The Happy Arab News Service

Thursday, October 18, 2007

BioFix It !!!

Last updated: October 18, 2007

August 24, 2007

Israel21c reports that for the last two years an Israeli company that goes under the name of Seambiotic has been running a successful pilot of its biofixation technology at a coal burning power station of the IEC (Israel Electric Company) at Ashkelon. Similar technologies are under development by GreenFuel and others, yet, as it appears from Israel21c's report, Seambiotic is the first company to have successfully passed the pilot stage. In fact, Seambiotic is planning a production plant by the next year with a major international partner. There is apparently no shortage in candidates.

The method should be a very simple one as Seambiotic is reported to have spent on R&D an absolutely ridiculous sum of $2 million. The company stayed clear from fancy bioreactors opting instead for shallow ponds filled with sea water. To be fair, the IEC also played its part in keeping development costs low. Not only the IEC allowed Seambiotic to use one of its power plants for a trial, it has also contributed some gas filtering technology to the project.

According to Noam Menczel, Seambiotic's director of investor relations, the company's developments have stirred interest around the world, specifically in Brazil, which has become one of the champions of R&D in the area of alternative and renewable fuels.

"A Brazilian professor wrote to us recently, 'if that algae of yours has the better features as you say it does, we will close our sugar cane operations and switch to algae,'" said Menczel.

If all goes according to plan, Seambiotic plans to build its first large-scale biofuel reactor by next year and hopes to do so with a large international partner. Several potentials are already knocking on the door.

Menczel reports that Seambiotic is meeting with electric plant operators from Hawaii, Singapore, Italy and India, all keen on hearing about Seambiotic's technology.

"As we have already developed and produced algae through the process, our main goal is to market the installation and development of our unique algae growing system around the world," notes Menczel, who adds that Seambiotic's approach includes a special system to filter out heavy smoke.

IEC senior engineer Gabriel Jinjikhashvily says that besides offering their coal-burning site as a pilot plant for Seambiotic, the power station also lends its know-how to help fulfill the company's dream. And in return, the IEC is getting some vital experience from Seambiotic.

Recently, the IEC became part of a European consortium, working with universities from Holland, Germany and France, aimed at developing new water technologies in the scope of climate change - project GLOWA 'Global Change in the Hydrological Cycle'.

"Seambiotic provided an opportunity for us to test the applicability of membranes [gas filters] developed by our European consortium, where we aim to separate carbon dioxide from the other flue gases," said Jinjikhashvily.

"The greatest problem today when dealing with carbon dioxide emissions is separating them from the other gases. The target of this multi-national group is to develop new membranes that are both cheap and efficient," he added.

According to Seambiotic's CEO Bechar: "By raising the level of carbon dioxide emissions in the water we increased the yield [of algae] one million-fold compared to the natural state in the sea."


The potential significance of any major breakthrough in the field of algal farming cannot be overstated, in particular given that so much of the effort in this sector goes into capturing and reprocessing carbonic emissions from coal burning power plants through the process called biofixation. The world has abundant reserves of coal. Coal is nowhere close to start running out. The two most important energy markets - the US and China - have all major coal reserves and coal is widespread in other parts of the world too. Biodiesel produced from algae can be mixed with regular diesel in whatever combinations and no specially designed flex engines are normally needed. By combining coal burning power plants with algal farming the US and the whole world can both satisfy their needs in electric power and motor fuel at the same time without having to buy one single barrel of Arab oil.

One cannot help feeling frustrated by the lack of action on the part of the Israeli government in this respect. It's a shame that Seambiotic will be now installing its systems all over the world from Hawaii to Singapore while Israel will be stuck with a few experimental ponds at Ashkelon. The story of Solel seems to be about to replay itself. The government should aggressively move in with a view of switching all power plants to algal farming.

Finally, I cannot avoid stating the obvious and this is that so much of the Israeli whining about the difficult region the Israelis are living in and Israel's permanently precarious security situation has little basis in the reality or rather Israel has these problems but they are self inflicted ones. If Israel decides that it really wants it and gets its acts together it can obliterate the whole region around it without shooting one single bullet. The Middle East, reeling from the impact of a demographic explosion without precedent in human history, is just waiting for somebody to come and biofix it to go into free fall. And doing this will cost Israel many times less than designing highly sophisticated missile interceptors or trying to draft every single moving thing in this country to the army. It's imagination and will that are missing, but the potential is here.

