Algae Use for Carbon Capture – Virginia
- Dec 15, 2022 8:45 pm GMT
People are familiar with algal blooms as hazards for water use. In Virginia, algal blooms have recently been reported in a number of sites. The most prominent sites were the Shenandoah River
and Lake Anna
As bad as these pollution incidents are, they do show that algae can grow and survive in relatively cold climates, including that of Virginia.
Algae have been studied a number of times to work as carbon capture devices to produce raw materials for energy use over the years. Some of the latest studies are in
New products and processes are being developed, in the U.S. and abroad, to make commercial use of the algae after they have captured CO2. See the National Academy of Sciences report, discussed at
Another potential new use for algae is to develop cement. “Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a way of using algae to create carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative concrete.
The National Geographic also reports that algae can be grown without sunlight in
This may allow more widespread development of algae for commercial use.
In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act has specific provisions that promote the use of algae for this purpose. The Algae Biomass Organization has specific discussion of these provisions and what needs to happen to make use of them. See
There are a number of companies that are processing algae for product development. The one most familiar to people working in the energy field is MicroBioEngineering. See
John Benneman is one of the founders of the field, and is discussed in
Because many of the companies are located in the American Southwest, (including MicroBio Engineering), it is easy to get the impression that warm weather climates are necessary for the commercial development. What surprised me is that this is not the case. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is also working on commercial algae development, in addition to their studies of algae occurrences in waterways. See
Let me just add one additional item for this discussion. One easily gets the impression from environmental opposition to carbon capture, which would be either necessary or valuable for the commercial development of algae, that installation of carbon capture mechanisms would guarantee combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation indefinitely, and so the environmental groups are furiously opposed. Carbon capture could also be used to capture CO2 and other emissions from transportation, and so the development of the technology does not necessarily dictate where it will be used. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have been estimated to be 27% of total emissions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in
Congestion pricing as a tool to reduce such emissions is detailed in
The studies suggest the possibility, which may not be economic or feasible, that carbon capture devices, located next to traffic bottlenecks (such as I-95 north of Fredericksburg in Virginia on a Friday afternoon or at downtown urban areas) might have higher efficiencies than are reported for the usual direct air capture. If so, pipelines and carbon capture devices sited in these areas might be used as feeding devices to algae production, to improve efficiency and reduce pollution.
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