Food and fuel from greenhouse gas?
With the help of algae, Israel’s Seambiotic is turning carbon dioxide emitted by power plants into fuel and nutraceuticals.
Algae — that green, slimy stuff you wipe off the side of the pool — could help save Planet Earth.
That’s the hope of Seambiotic, an Israeli clean-tech company enlisting algae in the business of carbon capture. In 2007, ISRAEL21c was one of the first to report on Seambiotic’s pilot plant with the Israel Electric Corporation in Ashkelon.
While bureaucratic red tape has stymied its commercial success, the pilot plant has led to some positive developments for the company and the environment.
Now, the company has five business deals in the works in the United States, Italy and in China, where it’s launching its first commercial algae farm this month.
Seambiotic is also working with the National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States to develop a commercially feasible biofuel variety from algae that has a higher freezing point that other plant-based biofuels from corn or sugarcane.
Seambiotic, headed by Noam Wenczel and based in Tel Aviv, takes a novel approach to using algae for fuel. The 15-person company has a patented approach that connects a power plant flue to a series of algae-munching ponds.
Marine-based algae, which are actually tiny plants, live on a diet of carbon dioxide and sunlight — both found in abundance at power plants in sunny Mediterranean countries and the southern United States.
Theoretically, an algae pond could produce 30 times more feedstock for biofuel than the land-based crop alternatives. However, so far nobody has been successful in figuring out how to do this in a cost-effective manner. GreenFuel, a US company headed by Israeli Isaac Berzin, crashed and burned in its attempt, losing $70 million of investment money along the way.
Approaching the challenge from a different direction, Seambiotic offers a way for its partner power plant owners to see a return on investment for reducing carbon emissions immediately.
By sucking out power plant effluent and feeding it to algae — filtering out heavy metals first, of course — Seambiotic and its partners generate a healthy income by producing a valuable nutraceutical based on algae, which is especially popular in Eastern countries such as China.