Alternative Fuels Australia

Archive for the ‘Carbon sequestration’ Category

Joint venture for coal-sequestering algae announced

Posted by Car Geek on November 27, 2007

Algae being grown from CO2. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. Two Australian firms, Linc Energy and BioCleanCoal, have partnered together in a joint venture to sequester carbon dioxide emissions from Australian coal-fired power stations to use as fuel or fertiliser, even re-burning it to produce additional energy.

The companies will spend $1 million to build a prototype reactor in Chinchilla, which will use the carbon dioxide emissions from the power plant to grow algae, which can then be dried and turned into biodiesel at low energy costs.

Hamish Macdonald, a company director of BioCleanCoal, says that the process can easily remove 90 per cent of carbon dioxide from the plant’s emissions, with 100 per cent removal possible but unlikely due to the increased costs.

“We’re very confident we’re going to be able to make a significant impact on emissions,” added Malcolm Lamont, a chief scientist at BioCleanCoal.

If the trial is successful, the joint venture will consider building a full-scale bioreactor, at an estimated cost of $30 million to $40 million.

In a similar project, a Laverton-based company is also working to refine a local species of algae to convert into biodiesel. BioMax plans to produce 100 million litres of biodiesel annually, using carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from the La Trobe coal-fired power station.

Mile Soda, managing director for BioMax, says that the process could produce 50 to 100 times as much biodiesel per hectare as crop-based biodiesel, such as canola. The first batches of algae-derived biodiesel could be produced within two years.

(Sources: Greentech Media, Star News Group)


Posted in Biodiesel, Carbon sequestration | 3 Comments »

Australian scientist heads up solar biofuels consortium

Posted by Car Geek on October 9, 2007

Algae bioreactors. Image from the Solar Bio-Fuels Consortium. Algae could potentially be used to create more than just biodiesel, if one Australian researcher has his way. Associate Professor Ben Hankamer, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, is leading an international consortium which is focused on generating fuels such as methane, biodiesel and hydrogen from algae and sunlight.

The Solar Bio-Fuels Consortium is a collaborative research effort by academics from the University of Queensland, as well as numerous universities in Germany and Imperial College in London, England, with the aim of developing methods of renewable biofuel production that do not suffer from the drawbacks of traditional crops such as corn. The group conducts “bio-discovery, structural biology, molecular biology, microbiology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabonomics, culture optimization and bioreactor scale-up within a coordinated research program”, according to their website.

Algae naturally capture sunlight and use its energy to split water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, however this process is not efficient enough to make it commercially viable.

The Consortium uses this natural reaction, but is developing ways of enhancing its efficiency to a level where the process will be economically viable. This will be done with the help of a $286 000 Australian Research Council grant received last week.

“We have conducted detailed feasibility studies that show that, once key technical milestones are overcome, this technology could achieve economic viability, which will increase further with the introduction of carbon trading schemes and the predicted rise in the oil price,” Associate Professor Hankamer said.

“We have focused on micro-algae as a source of hydrogen because they have several advantages over traditional bio-fuel crops.”

The concept may also prove beneficial for Australia as a desalinising method to provide clean water to drought-stricken parts of the country. Algae that can feed on salt water produces hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combusted and condensed to clean water without the salt content, combining clean water production with carbon-neutral electricity generation.

The technology could also be used in conjunction with existing coal-fired power plants to absorb much of the carbon dioxide emitted, feeding the algae and effectively “reusing” the greenhouse gas. The algae can then be used to generate hydrogen with no carbon emissions, as well as other biofuels. This process is a substantial improvement from current hydrogen generation methods, which use methane as a feedstock and generate carbon dioxide.

(Source: UQ News)

Posted in Biofuels, Carbon sequestration, Hydrogen | 2 Comments »

"Greenbox" converts greenhouse gases to algae while you drive

Posted by Car Geek on July 23, 2007

Three fishermen from northern Wales have developed a device that captures 85-95% of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides in a vehicle’s exhaust and converts it to algae, which can then be used to produce biofuels.

The “Greenbox”, as the inventors have dubbed it, is a small bioreactor that contains algae that feeds on the emissions from the vehicle’s exhaust, as pictured above. The box can be swapped out when refuelling, where the algae can be processed into biodiesel as well as potentially methane and fertilizer. The three men who invented it are now hoping to get government or private sector funding to refine and improve their product.

(Not specifically Australian, I know, but something like this – if it can be shaped into a useful, workable product – is simply too great an idea not to talk about.)

(Source: Engadget, thanks to Karan for the tip)

Posted in Biodiesel, Carbon sequestration | 1 Comment »

Rio Tinto and BP work together on clean coal

Posted by Car Geek on May 18, 2007

Rio Tinto, one of Australia’s largest mining companies, and BP have joined forces to create an emission-free coal power system. The system is expected to create hydrogen gas from coal, with the resultant carbon emissions being buried in underground cavities such as those of emptied oil and gas fields. The hydrogen gas is then used to create electricity or in industrial and commercial applications. The project is similar another BP joint venture, where it is working with GE in Scotland to create hydrogen from oil and sequester the carbon emissions in underground cavities. The products of these systems are well-suited to future automotive applications, either using the electricity generated or directly using the hydrogen gas, for zero-emissions transport.


Posted in Carbon sequestration, fossil fuels, Hydrogen | Leave a Comment »

ESAA recommends nuclear power over renewables in the short-term

Posted by Car Geek on January 31, 2007

It may seem a bit strange that this blog’s first news post isn’t actually on a direct fuel medium like ethanol or biodiesel, but if the future is to involve any plug-in or hydrogen cars, our methods of generating power become increasingly relevant. According to The Australian, the Energy Supply Association of Australia is reporting that reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next 20 or so years will cost $75 billion in infrastructure and roughly double the cost of power. They recommend this be done using carbon sequestration, natural gas and nuclear power facilities. Wind and solar power are not expected to make a significant contribution until the second half of the century, when they become economically viable.

Posted in Carbon sequestration, Nuclear power | Leave a Comment »