[ad#PhycoBiosciences AIM Interview]

Technology

CEC issues final report on OMEGA System

December 1, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Rendering of an OMEGA installation at a coastal urban wastewater treatment center

Rendering of an OMEGA installation at a coastal urban wastewater treatment center

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has just issued their “final” report on the Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA) approach to algae cultivation and wastewater remediation. Outlining the research findings for the multi-year OMEGA project, the report is available for download on the CEC’s website.

According to the report’s Primary Author, Dr. Jonathon Trent, “The report summarizes most of the work we did over the last few years, although it does not include our more detailed techno-economic analysis, nor does it include our research on wastewater recovery as potable water (Desalgae). These latter two results will be published soon…”

The goal of the OMEGA project was to demonstrate that an ocean deployed, floating PBR inoculated with freshwater algae can produce sufficient lipids for conversion to fuel to be economically feasible and appropriately scalable so the technology may be transferred to commercial or other government sectors.

OMEGA photobioreactor tubes with swirl vanes

OMEGA photobioreactor tubes with swirl vanes

The researchers in this study took the position that, at least for coastal cities, the most plausible answer to the question of how to make the massive amounts of biofuels needed to displace significant quantities of fossil fuels without competing with agriculture will be to 1) use microalgae as the feedstock, 2) grow the microalgae on domestic wastewater, and 3) locate the cultivation system offshore in the vicinity of existing wastewater outfalls.

The feasibility of an enormous offshore algae cultivation system will depend on overcoming major challenges inherent in algae cultivation, in finding appropriate sites and engineering offshore systems that can cope with extreme conditions at these sites, and in many countries, navigating the environmental and political bureaucracies, which may pose the greatest difficulty in testing the new technology. It is well established that the economic challenges for biofuels are daunting if not impossible to overcome.

In the OMEGA system, oil-producing freshwater algae are grown in flexible, clear plastic PBRs attached to a floating infrastructure anchored offshore in a protected bay.  Wastewater and CO2 from coastal facilities provide water and nutrients. The surrounding seawater controls the temperature inside the PBRs and kills algae that escape from the system.

The salt gradient between seawater and wastewater drives forward osmosis, to concentrate nutrients and facilitate algae harvesting. The OMEGA infrastructure also supports aquaculture and provides surfaces for solar panels and access to offshore wave generators and wind turbines. Integrating algae cultivation with wastewater treatment, CO2 sequestration, aquaculture, and other forms of alternative energy creates an ecology of technologies in which the wastes from one part of the system are resources for another.

The OMEGA team consisted of scientists and engineers from a variety of public and private organizations. The team attempted to maintain an “open source” model in the dissemination of their results and welcomed contributions from colleagues and collaborators with interests in marine biology, ecology, engineering, environmental studies, economics, and public policy.

The project was divided into three phases. In the first phase, ideas about possible OMEGA materials and designs, deployment and operation, as well as environmental constraints and concerns, were considered and discussed, which led to technical memoranda assembled into a report.

In the second phase, a functional floating 110-liter prototype system was developed in a seawater tank at a research facility in Santa Cruz and then scaled up to 1,600 liters in seawater tanks at a wastewater treatment plant in San Francisco. In the third phase, the results were evaluated and reported in a series of technical papers based on experiments and analyses in phases I & II.

According to the researchers, economic and financial evaluations, based on the limited data available, show that OMEGA compares favorably with other algae production systems. The advantage of OMEGA is that it eliminates land use, provides convenient access to wastewater and advanced wastewater treatment, contributes to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and creates a multifunctional offshore platform.

See the full report

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2013 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
In October 2014 an unusual AlgaePARC research paper entitled Design and construction of the microalgal pilot facility AlgaePARC was published in the Journal of Algal Rese...
Tess Riley writes in TheGuardian.com about how spirulina may be able to combat malnutrition in developing countries. Spirulina is one of the oldest life forms on Earth, c...
Using a malaria parasite protein produced from algae, paired with an immune-boosting cocktail suitable for use in humans, researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine g...
Japan’s IHI Corporation has announced that they have succeeded in stably cultivating a modified high-output algal strain in a 1,500 square meter open pond in Kagoshima, K...
The fully automated plant at the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP in Leuna, Germany, was designed to produce microalgae at industrial scale. ...
Melissae Fellet reports in Chemical & Engineering News that new materials containing ultraviolet-absorbing molecules found in algae and reef-fish mucus could serve as...
Using a newly devised technique, researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) have examined microalgae strains in the Culture Collection of Algae and...
Currently made most often from petroleum and natural gas, ethylene is used in the manufacture of plastics and polyester, and ranks as the largest petrochemical produced b...
Bloomberg reports that ANA Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest airline, plans to use a Euglena Co. biofuel made from algae. ANA will use a mix of about 10 percent of the algae...
Nevele, Belgium-based TomAlgae is developing freeze-dried microalgae for feed in shrimp hatcheries. The company has created its own microalgal “cultivar” and manufactures...
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates over 200 million people worldwide are exposed to arsenic concentrations in drinking water that exceed the guideline limit of...
The GNT Group, a market leader in using algae as natural ingredients for color, has begun construction of an additional spirulina plant at its headquarters in Mierlo, the...