SUMMARY OF PROJECT OBJECTIVES & TASKS
Algal Biofuels Consortium: Large Scale Production of
Fuels and Feeds from Marine Microalgae
A. PROJECT OBJECTIVES
The primary objective of this project is to deliver a Design Report, including cost and life-cycle analyses, for a commercial-scale (1,000 ha), upstream algae cultivation and harvesting process based on the technologies we investigate. The design will be based on results of operational data gathered from the Kona Pilot Facility (KPF) and other locations over a 2½-year period ending Feb 28, 2013.
All components of this R&D project are focused on optimizing processes that have a quantifiable impact on yield, capex, opex, energy, and/or carbon footprint. Our reference values for these economic and environmental variables are defined by Cellana’s current base-case engineering design for a 1,000-ha plant. Optimization is defined as first, developing algal strains that are screened with consideration for all aspects of the production process; second, demonstrating performance at pilot scale; and third, improving the design and engineering of process or apparatus – until sustained performance values are equal to or exceed the current base case. We will also investigate and validate the use of defatted biomass co-product (the non-oil fraction) for use in aquafeeds at commercial scale.
B. PROJECT SCOPE
This consortium of private industry, university laboratories, and commercial partners, will address feedstock supply, through strain development and cultivation; feedstock logistics, focusing on harvesting and dewatering processes; and co-product development. The project is divided into 6 primary tasks with a total of 17 unique subtasks to be completed over a 2½ year period.
C. TASKS TO BE PERFORMED
This research and development program is organized into multiple studies, all operating within an integrated workflow. All tasks and subtasks will be performed throughout the entire three-year program unless otherwise noted. All studies will take place within one of five key areas:
- Product Development – consists of refining and demonstrating the value of the two end products of extraction – algal lipids and defatted biomass – into fuels and animal feeds.
- Pilot Production – takes place at Cellana’s Kona Pilot Facility in Hawaii. This new 6-acre facility is designed to execute and support all stages of the production process at pilot scale. The Cultivation system at KPF uses a “hybrid” system of photobioreactors (PBRs) and open ponds.
- Mid-scale Screening – is conducted outdoors at KPF, exposing cultures to ambient environmental conditions in a stand-alone system of 24 PBR and pond simulators
- Laboratory Scale Studies – performed at culture volumes of <5L, on 100s of new strains isolated from nature, will be used to improve yield and characteristics of strains and establish initial conditions for mid-scale screening and pilot production.
- Analytical Method Development – provides the tools necessary to measure algal biochemistry and physiology, and ensures harmonization and deployment throughout the consortium for biochemical screening variables such as lipid content and composition
The major tasks and subtasks are as follows:
Task A Feedstock Supply – Strain Development will screen new and improved strains, delivering compiled results every six months, and physically delivering the top strains to the KPF for mid-scale screening and pilot-scale cultivation.
Subtask A.1 Strain improvement There is great potential to exploit the genetic and phenotypic variability of top algal strains to improve yield and other characteristics. Husbandry methods such as clonal selection, breeding and non-directed mutagenesis (no GMOs) are used to select for desirable traits in top strains. Objective: provide 2 improved strains per year.
Subtask A.2 Biochemical characterization will develop and apply standard operating procedures (SOPs) for harmonization and deployment throughout consortium laboratories to measure a range of key biochemical metrics of performance, up to the level of molecular characterization.
Subtask A.3 Metabolic pathways will develop methods to rapidly assess the activity of metabolic pathways in lipid biosynthesis in top strains. Phase 1 (years 1-2) will characterize top strains; Phase 2 (year 2-3) will develop rapid assays.
Subtask A.4 High-throughput screening will screen new and improved strains for growth, lipid content and sinking as a function of temperature. Strains will be characterized for processes relevant to outdoor cultivation (flashing light, nutrient stress, and halotolerance), harvesting and dewatering (flocculation), and extraction (low ash). Objective: screen and deliver two strains per year.
Task B Feedstock Supply – Cultivation studies will optimize major factors that impact base-case economics. These studies will utilize KPF’s pilot-scale cultivation system to produce two strains per year.
Subtask B.1 Flashing light/turbulence Yield is optimized in studies of turbulence-induced flashing light, by controlling pond hydrodynamics to match the flashing-light enhancement of photosynthesis observed in the laboratory.
Subtask B.2 Nutrient stress trials, at both laboratory and Pilot Production scales, aim to increase lipid productivity by adjusting ratios and amounts of macronutrients over time, altering the sequence and severity of nutrient depletion. The goal is to deliver lipid with the highest possible triacylglycerol content; while ensuring complete utilization of all dissolved N, P and Si at the time of harvest.
Subtask B.3 Pond depth studies will vary pond depth in Pilot Production trials to minimize water usage while maintaining productivity.
Subtask B.4 Halotolerance laboratory studies will screen for tolerance to a salinity increase of 30%, simulating the effect of extreme evaporation over a 3-d pond production cycle. The effects of actual evaporation on pond productivity will be evaluated for ~100 pond cycles for each strain grown at KPF.
Task C Feedstock Logistics – Harvesting and Dewatering studies aim to reduce costs and energy usage associated with commercial scale pond harvesting and dewatering processes.
Subtask C.1 Resuspension studies are targeted at improving the efficiency of supernatant removal from ponds, avoiding the necessity for additional dewatering processes. These studies will combine modeling and pilot-scale experimentation and will direct future alternate processes.
Subtask C.2 Alternate processes will evaluate 3 dewatering processes separately and in combination. The base case design, using a gravitational process, will be evaluated for several hundred independent pond Pilot Production runs for up to a total of six different strains. Two alternative dewatering technologies will be evaluated (Phase 1), then one built and operated at KPF (Phase 2). Results are expected to demonstrate reduced cost and energy usage.
Task D Feedstock Logistics – Extraction
Subtask D.1 Toll-processing is required to provide up to 1,000 kg every 6 months of defatted biomass for commercial-scale feed trials, using aquafeeds formulated with algae co-products.
Subtask D.2 Low ash studies evaluate, at laboratory scale, the environmental conditions that control ash (inorganic matter) content at the time of harvest. Pilot Production trials will apply laboratory results to reduce ash content to a target of 10% of dry weight, reducing extraction cost and energy usage.
Task E Product Development – Co-products
Subtask E.1 Aquaculture feed trials will test the nutritional value of defatted biomass at experimental fish farms. Validation of the nutritional value of algae as a fishmeal replacement in aquafeeds opens a significant market potential, plus replaces an unsustainable protein source.
Task F Design Report. We will deliver a Design Report, including cost and life-cycle analyses, for a commercial-scale (100 to 1,000 ha), fully integrated algae cultivation and harvesting process based on the technologies investigated at Pilot Production scale and using experimental results from Pilot Production trials of 6 to 8 new and improved strains, and several hundred trials each for a variety of dewatering and extraction processes.
Task G Project Management and Reporting
Reports and other deliverables will be provided in accordance with the Federal Assistance Reporting Checklist following the instructions included therein.