based on climate factor. The second component includes the development of cultivation systems. The third involves developing a strategy to cultivate algae, including development of algae harvesting and processing technologies. The public/private effort is jointly led by the Ohio Aerospace Institute, the Edison Materials Technology Center and the Center for Innovative Food Technology, along with several other industry and university collaborators.

According to information released by IBP, the company used a proprietary technology to cultivate the algae in raceway ponds, some of which were heated using the company’s patent-pending system to demonstrate operations throughout the winter. Lambert said the technology utilizes flue gas from power plants as the source of carbon dioxide. “[In addition], we can actually run our open ponds in cold weather because we can use waste heat in flue gas from these coal-burning power plants,” he said.

IBP’s process also includes a proprietary harvesting and drying technology. Lambert said these elements allow his company to operate open ponds in a profitable manner without the high capital costs associated with photobioreactors. He also noted that the algae strain employed by IBP is unique. “With our algae experts, we developed algae species that are resistant to invasive species that sometimes pollute and cause problems in open ponds.”

To date, IBP has operated a pilot facility in Ohio and is currently operating a demonstration plant in eastern Texas. “We’re working with a power company down there, and that is where we are going to be doing our 390-acre commercial facility in 2012,” Lambert said, adding that the facility will be expandable to up to 4,000 acres. “The best part of this is we are using reclaimed mining land,” he added. “It’s one of the best uses for this reclaimed land, so we’re pretty excited about that.”

According to Lambert, IPB expects to produce 3,600 gallons of fuel per acre annually at its planned commercial facility, and the company can remove 82 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per acre per year, and create three tons of animal feed per acre per year. In addition, Lambert estimates the investment payback period on the commercial-scale algae farm will be three years.


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