State Rep. David Kessler has positioned Pennsylvania to be the first in the world to institute a clean-fuels technology which could lead to weaning the United States off foreign oil and create thousands of permanent jobs.
Kessler has been meeting with the director of renewable energy from the Raytheon Co. as well as senior executives of Accelergy Corp. of Houston and A2BE Carbon Capture LLC / Algae at Work of Boulder, Colo. since November 2009. He has brought representatives of the three companies to Pennsylvania three times to speak with House of Representatives leadership and other state government officials about new technology for the proposed fuel plant.
The three companies, which have formed a joint venture, now have a technology to gasify algae mixed with coal and/or coal waste into a cleaner, more efficient gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, which could be sold for less than today’s prices.
Kessler also has worked extensively with the Commonwealth Financing Authority, which approved a $175,000 matching grant Tuesday to cover half the cost of a feasibility study to determine where in Pennsylvania the first fuel plant of this kind could be built. Accelergy is providing $125,000 toward the study’s cost and A2BE is providing $50,000.
“Pennsylvania is a perfect site for this technology. The state is home to extensive coal deposits, but conventional power generation from coal has meant emitting more carbon dioxide into an already overloaded atmosphere,” Kessler said.
The new plant would produce electricity as well as fuel. It would be built beside a coal-fired power plant. The carbon dioxide from both plants would be captured and pumped into a series of enclosed 400-foot “raceways,” where the gas would accelerate the growth of algae, the fastest-growing plant life on Earth. Like all plants, algae absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. The oxygen released from the algae would be captured and pumped back into the power plant to make its burning of coal cleaner and significantly more efficient. That would result in a drastic reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and increased production of electricity by as much as 5 percent to 15 percent using the same amount of coal.
Excess algae from the process would be formulated into a natural fertilizer called TerraDerm, reducing farmers’ costs substantially. TerraDerm invigorates the soil crust to prevent soil erosion and reduce water runoff. Raytheon was able to grow plants in the desert when it tested TerraDerm in the western United States. This fertilizer also could be applied to reclaim former coal mining land. When applied to the ground, TerraDerm can remove from the atmosphere more than 10 times its weight in carbon dioxide.
The proposed plant would produce 8,000 barrels of fuel (336,000 gallons) per day using the new technology. It would directly employ 700 to 1,000 people in well-paying operating, engineering and management positions and would generate 2,500 well-paying jobs during construction.
“Equally as important, manufacturing and engineering companies would either be attracted to or started up throughout Pennsylvania, including Berks County, to provide materials and services necessary for both construction and operation of the plant. Ultimately, the fuel plant could make Pennsylvania a center for alternative energy development – it could be a magnet for thousands of permanent manufacturing jobs,” Kessler said.
Kessler said the new technology represents a leap ahead of ethanol.
“The production of a gallon of federally subsidized ethanol requires far more land and more energy than does a gallon of fuel produced from a mixture of algae biomass and coal. Specifically, 940,000 acres of corn are needed to produce 8,000 barrels of ethanol, but only 820 acres of algae are needed to produce 8,000 barrels of fuel with this new technology. Moreover, the same amount of fuel will result in significantly better mileage than ethanol or even straight petroleum-based fuel.
“By implementing this cutting-edge environmentally friendly technology, our air quality would be greatly improved,” Kessler said. “The potential of this technology is absolutely enormous.”
“This process and the resulting fuels would be much cleaner than refining imported oil or drilling for oil off America’s shores,” Kessler said.