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Can Algae Clean Coal?

A recent CleanTechnica article looks at a new project in Europe to use algae grown in seawater for power production. The research is presented as a way to replace coal, but algae’s need for carbon dioxide to in order to grow offers us another way to deal with emissions when outright replacement isn’t an option.

Besides becoming an energy source by themselves, algae are on the way to playing a big role in carbon capture and utilization (CCU). Instead of sequestering carbon from a power plant, CCU is the process of taking that carbon and creating new products from it—very similar to recycling.

Accelergy and BioProcess Algae are just two of many algae companies focusing on capturing CO2 and growing algae. In Hawaii, Cellana has entered into an agreement that would see CO2 from Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric’s power generation facility piped to algae farms producing algal feeds, fuels, and other products. Other algae producers that will use CO2 streams to feed algae include Sapphire Energy and Aurora Biofuels.

Outside of companies focused exclusively on developing the technology needed to grow algae are several that will be supplying related services to the algae industry.  ECO2Capture, for example, is developing technology to capture CO2 and prepare it for delivery to algae production facilities.

Even emitters are getting involved in CCU with algae. Duke Energy, one of the largest power producers in the US, is actively exploring how algae can be used to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Elsewhere in coal country, algae researchers at the University of Kentucky are taking a close look at which algae production methods will work best with coal-fired power plants. Check out their video!

For those interested in learning more about CCU, consider the International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Utilization (ICCDU) coming up June 23-27 just outside Washington, DC.

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