With such a focus on the possibilities that microalgae can offer, various industrial methods have been developed for its production. However, most are currently not economically viable, especially on a large scale.
Limitations to these systems include: sub-optimal productivity, expensive installation, large footprint (surface area), high water demand and the requirement for a highly trained end-user. The EU-funded ALDADISK project has been set up to meet these challenges by creating a scalable production unit, capable of delivering high value alga-based products and biomass while reducing CO2 emissions. Current commercial alga technologies use plantonic algae in water solution in Vertical Bioreactors (VB) or algae farms with large ponds. However, there are several disadvantages. The processes need a lot of water during production, CO2 is released through bubbling in the liquid phase and harvesting is difficult, time consuming and inefficient. In addition, the operation is difficult to scale up and leaves a large foot print.
ALDADISK’s proposed process is based on biofilm technology using a Rotating Disk reactor system similar to the state of art rotating reactors used elsewhere in the biological industry.
Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego (Scripps) have entered into an agreement focusing on the design of an innovative system in which algae consume carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from natural gas combustion and cost-effectively convert it into valuable byproducts such as biomethane, biodiesel and animal feed.
The new collaboration between Scripps and SoCalGas includes an investigative research and systems engineering study to explore how algae production systems currently in development could most effectively capture industrial CO2 emissions. Targeted CO2 sources include: natural gas power plants, large engines used in natural gas compression and water pumping and boilers used to produce steam for industrial processes such as enhanced oil recovery.