Last year, after watching an NBC Nightly News piece about algae, I wrote that coal and algae are a perfect clean energy pair.
The news today is that Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuels are going to build a demonstration plant that will use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol, which will be used as a transportation fuel additive or an ingredient in plastics.
The plant could produce up to 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year.
The idea is simple: instead of releasing CO2 emissions from coal-generated power plants into the air, it will be pumped into a tank of algae. The algae eat the CO2, which then converts into ethanol and oxygen.
• The ethanol can be sold as a vehicle fuel
• The oxygen can be used to burn coal to generate electricity
• The end product can be used as an ingredient to make plastics, replacing the need for using natural gas.
Scientists and environmental groups have given this process a thumbs up, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to get the project going on a commercial scale.