Ethanol from duckweed

July 11, 2010

Aquatic Biofuels is the extraction of any form of renewable energy that can be extracted from aquatic resources.

So far these have comprised
• Fish waste to produce bio-diesel
• Micro-algae to produce crude oil for diesel production
• Micro-algae to produce bio gas
• Micro-algae to produce ethanol
• & to a smaller extent the use of macro-algae to produce all of the above energy sources.

There has been lots of talk recently on the potential of duckweed or as it is botanically called “Lemnaceae” as a feedstock for ethanol production.

Duckweed is a small plant that lives in water and is very similar to micro-algae in that it can feed off wastewater and it can suck up CO2, similar to some strains of algae duckweed contain large amounts of starch that can be processed to create ethanol. This would not only lessen the burden on current corn to ethanol production and the debates on fuel vs food, but it would also lower CO2 emissions and hence contribute to mitigating climate change.

The total starch content of duckweed can vary from 3-75% of the dry weight depending on trains and species. Other factors like nutrients and concentration play a large role in the accumulation of starch in duckweed. Some species like Spirodela polyrrhiza combined with swine wastewater and grown anaerobically can contain a starch content of almost 46%.

Duckweed biomass can produce appreciable quantity of starch that can be readily fermented into ethanol. Duckweed has a great potential for the development of an environmentally friendly, economically viable ethanol production.

The First plant, Louisiana Bio Fuels, will be built on a 380 acre site, The site is close to an existing Rice Mill, The rice mill will provide Rice chaff to be used as a feed filler to Dilute the high protein Distillers by product to produce a complete pellet cattle feed to be sold to local markets.

For further information contact Freddie Herbert CEO of Louisiana Bio Fuels
or visit the website

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist,  Rome-Italy

Canada joins the algae race with a $5M project

June 8, 2010

While the United States and BP are desperately trying to cap the crude oil spurting out from the BP platform in the Gulf of Mexico, Canada is preparing to set up its first major algae to oil pilot plant. $5M project (US$4.7 million), have been awarded by the Government of Canada to grow, harvest and produce algal-oil in Nova Scotia.

The new algae project brings Canada in line with other countries that are also investingating the potential of algae, these beign primarily the US, but also counties in Europe like, Spain, Italy and Germany.

The National Research Council (NRC), and the Institute of Marine Sciences are the main actors in the project and they are in a unique position because they are using local species of algae, eliminating the risk to the environment. Sixty-four species have been collected and studied so far, twenty-four of these species have been brought into cultivation and about six have exceptional oil yields.

The pilot plant which should be located in Ketch Harbour Marine Research Station and will produce 50,000 litres as well as producing valuable by-products like nutriceuticals or high protein animal feed.

Some of the companies NRC will collaborate with include

  • Ocean Nutrition Canada in Halifax;
  • Menova Energy Inc. of Markham, Ontario;
  • POS Pilot Plant from Saskatoon;
  • and the international consortium Carbon2Algae Solutions (C2A)

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Picture: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Aquatic Biofuels – New Options for Bioenergy

June 6, 2010

AQUATIC BIOFUELS – New Options for Bioenergy

Copies of my Dissertation can be purchased through for $US 17 by clicking either the image on the left or the link above.

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Chinese Airlines to be fueled by algae

June 2, 2010

Whereas we all agree that Renewable Energy is the way to go in the future, we cannot but have to admit that oil will still be around for yet a little while longer. It seems that  renewable energy will not be able to fulfill all our energy requirements and future needs which will increase as population increases. Dependence on oil and especially imports from the Middle East will remain with us for a little while longer.

When you begin to look closely at all the renewable energy sources available, you notice that most of these technologies available focus on electricity generation and production, very little is being done for other kinds of energy sources like for example transport fuels.

1st and 2nd generation biofuels, especially the ones generated from food stocks like corn, cassava etc,  appeared for a while to be a solution to the liquid fuel problem, but this soon phased out as we slowely came to the realisation that food was being used to produce fuel (food vs fuel debate) and that the hungry, particularly in developing countries were becoming hungrier.  Nevertheless many companies are growing and producing fuel from plants especially grown for oil or ethanol production, but these will never solve the world’s transport fuel problem and we will have to rely on oil and oil imports for many, many decades to come.

One of the proposed solutions could be oil from algae, crude oil which can be brought to refineries very similar to standard crude oil and made into biodiesel. Airline companies in particular are very interested due to the increasing fuel prices and due to the fact that algae oil would leave no carbon footprint. The CO2 that is emitted would equal the CO2 absorbed by the algae during their growing period.

China and the US last week launched a joint research venture to produce fuel for Chinese airlines from primarily algae and oily nuts, and went on to say that a test flight could come as early as this year, with a plan to scale up and commercialize anywhere between 3 to 5 years from now.

The two sides signed a series of research partnerships between Boeing Co., U.S. government agencies and Chinese research institutions as well as state companies including Air China Ltd. and PetroChina Ltd.

“Today we’ve proven it can be flown,” “It’s a matter of scaling it up so it can be commercialized.” says Al Bryant, vice president for research and technology in China.

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Hot air ballooning on algae fuel?

May 25, 2010

The large pioneering Bullet 580 is a 71.6 mt long and about 20 mt wide ship which can lift up to 900kg, up to 6000mt in the air.

The amazing thing about this incredibly large air ship (the biggest since the Hindenburg disaster over 70 years ago), is that the air ship can be powered by algae fuel.

