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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Coal Plants and Algae Fuel..Symbiotic?

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch
Seattle-based Inventure Chemical and Tel Aviv-based Seambiotic announced this week a joint venture to create biofuels from algae fed by a coal-fired power plant. Apparently, this is an idea growing in popularity. Seambiotic has developed a way to convert algae to biodiesel, ethanol, or specialty chemicals, and they’re testing their open-pond algae farm in Israel. The coal power plant and algae farm are working hand in hand to power one another – the flue gas emissions from the power plant will be used to grow the algae, which is in turn converted to fuel to either operate the plant, or be sold.

While it makes sense to use alternative, sustainable fuel sources to power industry, there seems to be a broken logic behind using that fuel to feed coal plants – one of the very energy sources from which we’re looking to separate ourselves.

I suppose the venture is worth a go, since we aren’t likely to get off coal in the very near future and so this provides ample opportunity to test out different methods of growing and creating algae-based biofuel. With how quickly other companies are jumping on the algae biofuel and biodiesel bandwagons and making research advancements, it seems possible that we’ll soon see lucrative ways to grow algae without coal, utilizing 100% clean techniques so we can wean ourselves off these unsavory power sources.


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