Even if Israel is not ready to contemplate this course of action for the sake of its future and security, I would still recommend doing this just for the sake of our spiritual and emotional well-being. Talking to neighbors and making peace can be a big fun, I don't argue about this, yet in terms of emotional satisfaction they don't come even close to the joy of watching Arabs and Persians drowning in their oil. After all, who said life cannot be a picnic?


I really hope that right people keep reading this post . . .

September 10, 2007

Exhaust Gas Economics

The venerable Economist in its last technological survey raises an interesting point regarding the future of biofixation. After brief covering of different technologies that attempt to capture exhaust gases from power plants by using photosynthesis, the Economist reminds ts readers of one very old truth: There can be no free lunch.

. . .

GreenFuel claims that over the course of a year, a hectare (2.5 acres) of its reactors should be able to produce 30,000 litres (8,000 American gallons) of oil, which could be used as biodiesel, and enough carbohydrates to be fermented into 9,000 litres of ethanol, which can be used as a substitute for petrol.

There is, of course, no free lunch. As Rob Carlson of the University of Washington points out, if money is to be made selling products made from exhaust gas, then that gas goes from being waste matter to being a valuable resource. Far from giving it away, power companies might even start charging for it. That would, indeed, be a reversal of fortune.


The IEC should pay attention. At the least biofixation can open a new market before coal plants owners by enabling them to sell carbonic emissions to companies that grow algae to produce biofuels. But there is no reason why the IEC and other power companies cannot take matters in their hands and start producing biofuels themselves.

The IEC may buy the same Seambiotic or develop its own technology to convert exhaust gas from its plants into biodiesel and ethanol. In this way one day it may even become a true energy company, one that concerns itself with producing energy in all its varieties, from electricity to motor fuel. On this day the old oil companies may find themselves competing head to head with something much bigger and better organized than tiny and chronically cash starved start-ups the GreenFuel and Seambiotic style.

September 19, 2007

Yes yes. Keep reading guys :D :D

:D :D

Petrobras is a Brazilian oil company that is the main driving force behind the country's push towards biofuels.

October 18, 2007

The Crazier The Better

The Economist was reporting recently on one of the craziest ideas ever circulated regarding algaculture. It's not even about growing algae in open ponds, it's about growing biodiesel in the open ocean. The original idea was about floating iron filings in a concentrated form in some areas of the global oceanic system as a way to stimulate growth of algae. The algae would absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, die and sink. Now the original theory gave birth to the next idea:

. . .

. . .

The law of unintended consequences argues against doing any such thing, of course. But an experiment carried out a decade ago in the Southern Ocean suggests that the underlying idea is sound—and at a conference in Oxford this week, John Munford, an independent British researcher, suggested that a more modest version of the “fertilise the oceans” project might indeed help to stop climate change.

Mr Munford's proposal is to harvest the algae, rather than allowing them to die and sink. He notes that many species of algae pack a far denser punch energy-wise than the plants now used as energy crops. In particular, they produce oils of the sort valued as biodiesel, and are attracting a lot of attention from scientists and entrepreneurs looking for fuels to replace mineral oils.

. . .

. . .

Sep 20th 2007
From The Economist print edition


Harvesting algae in open ocean should be a tricky business yet the stakes are also high. According to Munford an area the size of the North Sea turned into an open ocean biodiesel plantation could possibly completely replace the fossil fuels used today for transportation needs (it does not include of course coal used for power generation).

As far fetched as this theory may seem to some, this is only half crazy as a recent report on solar energy prepared by no one else but Pentagon itself. The report calls on the US government to dramatically speed up the work over the next generation space-based solar power. The idea is to beam solar power from space to Earth.

. . .

. . .

The report, "Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security," was undertaken by the Pentagon's National Security Space Office this spring as a collaborative effort that relied heavily on Internet discussions by more than 170 scientific, legal, and business experts around the world. The Space Frontier Foundation, an activist organization normally critical of government-led space programs, hosted the website used to collect input for the report.

Speaking at a press conference held here Oct. 10 to unveil the report, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Paul Damphousse of the National Space Security Space Office said the six-month study, while "done on the cheap," produced some very positive findings about the feasibility of space-based solar power and its potential to strengthen U.S. national security.

"One of the major findings was that space-based solar power does present strategic opportunity for us in the 21st century," Damphousse said. "It can advance our U.S. and partner security capability and freedom of action and merits significant additional study and demonstration on the part of the United States so we can help either the United State s develop this, or allow the commercial sector to step up."

. . .

. . .

While the upfront costs are steep, Mankins and others said space-based solar power's potential to meet the world's future energy needs is huge.

According to the report, "a single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today."

Brian Berger
Space News Staff Writer Fri Oct 12, 7


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