The £ 5.5 million craft can be operated remotely or by a crew, and can hover over an area a week at a time, something neither a plane nor a satellite can do. This could prove to be interesting for monitoring things such as oil spills (like the Gulf of Mexico) or pirates in the Somalian seas.

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Algae World Summit 2010

March 17, 2010

Join the worlds leading experts in algae fuel production and learn the latest on the technologies, by attending the Algae World Summit 2010.  The event will take place at the:
Hilton Del Mar, 15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014-1901,
Tel: (898) 792-5200
May 17, 2010  – May 19, 2010.

The event will highlight some key issues like;

  • co-product algae purchasers
  • oil and chemical companies
  • utilities
  • industrial CO2 generators
  • wastewater treatment operators
  • algae technology developers
  • algae equipment suppliers
  • algae project developers
  • biofuels refiners
  • financiers
  • transportation companies
  • and government representatives

Click here for more details

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Demo plant in Lousiana: “Aquatic Energy” to yield 9500 lts of algae oil in 4000m2 ponds:

January 18, 2010

An energy company in Lousiana, USA,  called “Aquatic Energy” is making progress in the production of algae oil from micro-algae in open pond systems. The company which formerly had less than a hectare, will slowely expand into a 12 hectare demonstration project plant, which will yield about 9500 litres per hectare (approx. 4000 squared metres).

Interestingly enough more than 70% of the CO2 comes from the atmosphere and the remaining 30% is being generated from the natural gas burned in the algae plant itself (used for drying the algae). Clay soils are used as opposed to lining which makes the ponds less expensive and easier to maintain.

Mr. David Johnston the CEO of Aquatic Energy chose the location of Louisiana due to the fact that rainfall exceeds evaporation rate, giving him free access to water resources, on top of that the former rice cultivation plants which have the clay soil base are suitable for the algae growth.

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Harvesting micro-algae for biofuel feedstock in the seas:

November 6, 2009

algaeUp to now you may have only heard of growing micro-algae for fuel at experimental large scale in either open pond systems or Photo Bio-Reactors (PBR).  However, two engineers from Kansas State Universitiy Wenqiao Yuan and Zhijian Pei, are designing systems to grow and harvest algae more efficiently and successfully in the open seas. The idea is to grow algae in the ocean on very large, supporting platforms. They have been awarded over $98, 000 as a Small Grant for Exploratory Research by the National Science Foundation.

Both professors who teach industrial manufacturing and systems engeneering at Kansas State claim that land from food production should not be used to grow and harvest algae for as feedstock for fuel. Studies are being carried out in their laboratories of the feasibility to grow large scale algae production in the ocean on specifically made production systems.

Professors Pei and Yuan are currently working to identify oil-rich strains that are inclined to grow on solid surfaces, this will make it easier to grow and harvest the algae once it has been produced.

“We think there is tremendous potential for algae oil production if we grow it on big platforms and incorporate the ocean into the system,” Yuan said. Professor Yuan went on to say that half the cost of growing algae is in providing a steady supply of food and water, the growth medium. Ocean water offers those in abundance.

In their studies two species of algae have been identified, these are particularly rich in oil content and fast growing and both have shown to attach well to the stainless steel film (dimpled) used as a platform, once the algae attach to the dimpled film they grow very very well. It was also shown that the chosen algae cannot grow as well on smooth surfaces and prefer a rougher more textured surface.

Pei and Yuan think large-scale algae production done on very large support surfaces in ocean water is quite feasible. They are imagining a long, continuously rolling surface like a conveyer belt.

The system works pretty much in this way:  The algae would grow on the thin-film surface submerged under the ocean. At some point, the growth surface rolls up into the sunlight and the algae dries. A harvesting knife at the end of the conveyer system scrapes off dried algae, at which point the surface submerges to become home to the next growth of oil-rich algal material.

How feasible do you think such a system would be? What about transporting the harvest from the sea to the land and processing it, the cost of processing would not change, but only the drying mechanisms would (drying out at sea and not on land).

The main advantage of such a system seems to be land use – with this system there would be no land used to grow and harvest the algae. This is not really an issue with algae growth anyway as marginal and desert land is mainly used. Only if costs of production and investment are lower than open-pond or PBR’s  systems then this could be a viable option.

Please leave any comments you may have below.

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome-Italy

Renewable Energy – the future is now!

September 15, 2009

windPlease find attached a paper written by a friend and ex-colleague, it is not a paper on algae or fish waste but one on Renewable Energy, this guest posting was written by Gustavo Best.

Gustavo Best is an energy expert and has worked in the energy sector for over 30 years. After a long and exciting career in the United Nations, he retired in October 2007 and since then has been assisting the Mexican Bioenergy Network, consulting for the Mexican and Brazilian Governments as well as participating in high level meetings such as the Sustainable Biofuels Consensus and moderating an FAO-Ministerial Meeting on Bioenergy for Asia and the Pacific.

Gustavo tutors at various Universities and splits his time between Mexico his homeland and the Umbrian hills of Italy.

Gustavo Best is interested and available for work on energy issues, and can be reached at

Renewable Energy – the future is now!

Fish waste to biodiesel

August 19, 2009

petrolHere is finally my paper on fish waste to biodiesel. It has taken me a little while to get this paper out, but it is finally here. It will be part of my dissertation on Aquatic Biofuels – New Options for Bioenergy.

Your feedback on the paper would be greatly appreciated, so would any further information you have on the topic

Click here to download the word document (3.8 Mb) or download the pdf version here fishwaste-biodiesel

Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist,  Rome-Italy


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