Green Plains to install algae photobioreactor at Iowa ethanol plant

By Erin Voegele | May 04, 2009
Web exclusive posted May 5, 2009, at 5:10 p.m. CST

Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. and BioProcessAlgae LLC recently announced they have executed a grant award agreement with the Iowa Office of Energy Independence for a $2.1 million research and development grant with the Iowa Power Fund to build an algae pilot project at Green Plains' Shenandoah, Iowa ethanol plant.

The Iowa Power Fund grant provides matching funds that will support the installation of a series of photobioreactor units at the ethanol plant. Water, heat and carbon dioxide will be recycled from the ethanol manufacturing process to support continuous algae production. The grant provides funding through the end of the first quarter of 2010. The pilot project is expected to be operational by July 2009.

According to Scott Poor, Green Plains' corporate council, the photobioreactor is a self contained apparatus that will be modular in design. "It is an enclosed, self-contained environment where light, heat, carbon dioxide and water are all controlled to maximize algae growth," Poor said. The algae that will be utilized within the pilot plant is expected to capture approximately 60 percent of the carbon dioxide that is fed into the system.

While many companies are investigating algae as a feedstock for biodiesel, Poor said his company will initially consider using the algae produced at the pilot plant in the animal feed industry.

BioProcessAlgae is a joint venture between Green Plains, NTR plc, CLARCOR INc. and BioProcessH2O.