“Al­gae forestry” could take CO2 straight out of the air

Tehran Times - - SCI / MED -

Through a mix­ture of al­gae, eu­ca­lyp­tus, car­bon stor­age and bioen­ergy, re­searchers be­lieve they have found the recipe to si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vide food in many parts of the world while tak­ing out CO2 from the at­mos­phere.

As the world strug­gles to keep global warm­ing at man­age­able lev­els, sci­en­tists are ex­plor­ing sev­eral av­enues to re­duce emis­sions.

Re­searchers from Cor­nell Univer­sity, Duke Univer­sity, and the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo have an idea that could prove ex­tremely ef­fec­tive: they de­vised a sys­tem that can act as a car­bon diox­ide sink while also gen­er­at­ing food and elec­tric­ity.

They in­te­grated al­gae pro­duc­tion with car­bon cap­ture, in a sys­tem they call ABECCS (al­gae bioen­ergy car­bon cap­ture and stor­age).

Se­ques­ter­ing car­bon diox­ide

Re­searchers have al­ready set up a 7,000-acre ABECCS fa­cil­ity that can yield as much pro­tein as soy­beans pro­duced on the same land foot­print, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously gen­er­at­ing 17 mil­lion kilo­watt hours of elec­tric­ity and se­ques­ter­ing 30,000 tons of car­bon diox­ide per year.

A por­tion of the cap­tured CO2 is used for grow­ing al­gae and the re­main­der is se­questered. Biomass com­bus­tion sup­plies CO2, heat, and elec­tric­ity, thus in­creas­ing the range of sites suit­able for al­gae cul­ti­va­tion.

“Al­gae may be the key to un­lock­ing an im­por­tant neg­a­tive-emis­sions tech­nol­ogy to com­bat cli­mate change,” said Charles Greene, Cor­nell pro­fes­sor of Earth and At­mo­spheric Sciences and a co-au­thor of new re­search pub­lished in Earth’s Fu­ture, by the Amer­i­can Geo­phys­i­cal Union.

Com­bin­ing two tech­nolo­gies

“Com­bin­ing two tech­nolo­gies — bioen­ergy with car­bon cap­ture and stor­age, and mi­croal­gae pro­duc­tion — may seem like an odd cou­ple, but it could pro­vide enough sci­en­tific syn­ergy to help solve world hunger and at the same time re­duce the level of green­house gases that are chang­ing Of­ten times, when an idea sounds too good to be true, it is.

In this case, the en­tire project hinges on the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of the al­gae. Re­searchers de­scribe two sce­nar­ios in which fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity is achieved.

Clearly, the price of al­gal biomass is es­sen­tial, but an econ­omy that sup­ports car­bon cred­its is also re­quired.

There’s an­other is­sue with this type of project: In the ABECCS sys­tem, soy crop­land is re­placed by eu­ca­lyp­tus forests used for car­bon stor­age that pro­vides marine al­gae with CO2, heat, and elec­tric­ity.

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