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Dr. Patrick G. Hatcher Batten Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529 The era of increased consumption of fossil fuels brought about by increasing energy demands of a global economy is upon us. Associated with this increased global appetite for conventional fuels is the realization that the environment cannot longer sustain rising carbon dioxide levels. Aside from the increased costs of a dwindling supply of fossil fuels, our dependence on unstable governments for supplying many of these fuels, and the nearly complete dependence on non-renewable fossil energy, it is time to seriously examine, with the commitment like that of the Manhatten Project, the feasibility of developing an energy policy that incorporates more renewable resources. One can make analogies to economic investment strategies where a balanced portfolio helps to mitigate economic downturns due to unstable investments. A balanced energy portfolio would serve to prevent an energy “disaster” should the source of a conventional fossil fuel be shut down or depleted. Thus, increased reliance on renewable energy and diversification of energy sources is a policy which provides the greatest degree of stability and self-sufficiency. Brazil is country that has implemented this policy successfully and is making great strides towards economic growth. The United States and the State of Virginia need to consider seriously the steps towards a diversified energy portfolio- the purpose of this hearing. The US coastal zone and, in particular, that of Virginia offer many attractive aspects for energy production, both fossil fuel-related and renewable. The State of Virginia has approved legislation creating the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC) whose mission is to be a Center of Excellence for research in the development, use, and impact of expanding coastal energy resources. Old Dominion University will serve as the lead institution for VCERC which includes other Virginia Universities as partners (Virginia Tech, Norfolk State, James Madison, William & Mary). Efforts are underway to launch VCERC activities. The following is taken from the approved legislative amendments to the 2006 budget document for the State of Virginia:
§ 67-701. Functions, powers, and duties of the Research Consortium. The Coastal Energy Research Consortium shall serve as an interdisciplinary study, research, and information resource for the Commonwealth on coastal energy issues. As used in this chapter, "coastal energy" includes wave or tidal action, currents, offshore winds, thermal differences, and methane hydrates. The Research Consortium shall (i) consult with the General Assembly, federal, state, and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, private industry and other potential users of coastal energy research; (ii) establish and administer agreements with other universities of the Commonwealth to carry out research projects relating to the feasibility of recovering fuel gases from methane hydrates and increasing the Commonwealth's reliance on other forms of coastal
up to 30% of its dry weight is composed of biologically refractory biopolymers (Plain et al. 1994. and much of the biomass is convertible to biodiesel. The first involves the growth and harvesting of appropriate algae in ponds associated with agricultural systems. some up to 50% or more of their dry weight. and promoted by the NREL report (Sheehan et al. waves and current energy.L. Nguyen et al. 1993). which we and others have shown can be converted to hydrocarbons and/or oils by pyrolytic means (Largeau et al. What really makes algal biomass feasible for biodiesel production is the high hydrocarbon contents of many forms of algae. One attractive feature of algal biomass over conventional higher plant biomass is that algal production rates can be more than 5 times those of land plants. 1980).. a strategy being employed commercially by PetroSun. 2003). The second is similar growth in ponds but associated with electricity-generating powerplants. Estimates have been made for the cost of algal biomass production and they range from $60 to $100 per barrel of oil equivalent. There are at least 3 strategies being examined for the production of algae for biodiesel. Besides Botryococcus braunii. offshore fossil energy.. The biomass can be efficiently converted to biodiesel and utilized for internal combustion engines. P. it appears that sufficient knowledge exists to select algal strains that can efficiently produce biodiesel.. (iii) disseminate new information and research results. The report also mentions that one can genetically modify algae to be a high biodiesel producer.. The NREL study relating to the feasibility of using algae for biodiesel production (Sheehan et al.110% for most unicellular algae (Weete. Coastal Biomass energy: Perhaps the least publicized form of biomass energy is that which can be obtained from algae (Sheehan et al. Ben-Amotz. including but not limited to the federal Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 1999. The green colonial alga Botryococcus braunii has been widely studied because of its unusual features and also its high hydrocarbon content of 15 to 75%. 1985). Inc. which is conspicuously higher than that commonly observed in other unicellular algae (ca.. Other features are that one need not sacrifice crop-producing land for biomass production as the algae are grown in ponds or can be harvested from eutrophied water bodies in coastal areas. 0. provides advantages that algal 2 . (iv) apply for grants made available pursuant to federal legislation.energy. 1998). in addition to the high extractable hydrocarbon and fatty acids contents.. Recent studies of the alga Botryococcus braunii indicate that. and coastal biomass energy. These include offshore wind energy. 1984: de Leeuw and Largeau. There are numerous offshore energy resources that will become the focus of VCERC in years to come and the current strategy is one consistent with a diversified portfolio of energy generation. using their CO2 effluents to stimulate algal growth and their waste heat to maintain year-round constant temperatures in ponds. 1998) cites the existence of numerous algal forms that can be suitably used for biodiesel production. Growth of algae in ponds. the only other hydrocarbon rich algae known at the present time is the halophilic species Dunaliella salina (Tornabene et al. Thus. and (v) facilitate the application and transfer of new coastal energy technologies. 1976. 1998).. 106-193 and from other sources.
to provide a commercially available fuel for the public. in the laboratory. Old Dominion University is developing and testing. Virginia is ideally suited for coastal pond algal production as there are vast areas of coastline where suitable sites could be located. along the coastline and inland waters. Our strategy is to grow and collect sufficient quantities of algae and to convert them by a pyrolytic or chemical process to biodiesel fuel that can be used to power campus vehicles. in many instances. Transesterification has been proposed as the major production process to convert algal triglycerides to biodiesel (Sheehan et al. Biodiesel from Cooking Oils Old Dominion is supporting an undergraduate student project to evaluate the feasibility of recycling cooking oils from its campus cooking facility into diesel fuel. Finally. The project will investigate a process designed to remove unwanted products from recycled cooking oils and to transesterify the oils to produce the desired biodiesel. A group of undergraduates from the College of Engineering led by Professor Han Bao are conducting these studies. to hypoxia. such a gas stations near inland water bodies. but issues regarding the maintenance of algal species and the need for transportation costs are all disadvantages. there is an abundant supply of another critical ingredient for algal biomasssunlight. The third involves the harvesting of algae from existing waterways choked with high algal production due to nutrient-laden agricultural runoff. examining the feasibility of producing algal biodiesel from ponds in which algal populations are stimulated by a variety of agricultural and wastewater runoffs and fossil fuel powerplant effluents.. Our goal is to demonstrate that one can engineer a small-scale biodiesel plant that can be cited at or near fuel depots. Unlike the first two strategies where one could partly control growth environments. 1998). the third strategy is dependent on the annual growth cycle of the algae but carries with it some advantages and disadvantages that are not inherent in the other two strategies. Furthermore. We are developing a proprietary transesterification process that can effectively convert algal biomass to fatty acid methyl esters. in a pilot facility. Research is needed to evaluate algal biodiesel as a viable renewable energy source for coastal areas of Virginia under the three possible scenarios mentioned above. the feasibility of using a natural assemblage of algae in a coastal pond situated on the ODU campus for the on-site production of a biodiesel fuel. We will be evaluating conversion efficiencies throughout the process and testing numerous variables to provide an informed decision on the economic feasibility and most efficient pathway for such energy conversion. 3 . many areas along the coast are impacted by nutrient-rich agricultural or wastewater runoff and algal proliferation leads. One important advantage is that harvesting of the algae would provide a strategy for cleanup of the waterways.growth can be stimulated to high levels. We are simultaneously.
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